Front Yard Encounters

Prayer on our home driveway. Extended conversations about family, health and life issues. Connecting, affirming, and showing loving concern for neighbors. This is a brief list of things I have recently undertaken in the front yard of our house. You could call them “front yard encounters.” Have you noticed how most front yards are relationally underutilized? I realize this may be a misperception. There are some houses that have beautiful, wrap-around porches extending from the front door area. Many of these have porch swings and big wood rocking chairs that make a relaxing setting for home owners to look out to the street and the surrounding neighborhood.

Beth's Turquoise Table
Granbury, Texas

Yet, in too many instances, we tend to retreat to the backyard to host our connecting events. It is here in this often out-of-sight setting that we have cookouts, swim parties and gatherings on the patio or deck. It is true that we have to mow the grass and tend to the flowers and shrubs at the front of the house, and even wash our cars on the front driveway. However, when we have finished these chores, we scurry like a family of timid squirrels back to the privacy and security of our backyards!

During our vacation to Texas this summer, we made another visit to Granbury. This is where we served a church while I attended seminary and made some precious life-long connections with beloved friends. Three of our four children were born during the over seven years we lived there. It is to us, a “home away from our home!” 

Beth, the youngest daughter of one of our closest friends, recently purchased a beautiful home and wanted to share her joy with us by giving us a morning tour. She was so enthused with each inside room in her house that was situated in a neighborhood just a few blocks away from the historic downtown square. She had wanted a house like this for years near to the rich history of the county seat where the courthouse was framed by a community theater, many shops and special eateries.

I noticed as we parked out front and walked up to the house that there was a uniquely colored picnic table positioned not more than six feet from the street at the corner. After the tour, Beth asked, “Mike, did you see my turquoise table?” I answered, “Yes! I did!” and all the while I was thinking it must have just been delivered and would soon be moved it to the backyard! Beth exclaimed, “That is my turquoise table! I want to use it to get acquainted with my neighbors! Have you heard of Kristen Schell and how she used her turquoise table to show hospitality and love for her neighbors?" I had to admit that I hadn’t heard about any of this. So, Beth proceeded to text me the link to her website. 

Kristen Schell is the founder of The Turquoise Table and the Front Yard People movement.  In 2017, she wrote the book, The Turquoise Table: Finding Community and Connection in your own Front Yard. This work details her strategic ministry to love her neighbors. You can check out Schell’s blog for specific information, stories and even register your own table! What a novel way to connect with your neighbors by using a “Turquois Table” in the front yard!  https://theturquoisetable.com/.

In these days, our church is implementing a strategic plan to reach our city for Christ. We hope that individuals and families, who are members or regular attenders, will connect with their neighbors and show them the love of Christ. Our pastors are promoting a practical and intentional strategy. It involves praying for 5 individuals that need Christ and the church’s ministry. Then, inviting 3 of these friends to a worship service, to participate in a small group study, or to attend any event the church has scheduled. And finally, members are encouraged to bring 1 friend or provide transportation for that individual to a service, study or event.

Jesus told a parable about a dinner party where the master host became upset because the guests on his invitation list made excuses for why they couldn’t come to his home. He directed a servant to “Go out in the country lanes and behind the hedges and urge anyone you find to come, so that the house will be full!” (Luke 14:23, NLT). While there is a sense of urgency about God’s Coming Kingdom and it is true that God wants His churches to be full on the Lord’s Day, our best strategy is to love our unchurched friends and neighbors into the Kingdom of God.

Let’s pray and look for opportunities to connect with our neighboring friends. We do so by learning about them through caring conversations, and then inviting them to join us in the fellowship of our churches.

Mike Keppler, retired pastor,
active churchman and
doting grandparent. 
Contact: drmjkeppler@gmail.com 

In another related blog article (October18, 2019), I refer to a connection event that almost daily occurred on our front lawn. Please check it out if you didn’t read it or simply want to refresh your memory... 

http://www.mjkministries.com/2019/10/one-ball-and-four-bases.html

 

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