Loving our local community is something attainable, at the tip of our fingers, and yet, something we always seem to put off. Maybe it’s the convenience of it that creates a sense of idleness in us, maybe it’s the proximity that scares us, maybe it asks things more frequently of us.

Why is it important to do good in our communities? It is in alignment with three essentials of relational development that Biola University Director of Student Led Ministries and Spiritual Formation Chad Miller has spoken on: growth, partnership and sustainability.

The value of building relationships is in the fact we need all of them. Community invites us, feeds us, listens to us, laughs with us, cries with us, advises us, challenges us, commissions us to do good. In each stage of a relationship, the success rate can be measured by its apparent growth, its strong partnership and collaboration, as well as its sustainability–will it last?

Here are a few ways to love your local community.

Get neighborly

The garage acts as some sort of barrier from us and everyone else. We enter and the garage door closes before we even open our car door. Neighbors, outside of our own home, are our very immediate community, and yet many of us don’t even know the name of the person who lives not a yard from our own yard.

It’s time to start loving our community through small acts of kindness. This could look like offering home-baked goods, giving introductions and starting conversations with the next person we see or spending more time outside by keeping the garage door open. Next time the question “how are you doing?” is asked, let’s genuinely ask wanting to receive an answer. It matters and it makes a difference. Let’s grow our relationships with a greater effort.

Give, give, give!

By now, we know how and when and where and why and what to give, for the most part. Time, talent, toys. Let’s focus on partnership here. What is an organization, weekly event, or other place where we can apply our passions and curiosities?

The Salvation Army has an incredible database to help in the search for localizing our contributions to community, whether that is serving the elderly, aiding those battling addiction, or teaching and investing in the next generation. Getting involved in people’s lives can be messy and uncomfortable at first, but life grows at a contagious rate when we do.

Listen

Things to remember when we serve our communities? The individuals we get to meet are human, too, and are oftentimes in need of a listening, lending ear. View them as our community because they are. Don’t serve because it’s a check off the to-do good list.

How do we shift our perspective? Let’s reevaluate our goal: sustainability, the last word in our triad of relational development. Remember, these are relationships we are building and striving for through the act of serving. Consistency is key.

People take notice when we become a regular in their lives, and when we do, we gain trust, we become dependable, we get to grow together. Serve with humility always. Expect to make an impact because that will chisel away the complacent nature within us, but not without knowing we will be impacted by the people we serve and love as well.

How are you serving in your community?