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?
Encouragement & Real Stories of Changed Lives
That single question revolutionized what it meant for me to truly love my neighbor in ways that included both acts of service and also a relational commitment that changed my neighborhood forever. That year, I began to gather the neighbors together based on what our family already did each day. I was going to live with my neighbor, not simply do tasks for them.
“The one feature I know I need is a fenced-in backyard,” I told my realtor as we began looking for my new townhome. I thought it would surely increase my home office productivity if I could open the door, let Snickers the dog outside, and keep on working. I prayed and even visualized Snickers running around in that fenced-in backyard as I checked off item after item on my action list.
After an exhaustive real estate search, I settled on a townhome in a lovely, small community that had every feature I needed...except the fenced-in backyard. Little did I know that God had a bigger and better plan. As Snickers and I headed out of the door four times a day, I began meeting and getting to know my neighbors. Brief conversations quickly turned into learning each other’s names. Longer conversations soon turned into sharing laughs and hearing about each other’s lives and families.
My neighborhood Bible study doesn’t meet in the summer, which makes for a long stretch of time – 10 weeks or so – without my friends! Although we see each other at the pool occasionally, it’s not quite the same as meeting every week and delving deeply into each other’s lives. I often get discouraged in my walk with God in the summer. Why? I begin to wonder if I really have my own relationship with Christ or if I’m only in touch with Him vicariously through my godly friends! Do I lean on them too much?
In past years, I’ve returned to Bible study in August like a staggering refugee, deprived of water and sustenance after a long stint in the desert. Not surprisingly, my relationship with the Lord has suffered. The discipline of meeting Him daily went out the window in June. I’ve spent too many days “playing hooky” from my time with God.
This summer I’ve tried to be different. We’ve kept up our early morning coffee dates. In late May, knowing I’d be distracted without the discipline of my weekly NBS, I committed myself to reading a chapter or two of Psalms every morning. I even took my Bible and my devotional book, “Jesus Calling” by Sarah Young, on my beach vacation this year. Hey, there’s a first time for everything!
Sometimes it just doesn’t feel like He’s listening. Sometimes it’s hard to connect without my Christian friends helping me. But one thing I’ve learned from my NBS is to just keep coming. Even if I’m figuratively dragging myself into His presence, disheveled and discouraged, just to throw myself at His feet to cry, the great thing is -- He doesn’t expect or need me to bring anything to the party. He IS the party. All I need to do is come!
I despise getting up early. That’s my particular distraction. But, my first morning at the beach, I did just that, hoping that the promise of a glorious sunrise over the Atlantic would pry me out of bed. As I got my coffee and settled into a creaky lounge chair to watch the sun rise and read, I was rewarded with these perfectly wrought sentences in the voice of Jesus: Be willing to fight for this precious time with Me. Opposition comes in many forms: your own desire to linger in bed; the evil one’s determination to distract you from Me; the pressure of family, friends, and your own inner critic to spend your time more productively. OK, Lord, you have my attention!
Then I turned to Psalm 19, written thousands of years ago by someone I’ll never meet this side of heaven. As the sun rose into the sky, brilliant and alive with color, I read: The heavens are telling the glory of God; they are a marvelous display of his craftsmanship. Day and night they keep on telling about God. Without a sound or word, silent in their skies, their message reaches out to all the world. The sun lives in the heavens where God placed it and moves out across the skies as radiant as a bridegroom going to his wedding or as joyous as an athlete looking forward to a race. The sun crosses the heavens from end to end, and nothing can hide from its heat.
Really? I smile to myself. I am stunned by the specificity of the message. I’m floored by the way it touches my heart and seems written exactly for me, in this particular moment. He is listening. I thank Him, and then I silently thank my NBS for teaching me this wonderful discipline of coming to Him, just as I am. He is the party.
Erica Rountree is a freelance writer and the communications director at Action Ministries Inc. She lives and works in Marietta, Georgia, where she’s a member of a neighborhood Bible study and mama to two girls who constantly outsmart her and drive her to drink sweet tea.
Our family moved to Buford, Ga., from Florida two years ago in a total faith move. We had no jobs, no friends, family or connections. But we were convinced the Lord wanted us in this geographic location.
