Neighboring 101: Pick Your Yard

Tim Brister —  January 19, 2016 — 5 Comments

The yard you choose to use says a lot about how you feel about your neighbors. The back yard approach is typically closed off from the rest of the neighborhood. Whether it has a fence or not, it says “we don’t want to be seen, and we don’t want to see you – this is our private space.” This approach is very typical in suburbia, enforced by gated communities, guard dogs, and the like. The goal is to keep people out, only letting them on the rare occasion we feel like it, on our terms.

The front yard tells a different story. This approach says “we want to be seen, whether you drive by in your car, walking your dog, or riding your bike.” The front yard creates anticipation for community, looking for people who may have hobbies or interests in common. The front yard encourages engagement and looks for opportunity to connect with others. The walls are not there. You are not hiding. You want to know others and be known by them.

Moving from the back to front may make your front yard look a little messy. We brought our kids’ picnic tables, plastic slides, etc. that normally is in the back to the front. We play our football and wiffle ball games out front. Basically, whatever we once did in the back, we have made an effort to do in the front (grilling out, throwing parties, playing games, or just hanging out on the porch).

What kind of difference does it make? It tells your neighbors you are present, you are open, and you are welcoming them to join in with a spirit of hospitality. While that may not sound like much, I believe you will be surprised by the difference it makes.

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  • Has this led directly to more interaction with your neighbors? Or is it part of a larger whole?

    • timmybrister


      Yes and yes. It is part of a larger whole. This is intended to me one of hopefully several practical suggestions I will make in the future. It is one practice that coincides with other practices built around neighboring.

      As for more interaction, let me give you a few examples. Since playing in the front yard, there have been rhythms with 2-3 families in the afternoon where moms come out with their lawn chairs and hang out together. From that, relationships have formed and deepened significantly. Also, my son and another boy have been considered “socially awkward” and not easy to get to know. These boys have become best friends and play together almost every day. For me, I met a man who was walking his two beautiful dogs and engaged in conversation with him. Come to find out, his wife recently passed away and was hurting. I had the opportunity to minister to him, invite him to our Thanksgiving dinner (which he came), and pray with him. These are some examples of how the front yard has impacted my wife, my kids, and me as well. I will probably share more of these stories in the future.

      • Thanks. I figured “yes and yes” would be the answer. I’ve been thinking and praying about how my family can engage the folks who live around us, so I’m looking forward to what you have to say.

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