SENT is part of a new weekly series telling stories of people at Pulpit Rock living missionally in their unique contexts. We believe that all of us have been SENT into our neighborhoods, workplaces and city. Our hope is that you are encouraged and inspired to lean into the places God has called you. And then we’d like to tell your story. Because we know that the story of God’s people is the story of God. If you have a story you would like to share with us send it to email@example.com.
Recently you both hosted a Donuts on the Deck event at the same time in your neighborhood, tell us about it!
We (the Shipps) along with two other believing families on our street from Woodmen Valley Chapel hosted the event. The Stermers (also neighbors) supported it with tables and money for donuts and coffee and their usual awesomeness. Since we did not have a deck, ours was “Donuts on the Driveway.” It was definitely a group effort. I printed postcards, the kids delivered them to houses up and down the street, a couple of us got donuts, one coordinated coffee, I set up the driveway that morning and neighbors showed up! I think we had about 40 people including kids. People came over the course of an hour and many had never met before. We got to know a man who bought his house brand new 40 years ago and the newest neighbors who moved in three months ago. Everyone seemed to have a great time and several mentioned they’d enjoy something like this again. A few who could not come responded with hope that we would as well.
Steve and I had recently finished building our front deck and landscaping our front yard. Our desire behind putting our deck in the front was to have chances to get to know our neighbors. We live near the end of a street that is a cul-de-sac, so many people take walks, bike rides, etc. right past our house and loop back down. After some brainstorming different ways to meet the people on our street, we settled on a morning, meet-and-greet style, neighborhood block party with donuts and coffee. It seemed like a good way to break the ice and start the momentum. It was easy preparation on our end, and didn’t require an extreme time commitment from neighbors. I was talking about it with my cousin, Mary, who lives a few streets over, and she liked the idea. So did two of my friends who live on my street. Then, on their own, Amber and Mary (who happen to be neighbors) began talking about doing it, too, and so we all coordinated a day that worked. My two neighbors helped with some costs and made signs. I asked our neighborhood coffee shop, which just happens to be Third Space, to help, and got amazing coffee from them. We set up our deck with a table for donuts and a table for coffee and hot apple cider. I brought out fall décor that I already had inside my house, and we started a fire in the firepit for ambiance and warmth on a cool, fall morning. Neighbors started coming almost immediately, and we went an hour past our original time just talking and laughing with new friends!
Where did the idea for Donuts on the Deck (and Driveway) start? How was the response from your neighbors?
I think Becca and my friend and neighbor, Mary, had talked about it. Then Mary and Tara (another friend and neighbor) and I talked about it one day and decided we should just go for it. We chose the only free Saturday we had before November and just made it happen.
I had been thinking through different activities we could do once we finished the deck. The obvious BBQ came to mind first, but I didn’t know how to introduce it and get people on board without a lot of different steps in planning. Those are the things that often stop momentum and desire, so I looked at different ideas. An ice cream social came up as an idea, but we missed the peak of summer! Then, one day, I was talking about the idea to get the neighborhood together with my friend, Andrea Kippel, and she said that her family just hosted “Donuts on the Driveway” for their neighbors. That felt easy and fun and doable. My family went door to door with an invitation to neighbors; some were home and some we just left the invititation. Every single one we talked to was, at least, appreciative of the invite, and at most, completely thrilled that someone was finally doing something to get people together. Truly…every single person I interacted with during this event was excited to be with other neighbors. We had about 30 show up, but many more who expressed interest, but couldn’t make it on that day. They made us promise to do something else later on! It was such a good time!!
What was a neat moment or cool story from the morning?
I loved seeing the newest and most apprehensive couple with their baby and dog come and stay long past the end time talking to all of us neighborhood groupies. They stuck around and connected with all of us and seemed to genuinely enjoy themselves.
There are a couple of things that stick out to me. One…a new friend we made who immediately started teasing Steve like old friends would. I loved that. Also, a group of neighbors who have lived here for 30+ years reminiscing about raising their kids here and talking about what activities they used to do together. They were so excited that the torch has been lit to do these things once again, even now that their own kids are grown and gone. And finally, I had one gal ask me why we were doing it? I just told her that we wanted to know our neighbors and be there for them. She just teared up and told me that she had been wanting to know people, too, but had no idea how to make it happen. I got to hear more of her story and am excited to see her each time we head to the park!
Anything you have seen or learned as you have stepped out into loving your neighbors?
It was easier than expected and only happened because we had a little group committed to pulling it off. It was simple and sweet and accomplished the goal.
Knocking on doors felt awkward at first. Like I was an uninvited solicitor. But, what I realized is that I wasn’t selling something or asking for something. I was offering friendship and people were excited! Instead of being nervous about it, I got excited to introduce our family and tell my neighbors that we wanted to know them. It can feel intimidating, but it was so much fun and so worth it. And, it made Halloween even more fun to greet my neighbors, by name, as they passed out candy to my kids. PS – I wrote down everyone’s name who I met or heard from. Names matter and my memory can be poor, so I walked around with a notebook and wrote down names. It’s amazing the way a person lights up when greeted by name. They feel remembered and known.
Any advice you would give to others who are looking to neighbor well?
Find another neighbor or two that shares the vision with you and make it happen. It’s hard to say no to free donuts and coffee.
Start with something simple. When I thought about trying to organize an entire street to do a BBQ it felt overwhelming and the road blocks to doing it started rearing their ugly heads. Find something that you are comfortable doing, and make it simple and easy. Also, set realistic expectations. The odds of having every single neighbor attend an event are low, but enjoy the time with those who do show up and remember you are building momentum! We are now planning for something around the holidays…maybe s’mores and hot chocolate around a fire pit. I don’t even have to clean my house!
The Shipps and the Biels both attend Pulpit Rock with their families. Ed and Amber Shipp lead worship in our Kids Ministry and Steve and Becca Biel are leaders in AWANA.