I've always had a heart for the community where God plants our family. After we settled in and began receiving employment opportunities, I began to yearn for neighborhood connections and a Bible Study. The Lord put on my heart to start a study, but I needed to wait for His leading. Soon, I met a neighbor whose husband is the pastor of a large, local church. I mentioned my yearnings to her, and we agreed to launch a study together at the New Year.
In the meantime, I met Debbie McGoldrick, and she shared all the Lord had placed on her heart and the NBS2GO studies. Once I saw the materials, I knew this would be perfect for a new neighborhood study, one that can both reach those who are newly seeking and those who already love delving deeply into the Word.
Intentionally, I opened our home for the neighborhood's annual Christmas party. There I met women and shared our idea for launching a Bible study in the neighborhood. Several immediately desired to join us! Later, I learned that several of these ladies had specifically prayed for Christians to move into our house. Since launching one year ago, we have prayer walked and put out flyers inviting neighbors to our study several times. At Christmas this year, we hosted an Operation Christmas Child event. We are now planning a food drive. Many of us attend board meetings and social events with the openness to meeting new families. We are intentional about connecting and reaching out to neighbors with food, kindness and encouragement, even if they never join our Bible study.
I may never have met these women had it not been for our study. The love and commitment we have for one another is so strong. We “run,” not walk, to each other’s homes each week, looking forward to studying, growing and loving one another more.
Diane O.'s Neighborhood Bible Study celebrated a year together in January.
To subscribe to this blog, click here and enter your email on the right, then click “subscribe.”
Take a driveway, several adorable children, a few bed sheets, some hockey sticks, a couple of bathrobes, and twine...what do you get? Bethlehem on My Street!
I have no formal training in play directing. I have never been to acting school. I have never been taught the skills of designing costumes. But, I do have a heart for children and I do have a heart for the story of Christ to be shared. A few years ago, I decided to have a nativity play...in my driveway. I love seeing neighborhood children have the spotlight right where they live. Instead of asking friends and neighbors to come to our local preschool or church we asked them to come around the corner. I had no idea who would come or be interested, but I wanted to try. We had one rehearsal. One. The small children had one or two lines each. The narrators held the words in their hands and read from papers. We had angels, shepherds, and a baby Jesus doll. We had a bale of straw. We had small puppets.
The afternoon of the play came. It was the coldest day of the year. One neighbor came, then another, then another. At last count 50 neighbors stood in our driveway to watch the 2,000 year old story being told.
A hush came over the crowd and a little voice said, “Today, in the city of David, a Savior has been born. He is Christ theLord.” Several of us became misty-eyed as the children of our neighborhood once again proclaimed the miracle of “Immanuel, God with us.” It lasted 15 minutes and was absolutely, indescribably simple and profound all at the same time.
I have included in this blog my simple play script. All you need is a few children and small bit of faith. God will do the rest! May He be proclaimed right where you live!
Welcome: Narrator #1: King of Kings, Lamb of God, and Lord of Lords...these are the names that speak of the one true God. Today we are gathered to celebrate and bring honor to the One who is the King of Kings, the One whose name is above all names...Jesus Christ.
Narrator #2: Today we will share with you the true story of Christmas. This is the story of God the Father, God the Son who is Jesus, and God the Holy Spirit. God the Father made the heavens and the earth and all living creatures. He created us to have a trusting relationship with Him. When man sinned against God everything in the life of man changed. Most importantly the relationship between God and man was changed forever.
Narrator #3: No longer could imperfect man live in the presence of a perfect holy God. Because of sin, man was separated from His creator. But our God is loving and good. On the very day that sin entered the world, God promised He would send the World a Savior...
Narrator #1: This Savior’s name is Jesus. He would come and save the world from sin’s penalty, death. Those who believe in this Savior would not experience separation but would be forgiven of every sin against God. God’s promises were spoken through the prophets.
Narrator #2: “But you Bethlehem, though you were small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me, One who will be ruler of Israel, whose origins are from old, from ancient times.” Micah 5:2
Narrator #3: “This is the promise I will make with the house of Israel after that time, declares the Lord. I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God and they will be my people. For I will forgive them and remember their sins no more.” Jeremiah 31:33-34
Narrator #1: “For unto us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on His shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
Narrator #2: “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign, the virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call Him Immanuel.” Isaiah 7:14
Narrator #3: God spoke through man regarding the One who would come to save the world from sin and suffering. The world looked for this King of Kings who would reign over His people...little did they know or understand that this King would come as a little baby in to the world...listen and hear of His humble beginnings
Narrator #1: This is Mary, a girl of Galilee. She lived long ago, but such a wonderful thing happened to her that we remember her and love her still. (Mary walks forward and stands in the center facing the audience.)
