Have you ever noticed how much easier it is to start a new activity than it is to turn that activity into a habit in your life?
Think about how many diets and exercise plans people start every January but forget about before Easter. We have good intentions when we start something new. But it’s just so hard to develop those activities into strong habits.
How can you avoid this same outcome when you’re developing the habit of demonstrating the gospel to your neighbors?
If you’ve been reading the MissionHub blog, you probably have ideas about steps of faith to take in your neighborhood. We refer to this as neighboring. And hopefully you’ve begun putting some of your ideas into action.
So let’s talk about how you make a habit of neighboring that lasts longer than your most recent commitment to eat less sugar.
Why habits matter
Whether we like it or not, our lives are heavily influenced by the habits we develop over time. Some are intentional, others subconscious. Habits you have probably already developed include:
- What time you wake up.
- The way you drink your coffee.
- Looking at social media — a lot.
- How you style your hair.
- What you eat.
- Closing cabinets and turning lights off — or forgetting to close cabinets and turn lights off.
- The route you take to work or school.
And that’s only the first few hours of your day.
Most things you do regularly in your day-to-day life are ingrained in your mind as habits. And the things you struggle to be consistent with might be the result of bad habits you’ve already developed. Repeating the same action over and over is how habits are formed. So, why not focus on repeating the good actions instead of the bad?
As Christians, most of us develop certain habits. We pray at certain times. We gather regularly with other Christians. And there are plenty of other activities we accept as important parts of following Jesus.
How does this apply to the way we interact with neighbors who do not know Jesus yet?
Your neighbors live very close to you. That’s kind of what makes them your neighbors, right? So, demonstrating the gospel to your neighbors cannot just be a one-time thing. Neighboring should be a way of life for all Christians. And the fact that you’re here tells us that you want to embrace that way of life.
Here are three tips to begin developing the habit of neighboring — plus a bonus tip that can really make your habit stick.
1. Schedule neighboring reminders
Researchers disagree on how long it takes for people to develop new habits. Some say three weeks. Others argue it’s two months or even up to six months, depending on the habit.
But everyone agrees that it takes patient repetition.
The most difficult part of developing a new habit is being consistent. And since you have not developed the habit yet, it can be easy to lose focus and momentum.
The simplest way to remain consistent with an activity you’re trying to develop into a habit is to set a reminder for yourself:
- Do you need to be up at a certain time in the morning? Set an alarm.
- Need to pull food out of the oven before it burns? Start a timer.
- Do not want to miss your dentist appointment? Put it in the calendar.
The same is true with demonstrating the gospel to our neighbors. Here are some neighboring reminders you can set yourself:
- When you discover significant dates like birthdays or anniversaries, put them in your calendar.
- Set daily timers to pray for neighbors or to go where you can interact with them.
- Put their names or pictures in places you’ll see them to remind yourself of your desire to build that relationship.
Whatever reminder works best for you, that’s the one you should use.
2. Do not try to do this alone
Reminding yourself to do things is great. But sometimes we all need someone else to help us maintain our commitments until they become habits.
So why would you want to do this alone? If you’re serious about your relationships with your neighbors, then find someone else with the same passion. You can encourage one another and share ideas.
Jesus never sent the disciples out alone. Should you have someone helping you too?
3. Celebrate whatever God accomplishes through you
Let’s be honest. If you’re trying to develop a new habit, but not seeing the desired results, how motivated are you going to be? Not very.
It’s hard to get excited about something when you cannot see the benefit of it. It’s also hard to get excited about it when you do not know if your effort is making a difference. So, if you’re really serious about making neighboring a habit, you’ll need to make sure you can see the results.
What kind of results are we talking about here?
That all depends on what you’re doing. Some Christians get frustrated when neighbors do not immediately become interested in Jesus or in going to church with them. But there are other outcomes we can get excited about.
Here are a few things I encourage you to celebrate with God:
- Celebrate when relationships with those around you grow.
- You can celebrate when you see God working in your neighbors’ lives with or without your apparent involvement.
- When your own faith is stretched and rewarded — that’s something to celebrate.
- When you’ve surrounded yourself with other Christians committed to the same mission of neighboring, celebrate what God does through them.
Celebrating our successes makes a huge difference as we develop habits. That’s why the MissionHub app has a feature called Impact. The team behind MissionHub knows it’s so hard to take step after step of faith and not see immediate results. So they enable us to see what God is doing through our commitment and through steps others are taking too.
Let MissionHub simplify the process — BONUS TIP
MissionHub is designed to make developing the habit of neighboring easier. And that’s true whether you’re focusing on people who live next door or those you regularly interact with elsewhere.
MissionHub lets you set reminders about specific actions you want to take as you develop the habit of neighboring. It helps you stay connected with your friends and other Christians who want to develop the same habit. And MissionHub makes it easy to celebrate what God is doing by bringing it all together in one spot.
Your neighbors may not know why God placed you next door. But you have an idea and a picture in your mind of what God wants to see happen. MissionHub might be just the thing you need to make the habit of neighboring a reality in your life.
Photo by Christian Stahl