Encouragement & Real Stories of Changed Lives
We know Valentine's is a special time of year and we want to help you know how to use it as an opportunity for loving the people right where you live, work, or connect. I have designed a guide to help! Having a guide helps keep my thoughts organized in one place. It's really just a way for me to stop missing important details when I want to have a purpose-driven gathering for others. I'm an ideas person, so I put a ton of details as potential considerations. Some may be unnecessary to your situation; just leave those blank and move to something that would be helpful.
It was spring again and time for the Annual Egg Hunt in the neighborhood. I was searching for motivation to get this one together...again...by myself. Years earlier when I hosted the first hunt, I had been told to call it an "Egg Hunt", not an "Easter Egg Hunt". I was not permitted to use special messages or symbols inside the eggs to represent the Resurrection of Jesus, in other words - no religious talk. I was told there were people of many faiths, and we did not want to exclude anyone. In addition, for the last two years it was around freezing on the morning of each hunt. Only a few brave souls showed up (got plenty of eggs), then quickly left for home to get warm. So this year I was less than enthusiastic about the gathering. After all, what was the point if I couldn't share the meaning of the holiday?
Guest post by Karen Guzman
I grew up in a house regularly filled with guests, whether for a meal or for a semester. So, when I joined InterVarsity staff and moved into my own place, it was natural to host students for meals, movie nights, parties, etc. Later, I began working with graduate students who tended to be on campus year ‘round. Work commitments and/or being from out of state or overseas make for infrequent visits to family. Working with international students, I discovered that many come to the states for school and return home without ever having seen the inside of an American home. Thanksgiving, particularly, became a focal point of ministry as I welcomed students into my home for a traditional American celebration.
Throughout the year we seek moments with our neighbors to show God’s love and perhaps to invite them into our homes. We may have asked a neighbor several times to come over and they have never accepted. Yet for Halloween, many of these same neighbors will likely walk up to our doors and ring the bells. May we open our eyes to the possibilities…
“Love is the very nature of God, and as believers, we share His nature. That’s why love is so important. Our expression of love is evidence of the Holy Spirit in our lives. True love results in action.” Janice Mathers
5 Ways to connect with your neighbors at Easter A pastor was recently sharing that his family initiated with a neighbor who lived two doors down. They had the family over for Easter lunch. As the conversation progressed he asked them what Easter meant to them. The wife responded, “what do you mean? It’s all about the Easter bunny and spring and such. Does it mean something different to you?” He thought he would ask the question in a different way. “What significance does Easter have to you spiritually?” The wife responded again, “does Easter have anything to do with God?” Does this story burden you like it does me? The crux of the Christian faith hinges on the reality of the resurrection. Our team put together a brief list of ideas to connect with our neighbors during the Easter season.Invite! Include a neighbor(s) as you think about attending your local church service.
Host a brunch or lunch on Easter. Ask open-ended questions like the ones the pastor used in the story above.
Organize a children’s egg hunt. At the end use the “Resurrection Eggs” to share the message of Easter.
Plan a simple sunrise service. Make coffee, bring doughnuts, sing a few hymns, share a 5 minute message.
Ask the Lord to give you creativity. He can do what you could never do on your own. How have you marked Valentine's Day in your Bible study? Share your ideas with other leaders in the comments.
If you love God and desire to share His love with others, then you are qualified to start an NBS!2. What if I don’t live in a neighborhood?
No problem! Your neighbors include people: on your street, in your apartment or condo complex, in your village or small community, in your place of work, school, club or other relational network. A neighbor is whomever God brings into your life, whether at home, work or through other networks or connections. Pray and follow the Spirit’s leading in adapting NBS2GO to your circle of "neighbors."3. Do I need the gift of teaching to lead an NBS?
In a word, “No!” In fact, leading a Bible study that produces life-change in all participants needs discussion, not lecture. View yourself as a facilitator. While there are places and purposes for teaching/lecturing (one-way communication), your NBS is not one of them. Spend time developing skills in leading good discussions and asking open-ended questions.4. What if someone asks me a question and I don’t know the answer?