Narrator #1 continues...One day an angel appeared to Mary (Angel “Gabriel” steps forward and “Mary” kneels before angel head bowed.)
Angel: You are blessed among women, for you shall have a son, whom you shall name Jesus. He shall be called the Son of God and His Kingdom shall never end.
Mary: I am a servant of the Lord. May it be as you have said.
Narrator #2: Mary married a man from Nazareth. His name was Josephand he was a carpenter by trade. (Joseph enters and stands next to Mary.)When Joseph had to go from Nazareth up to Bethlehem in Judea, to pay his taxes in his father’s town; Mary went with him. It was a long, weary journey for her. When they reached Bethlehem at last, they found many travelers there before them. The streets were full of cheerful, jostling kinsmen.
Narrator #2: The inns were crowded. Joseph went from inn to inn in search of a room.
Joseph: (Knock on 1st door.) I need a room.
Inn Keeper: We have no room.
Joseph: (Walk over to next door.) I need a room.
Inn Keeper #2: We have no room.
Joseph: (Walk back to center knock on door.) I need a room.
Inn Keeper #3: We have room in our stable.
Narrator #3: Though Joseph asked shelter only for his wife, every innkeeper turned them away. Joseph continued to search and at last one innkeeper, seeing Mary’s weariness and need, showed them to a stable full of warm sweet hay. There Mary brought forth her son (Mary picks up baby). She wrapped Him in swaddling clothes and laid Him in the manger, since there was no room for them in the inn. (Mary holds baby close and places in manger.) Mary and Joseph were not alone in the stable (Puppets await cue and pop up one at a time.)
There was a cow (mooo), a donkey (eey-a) and alamb (baaa).
Cow: What is that in my manger?
Donkey: Not what friendly cow, but who!
Donkey: This is the very Son of God. His name is Jesus. He is the King of Kings and the Savior of the world!
Lamb: Let’s all sing “Away in the Manger.”Piano and singing (while shepherds and angels go backstage.)
Narrator #1: There were in that same country shepherds in the field keeping watch over their flocks by night. “An angel of the Lord (Angel steps forward looking at shepherds) appeared to them in shining glory and they were all afraid. But the angel said to them...
Angel: Do not be afraid.
Narrator #1: ...which is always the first thing that angels say.
Angel: I come to bring you good news of great joy which shall come to all people. Today in the city of David a Savior has been born for you.
Narrator #1: The angel went on to say that they would find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. Suddenly the sky was full of angels (enter younger angels) praising God and saying...
Younger angel: Glory to God in the highest and peace on earth!!
Narrator #2: When the angels disappeared into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, (shepherds huddle speaking to each other), “Let us go to Bethlehem and see this thing which the Lord has made known to us.”
Narrator #3: They hurried to the town and found Mary, Joseph, and the babe lying in the manger. Afterwards the shepherds ran and told everyone they met about the child! (Go shepherds...run and tell.) Let’s all sing Silent Night. Piano and singing...
Narrator #1: This child was called Jesus the name given by the angel before He was born. Jesus grew into a man and did what no other man was capable of...he offered forgiveness with God. Jesus said “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6 He was fully man AND fully God. He came to save us from the penalty of sin, which is death. He came to give us meaning and purpose in life. Christ came to change lives.
All children quote...”For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.”
Joan, with three teen sons and one preteen girl under her roof, is thankful for her husband and naps. Between laundry loads and fixing beef you might find her in the McDonald’s drive thru ordering a coke with extra ice and a chocolate chip cookie...because this is her happy place.
I have always had a heart for women’s ministry and for my neighbors, so you would think that starting a neighborhood Bible study would just be a natural, and exciting thing for me to do. It wasn’t. I was excited to be a hostess, and even meet new neighbors, but leading a study, and opening it up to my ENTIRE neighborhood was causing a little bit of insecurity.
