“Getting to Know Your Neighborhood” – Helps from Gary Nelson (Round II)

October 23, 2010


Here’s round II of helps from Dr. Gary Nelson’s book Borderland Churches for how people desiring to live on mission can go about getting to know their neighborhoods through face-to-face interaction and social networking.  If you’re like me, some of this seems so obvious I’ve wondered why I haven’t been doing it all along.

Walk it, drive it, and ride it:

  • During three distinct periods of the day, travel the public transit system.  Observe the various people groups you encounter.  Who are they?  Where are they going?  Talk to them.
  • Divide the day into these three sections and share teh adventure amongst yourselves:
    ~ 8 a.m. to noon
    ~ 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.
    ~ 9 p.m. to midnight

Observe and record the following:

  • What kind of churches, schools and buildings do you see?
  • What types of businesses do you see?  Are there service shops, commercial areas?  Are the stores recognizable name-brand stores?  Independent stores?  Are new businesses moving into the neighborhood?
  • What kind of industry is in the neighborhood?  Do people who live in the neighborhood work in the neighborhood?
  • If there are malls, how would you describe their condition?  What types of commercial stores are represented here?  Are stores closing down or do they appear to be stable?  How they changed in the last few years?  What new ones have come into the community?
  • What are the social gathering areas in the community (e.g., bars, sports clubs, parks)?  If there are parks, in what condition are they?  When are the social areas busiest?
  • How would you describe the type of housing in your neighborhood?  What kind of housing is it? (e.g., high-rise luxury condos, single family dwellings, walk-ups, rental apartments, etc.)
    ~ What is the condition of the housing?
    ~ What is the condition and presence of public facilities?
    ~What type of transportation do most people use?
    ~Is there a predominant ethnicity or socioeconomic class in the area?  Is it changing or has it stayed stable in the last five years?
    ~How many social groups can you observe?  Name them (e.g., elderly, young mothers, gangs, young families, age groupings, etc.)
  • What are the stated issues in this community?  Resources?
  • Who are the obvious leaders?
  • What types of social service systems are present in the community?  Name them.  Introduce yourselves to them.  Talk to them.
    ~Are there self-help groups that meet in the community?  What are they?  Where do they meet?  Do people come from the community or from outside of the community?
    ~Is there any evidence of deterioration or regentrification in the community?  What is new?

Walk the community and look into the faces:

  • What do you see?
  • What do you feel?
  • Who do you see?

(quote reproduced from Gary Nelson’s book Borderland Churches pages 151-152 by permission.)

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