You do not need to have all of the answers, and you never will have them, for that matter. Humbly admitting that you do not know the answer is a wonderful lesson and example for your group. You can acknowledge that it is a great question and if time permits, open it up to the group. Encourage Scripture-supported answers. You may suggest that the NBS member seek an answer to the question and share the answer with the group the next week.5. What if no one--or only a few--come?
This has happened to some of us who are now leading thriving studies. Don’t view this as a shut door! It is important to ask yourself several questions. “Was it a bad time of day? Was it a busy time for most people?” You may also want to ask yourself, “Do I have relationships with my neighbors? How can I meet more neighbors so they can get to know me? How can I build trust or show love?” You may want to spend more time trying to initiate relationships and PRAY! Then, try again!Our website has more FAQs here!Each of us on the NBS2go team have walked through beginning a neighborhood Bible study. We each have had individual concerns and fears. We want to encourage you by saying that as we have taken a step of faith, the Lord has showed up in ways that we never imagined. Remember that “faithful is He who has called you, and He will bring it to pass.” 1 Thessalonians 5:24Find more Fresh Stories here!Joan Parsons, with three teenagers under her roof — and one away at college! — is thankful for her husband and naps. Between laundry loads and fixing beef, you might find her in the McDonald’s drive-through ordering a coke with extra ice and a chocolate chip cookie … because this is her happy place.
Set aside the last day of Bible study for brunch. Have everyone bring salads or breakfast items for a longer time of conversation. On 3x5 cards (before everyone arrives), write the name of each woman who attended (one per card). After brunch, pass around the cards for each woman to write a note to the person whose name is on the card. Keep it short and simple. I have them answer a question like, "In what way have you seen this person grow spiritually this year?” Or “What do you most appreciate about this person in Bible study?” The ladies in my Bible study still have these notes from five years ago! Who knew encouragement would be so powerful?Mother’s Day celebration
Our Bible study coincides with the school year. Because we have so many mommas with children, we revolve around the school calendar. This usually has us ending around Mother’s Day. Invite other neighbors who don't already attend the study to join you for this special morning. Our Neighborhood Bible Study ladies bring a breakfast dish to share. Have a speaker, such as an older and wiser mom, come to share her thoughts on being a mom and any advice she would give to younger moms. Also, select a few of the women to share their thoughts on what they have learned in Bible study this year. This can provide a really neat opportunity to tell others about the Bible study and make them feel welcome to come!General wrap-up and out to lunch
Instead of Bible study in the “normal” home you attend, meet at a fun lunch place. Ask questions like, "Did you have any ah-ha moments this semester with the Lord?” Or “What stood out to you as something you always want to remember from this year?” Or “If you could pass on to your children one spiritual lesson you learned this year, what would it be?”Write notes and discuss the last chapter
This year I decided to take time to write each of the ladies a unique note. I wrote down a scripture verse that reminded me of them or something I wanted to encourage them with. I also found tiny flower pots and planted a small flower in them as a gift. We discussed the last chapter of our Bible study material and answered the questions from idea #3 above. It was a rich time of discussion and encouragement!Our hearts enjoy the closure and the time of reflection on the growth that has occurred in each of our relationships with the Lord over the past year. It reminds us of His faithfulness and His promise to help us continue to grow in His grace!And I am sure that God who began the good work within you will keep right on helping you grow in his grace until his task within you is finally finished on that day when Jesus Christ returns. Phillippians 1:6What have you done to wrap up your NBS?Find more Fresh Stories here!Joan Parsons, with two teen sons and one preteen girl under her roof — and one son away at college! — is thankful for her husband and naps. Between laundry loads and fixing beef, you might find her in the McDonald’s drive-through ordering a coke with extra ice and a chocolate chip cookie … because this is her happy place.