Driveways, Patios, and Book Clubs: A Real Mom’s Tool Bag

0 comments Posted on July 1, 2014

by Jen Hatmaker

When we tricked our best friends into starting a church with us, we bought houses on the same street in south Austin and launched a neighborhood domination campaign. We were simply determined to love our neighbors and force them to love us win them over.

This was our premise: what if we loved our neighbors by…um…actually loving them? What if we spent real time and energy on them? What if we were fun? What if we set aside agendas and simply lived the gospel in our ‘hood? What if we practiced patience and longevity, trusting the Holy Spirit to do what He does?

In a culture where the church is losing ground daily, relationally investing in people is the key to bridging the gap. Rather than imagining church attendance as the bulls-eye, it’s time to consider ourselves missionaries, sent as representatives of the kingdom to our neighborhoods and communities and cities. It is through our sustained presence and proximity that we are able to win a hearing for the gospel again.

Interrupted NEWTo that end, we have the best possible tool available: our homes. Not our fancy-perfect-always-clean-impressive Show Homes, but our we-actually-live-here-and-don’t-mind-the-ketchup-stains Real Homes. I think most people are dying to be invited into Real Homes, aren’t they? We are darting our eyes around, looking for another mom who keeps it real, cherishes authenticity, tells the truth. We admire the Perfect Moms, but we need the Real Moms.

Ironically, we recently completed a renovation on our 105-year-old farmhouse with HGTV, which airs this August (“My Big Family Renovation”…emphasis on Big Family, because five kids is just so many humans). But as I type this, I’m looking at shoes strewn from the front of the house to the back, dishes on surfaces that don’t even make sense, a long scratch down the entire length of the hallway, laundry that seems to spawn once an hour, three missing lightbulbs, a broken door, and a yard that is losing its battle to weeds. Even the professionals could not keep this home out of “real” status, try as they did. Bless their hearts. Thanks for coming.

With kids underfoot and work always calling and life constantly spiraling, it can be paralyzing to engineer a huge dinner party or Some Big Thing in our homes. But maybe we’re putting too much pressure on ourselves. Perhaps all we need is to knock on our neighbors’ door around 4:00pm—the witching hours—and drag lawn chairs onto the driveway while the kids do who knows what. Maybe it’s as easy as doubling a recipe and calling your neighbor’s family over at the last minute to eat on paper plates with the windows open. Don’t underestimate the power of the porch; I’ve never met a patio I didn’t like. If you have nothing in the world to offer but coffee, that still makes you the most popular neighbor on the block, because coffee is godly, for Pete’s sake.

One of the easiest gatherings we started was a neighborhood book club hosted in my home. (Christian women have long enjoyed book clubs, but we normally do them together.) We decided to use this as a connecting point with our unchurched and dechurched neighbors, and let me tell you: no hay problema. Food? Drinks? Great books? A bunch of women with no kids? I don’t think a single neighbor said no.

As it is with any gathering of women, conversation always took a thousand turns. In no time, we found ourselves in deep territory with one another, sharing far more than our literary opinions. Those evenings around my living room turned into genuine friendships, spiritual conversations, and true community. It’s too easy.

And the upside was, every time I booted my hubby and kids out and spent all day cooking delicious food not for them, I got to say, “Babe, it’s for Jesus.”

Jen Hatmaker lives in Austin with her husband and five kids. She has written nine books and travels the country speaking. Learn more about taking a missional posture in our neighborhoods and communities in Jen’s book, Interrupted: When Jesus Wrecks Your Comfortable Christianity, releasing July 15. Follow her blog and check out her speaking schedule at

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