Listen. Bless. Serve. Enjoy.
July in Washington means the wet clouds have been chased away by longer sunny days, the Northwest hibernators are coming out of their caves.
Summer in the Pacific Northwest is the best time to meet your neighbors and develop better friendships with co-workers. Parties, backyard BBQs, and special summer celebrations should become a regular staple on your summer calendar. If you don’t know how to throw a great party, I recommend Happy Hour by Hugh Halter.
Not only do people who love Jesus have great reason to celebrate, we also have a great opportunity to engage in Jesus’ mission at the party. With the assumption that you will host great parties, I want to share some insights on how not to waste the party.
First, put on your servant towel. At the heart of all great parties are people ready to serve others. Jesus, when celebrating the Passover with his disciples, recognized that no one had arranged a foot washer. So, he donned the towel and washed his disciples’ feet. Throughout the party, regularly ask, “How can I be of service to people?” Fill glasses, bring more food, give up the best seats, show in every way possible that you are eager to serve people’s needs.
Second, ask open-ended questions. You are not having a party only to have good time. Get to know people at a deeper level. People, even introverts, are willing to open up if asked the right questions. Start with open-ended, non-invasive questions like: “What are some of your plans for the summer?” or “What do you enjoy most about this time of year?” Eventually, your aim is to ask more personal questions like: “Did you grow up in the area? What was it like growing up in your family?” And, even deeper, “What values or principles most guide what you do?” Of course, do exercise discernment and wisdom so that the conversation is not forced but flows naturally.
Third, listen for people’s story. Whenever we throw a party with our missional community, I encourage our group to walk away knowing at least one person’s story. The previous questions help with that. However, questions alone are not sufficient. You need to really listen with a genuine interest to get to know someone. People can tell the difference between small talk and genuine care. People often tell me that it’s easy to open up to me. I believe the reason is because they can sense that I genuinely care for them. I make eye contact. I ask questions. I create space for them to be known. And, I don’t spend most of our conversation talking about myself. If you will take the time to truly care and listen, people will share more about themselves than you would expect. (Learn more about how to listen to people’s stories? Check out Engaging in Story.)
Fourth, discover opportunities to bless. As you listen and learn someone’s story, pay close attention for opportunities to bless them. Seek to discern how they feel loved or encouraged. Consider where they might presently need help. For instance, they may be going through a hard time in a relationship and need some counsel. Or, it’s possible they are working on a project at home and need some expertise or a helping hand. Maybe they just lost their job and you have contacts that could lead to a job interview. Or, you might find they need babysitter recommendations. The ways to bless are endless if you listen closely.
Fifth, process what you discover together. If you are planning a party with some other believers, make sure you set aside time in person, email, or private Facebook group, to share what you learned and how the group might work together to bless your new acquaintance/s. This can happen directly after the party as you are cleaning up together or shortly thereafter. Regardless, process together and make plans to bless people in community.
Lastly, pray. Pray before the party. Pray during the party. Invite God’s Spirit to direct you, give you a heart to love and serve, and ears to listen other’s hearts. And, pray together after the party for the people God brought your way. He is the one who does heart work, so invite him to work on yours and all those who come to the party.
Who knows, a party might lead to a friendship and a friendship might lead a person to a new relationship with God through faith in Jesus.