While I am currently a senior at Virginia Theological Seminary, I am doing work at Christ Church in Old Town Alexandria. A topic of conversation that frequently comes up at Christ Church, and hopefully all churches, is this: how can we better reach the people who live in our neighborhood, and surrounding neighborhoods?
Mailings can be expensive, and hit or miss. Some churches use “neighborhood ambassadors” to connect the church with neighbors. Both of these tactics have found both success and failure in different contexts. Trying to model the people in a neighborhood is difficult. And targeted Facebook ads are powerful but have limitations.
Nextdoor is a service that can help alleviate some stress, and perhaps help get the word out about your church.
Nextdoor is not the total solution, but is one tool on the church outreach tool belt.
Social networks have been around for over a decade now, and they are becoming more ingrained within our culture. I am seeing a new trend for “private” social networks, from Ello to Nextdoor. They all cater to certain aspects of life that the larger traditional social networks miss. Nextdoor helps people in neighborhoods get connected. You can only see posts from your neighborhood, or ones immediately surrounding. That’s it.
Nextdoor easily shows which houses have signed up, and which have not. You can easily explore the directory, with photos and other relevant information. The main page is where people post various events, questions, and advice. Facebook may have a greater reach, but Nextdoor allows for a more specific posting with a higher probability that the people you want to see the information will.
While explicit advertising is not allowed, and organizations are not permitted to join (this policy might be changing soon), Nextdoor still holds great value. You can reach out, as yourself, to post about a free event occurring at your church under the events heading.
More importantly, you can get a feel for who actually lives in the neighborhoods around the church, what they think is important, what they like to do within the neighborhood, and what is missing. Sometimes we think we know, but often we generalize. Nextdoor can give concrete answers.
Nextdoor, while small, is growing rapidly. We often hear about how modern culture has lost something because we do not know our neighbors, and we only connect with each other online. Nextdoor makes the connection to the neighborhood and might score you an introduction to a neighbor or two. My mother still makes a welcome basket for anyone who moves into our neighborhood, but this is no longer the norm. Perhaps networks like Nextdoor will be.
Check it out, connect, and let us know how your church might use this new neighborhood tool.
Chris Hamby (@chris_hamby) is the digital producer in the Center for the Ministry of Teaching and a senior M.Div. student at Virginia Theological Seminary.