You may have looked at our name and wondered why we are called ‘The Neighbourhood Project’. So, what does our name mean and why do we use the word ‘neighbourhood’?
As a pioneering work we are focused on equipping people to be ‘whole-life disciples’ and ‘everyday missionaries.’ What this really means is that we are committed to supporting, encouraging and empowering people to live out and speak out their faith in the places they exist, outside of our church buildings. We are focused on what the church is when we are scattered – out in the world going about our daily lives, rather than what we do when we are ‘gathered’ within our buildings and structures. Therefore, our focus is on the daily interactions, conversations, relationships, encounters that Christians have in the 110ish hours they spend awake each week.
These interactions don’t take place in isolation, they take place in neighbourhoods. Now bear with me here. Neighbourhoods, whilst once used only as term to designate geographical boundaries, often superimposed by authoritarian structures, now have a much broader and more holistic encompassing. Much has been researched and written about what neighbourhoods are, how they are defined and often crucially, who defines them. The general consensus being: neighbourhoods can no longer be termed (solely) in geographical terms and that most people belong to more than one.
What has become evident is that neighbourhoods are based more on relationships, shared history and experience, common causes and beliefs, and need, than they are on geographical boundaries. Where geographical boundaries are included, they tend to exist alongside one of the above rather than being the sole motivator and are often defined by the individual or group themselves rather than being imposed upon them by other systems.
Building on this we’ve come up with the following as a working (potentially needing further refining) definition, to help us articulate our thinking:
‘Neighbourhood’ is the people and area around a person, often defined by personal life paths. Neighbourhoods exist where there are shared interactions, relationships, values, beliefs, social activities, geography or/and needs, and, are rooted in individual and collective shared experience.
This means that we all exist in a range of ‘neighbourhoods’ each day. Our workplaces, schools, hobbies, streets, churches, families etc are all ‘neighbourhoods’ in one way or another. All are places of community and connection, places of relationships and conversation. So, when we are exploring mission into our neighbourhoods, we mean the places and the people we spend the majority of our time. For some of us, this may include people and places God is putting on our hearts. However crucially this will be focused on living alongside those people and not offering a service for or to them.
Recognising that we all exist in a range of neighbourhoods reminds us that fundamentally we are all asked to be ‘good neighbours.’ As we live this intentional model, we will be exploring what it means to be a neighbour shaped by Jesus. What it means for us to love and live with others, to listen to where God is moving and to co-operate with what God is doing in our neighbourhoods.
So that’s why the word ‘neighbourhood’ is in our name. We recognise the significance of being good neighbours and neighbourhoods in each of our lives. We are committed to living in ways that build relationships and enable us to intentionally live alongside others, sharing life together and as we do this to join in with what God is already doing in those places.
If this idea resonates with you, if you would like to get involved, know more, or even just have a conversation, then do get in touch with me. I’d love to talk with you and hear your thoughts.