I had met with Debbie McGoldrick and she had encouraged me to have faith! Invite everyone and rest in the sovereignty of God. He would bring just who needed to be there. I stressed that no one would come, or too many people would come, and they wouldn’t fit in my house! After some hemming and hawing, I finally made invites for all 260 homes in my neighborhood.
When the day came for my open house/kick off tea party, I was a mess. Not knowing how many would show up was nerve racking! I prepared for about 10, and then, at the last minute, I rushed my friends for cookie donations, and gathered enough for about 40… (This is typical behavior of some one trying to “help” God, or A/K/A control freaks)
The doorbell only rang a few times. I was crushed. “What’s wrong with me?” “Doesn’t anyone like me?” “What did I do wrong?” It was hard to focus on the few beautiful women that were sitting around my kitchen table, chatting and snacking on cookies happily, when I was worried about where everyone else was!
I was so hesitant to invite so many! I prayed, and prayed through each one of those 260 invites. I prayed for each family as I put those invites on their doors. I didn’t want to invite everyone, but I did out of obedience! How could I have so many cookies left over after all of that!?
I tried to be gracious, and I made sure everyone had cookies to take home, and I even gave some to some neighbors that didn’t come. I asked God why only a few? I was ready! (I like to think that I bring my Father in Heaven lots of laughs and I know he smiles and shakes his head at me daily.) Didn’t I just step out in faith? Didn’t I just pray for the entire neighborhood, one address at a time? Didn’t I just plant seeds of fellowship in this community? Um…. Yes…
God always has a purpose, and nothing is ever wasted.
When the first night of our Bible Study finally came, I looked around my small, but cozy living room and my heart swelled with gratitude... I had just enough seats! It’s funny how we like to think that God’s ways are the same as ours… I praise Him that they aren’t, but oh! they are SO much higher!
I bet you have just enough seats too… What does God want to do in your neighborhood?
Jennifer Mottola is a social media team member for NBS2go, as well as a busy wife, mama to adult, and almost adult off-spring, blogger, home-school teacher, gardener, crafter and, obviously, a NBS hostess. You can read more about her adventures at www.reallyjennifer.com
Amy von Borstel
I could've never dreamed of the blessings that would come from my involvement in a neighborhood Bible study. I hadn't planned to be a part of a Bible study group. I got involved in a roundabout way.
It all started when my boss approached me at my job, saying, "Amy, would you be interested in being the babysitter for the neighborhood Bible study where I attend?"
I worked at a children's gymnastics facility and loved children. So I excitedly wrote down the name and telephone number of the leader of the study, and got in touch with her within a few days.
I'll never forget the first conversation I had with the leader, Laurie. When we talked I could hear the enthusiasm in her voice. She began telling me how they had prayed for God to send a new children's caregiver to the study.
With excitement, Laurie said, "Our previous babysitter was named Amy. She was a compassionate and caring lady. We've been praying for God to send us another "Amy" and He literally sent us another Amy!" We chuckled together as she said, "God has a sense of humor, doesn't He?"
When we walk close with God, there are no coincidences. He divinely plans each detail in our lives. I knew in that moment that God had orchestrated for me to be a part of this Bible study group. But I had no way of foreseeing all the incredible ways God would lavish His love on me through this group of women. They became the community that I needed to be a part of while I was going through some very challenging trials in my life.
While the ladies were having their Bible study time, I was in another area caring for the children of the moms that were attending the meetings. I got to know the moms very well through sharing and talking each week. They encouraged me, prayed for me, and grew to be my cherished friends. I was a part of that group for seven years. The fruit of those years is still growing in my life today. Women's Bible study groups cultivate long-lasting, true friendships and help us grow strong in our faith.
God works in mysterious ways. He amazes me in the way He weaves things together in our lives. I would encourage any woman who's considering attending or hosting a Bible study to dive in wholeheartedly. I know from experience that you'll look back one day and be amazed at all the awesome blessings that came out of your commitment to begin studying the Bible with your neighbors.
Bio: Amy von Borstel is a wife, homeschooling mom, and Christian writer. She is living her dream of being home with her family. She loves to write the stories of God’s faithfulness in her life and has a passion for helping the orphans of the world.
To subscribe to this blog, click here and enter your email on the right, then click "subscribe"