Dreams Coming True: Loving Neighbors in a New Way

Dreams Coming True is a Thursday feature on my blog, a way to highlight those whose goal is to create community. The dream might be a blog, a published book, a small business, volunteering, or even fundraising for a charity. Something that makes the world a better place . . . for others.

“Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin” (Zechariah 4:10, NLT).

Congratulations to winner of last week’s giveaway, LISA LITTLEFIELD. Please email your mailing address to  info {at} suzannewoodsfisher {dot} com to claim your prize.

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Welcome Amy Lively, creator of The Neighborhood Café, to Dreams Coming True! Leave a comment on this post to enter to win a Neighborhood Café Kit! 

Amy-LivelyTell us a little about yourself, Amy!

After many years of rejecting Christ, I finally responded to His Spirit thanks to the powerful influence of many good, Godly girlfriends and countless prayers. This experience taught me firsthand how natural relationships impact our spiritual destiny! Loving Jesus has made me a better wife to David, my husband of 24 years; a better mom to our daughter, Emma, a high school senior; and a better neighbor. I’m on staff at our church and I’m also writing a book, and I created a ministry called The Neighborhood Café.

When did this creative dream begin?

I learned the concept of neighborhood Bible study at a women’s conference for writers and speakers in 2008. My initial excitement about doing this in my own neighborhood quickly turned to fear when I realized the time and effort it would involve… and then there was the slight problem that I didn’t know my neighbors!

After months of arguing with God about this crazy idea, I finally invited my neighbors to an Open House followed by a neighborhood Bible study in my home. It was called the Rosewood Café because we lived on Rosewood Drive. Eventually a ministry was born called the Neighborhood Café that equips women to love their neighbors in a whole new way.

How did this project/idea get started?

Our best ideas start in our own experiences. Long before the Neighborhood Café became a ministry, I ministered to my own neighbors. My heart’s desire was first to teach my neighbors about Jesus, then to teach others about neighborhood ministry. If I wanted to teach others, I knew had to do the work myself. Jesus doesn’t ask us to do anything He didn’t do Himself, so how could I?Screen Shot 2014-06-24 at 1.40.13 PM

I kept track of everything that worked in my neighborhood—and what failed miserably! I saved every invitation I created for my neighbors, every Bible lesson we discussed, every delicious recipe they brought to my home. I created the Neighborhood Café Kit, an adorable keepsake box that contains everything you need to start your own Neighborhood Café in your home! It includes a Planning Guide, invitations, follow up cards, a music CD, and even an introductory curriculum to help you get to know your neighbors. Every piece has been tested and tweaked in my neighborhood and hundreds more across the country. There are now Neighborhood Cafés across the United States and even in Canada! Search for a Neighborhood Café in your own neighborhood at my website, www.theneighborhoodcafe.net.

How does your project create community?

The Neighborhood Café helps women form relationships with the neighbors God has very carefully placed around their home. Friendships begin over coffee at the kitchen table, and spiritual conversations flow out of these natural connections. We also have an online community of Neighborhood Café Hostesses who pray for each other, offer support and encouragement, and share ideas.

Many have creative ideas but trouble following through with them. What advice would you give to creative types who start projects eagerly . . . but then enthusiasm drizzles off?

Live your message. The Neighborhood Café is first and foremost about my personal love for God expressed through my love for my neighbors. I have an audience of One—and He is not my Facebook fan or blog follower.

Be faithful in the small things, and God will entrust you with bigger things. My ministry has had seasons of productivity as well as dormancy. Sometimes this is because I am dutifully fulfilling other responsibilities, which is perfectly fine. Other times, I am delaying and disobeying God’s clear direction… definitely not OK! Prayerfully determine which state you are in, seek God’s path and then take your next best step. Plan ahead but don’t run ahead—let God set the pace.

What’s been the hardest part about getting it off the ground?

Just like me, women are excited when they first learn about the Neighborhood Café . . . and then they get scared. Satan fights hard because the stakes are high! Can you imagine the impact if we all knew our neighbors, let alone truly loved them?

Doubts plagued me as publisher after publisher ooohed and aaahed over the Neighborhood Café Kit, then said, “It’s a wonderful idea, but it doesn’t fit our traditional model.” I finally realized that God not only gave me the idea, but He also gave me the marketing background, internet skills, technical support, and sales experience to manage it myself. I create, design, source, print, assemble, sell and ship each Neighborhood Café Kit myself. I would love to find a partner to help with this.

Have there been any unexpected surprises?

As I’ve taken very small steps, God has opened very big doors! He introduced me to Jennifer Rothschild’s ministry at womensministry.net, where I am a contributing writer; I also write for the Not Quite Amish Living blog. I was invited to write guests posts for Lysa TerKeurst and Courtney Joseph at Women Living Well. He took me to ICRS last year, an incredible learning experience about the Christian retail industry. I was on FamilyLife Today with Dennis Rainey and Bob Lepine last year. I speak across the country at conferences and retreats about loving our neighbors. And—be still my heart!—I am writing a book called How to Love Your Neighbor Without Being Weird that will be published by Baker Books this spring!

What are some ways you promote your project?

I sell the Neighborhood Café Kit on my own website, where I also have a blog. Writing for other blogs, offering giveaways, and hosting guest bloggers have helped me reach new people. I send an email each week to my subscribers (ok . . . most weeks!) and I have the usual social media (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest).

Creating something is one skill. Marketing and promoting it is an entirely different skill set. How has that gone for you? Shocked by the amount of work marketing takes? Or pleasantly surprised?

Marketing is sooooooo hard for me! I just want to do the ministry, not talk about doing it. Scheduling blog posts and social media, creating graphics, formatting messages—ugh! Thankfully, I have several professional marketing advisors; I wish I had a team to actually do it for/with me.

Any marketing mistakes you would avoid?

I can’t conquer every social media. I use Facebook a lot personally, so that’s where I focus my ministry marketing. I hate Twitter (what writer can communicate in 149 characters?!) so the only tweeting I do is automatically generated by my website. I try to remember to pin my own graphics. I have peace knowing I can’t be all things to all people in all social media.

How can we find your creative dream come true?

Please stop by my website at www.theneighborhoodcafe.net! You can also subscribe to my blog and visit me on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. Oh, and I have a podcast on iTunes!


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About Suzanne

Suzanne Woods Fisher writes bestselling, award winning fiction and non-fiction books about the Old Order Amish for Revell Books. Her interest in the Plain People began with her Old Order German Baptist grandfather, raised in Franklin County, Pennsylvania. Suzanne's app, Amish Wisdom, delivers a daily Amish proverb to your phone or iPad. She writes a bi-monthly column for Christian Post and Cooking & Such magazine. She lives with her family in California and raises puppies for Guide Dogs for the Blind. To Suzanne's way of thinking, you can't take life too seriously when a puppy is running through your house with someone's underwear in its mouth.

Comments

  1. Vivian Vereeke says:

    You are so brave to really put yourself in such a vulnerable position and actually follow God’s call. And now you are making it easier for others to do as well. I am disabled and very uncomfortable in social situations, so this would be extremely difficult for me. But, if God really wants me to do this, I’m sure He’ll let me win this giveaway so I won’t have any excuses. 🙂

    • Amy Lively says:

      Sweet Vivian – God designed each of us so differently! He made me an extrovert who will blab to anyone; maybe He made you a deep-thinking introvert who craves more intimate conversations. Each of us is perfectly suited to love our neighbors in our own UNIQUE way. If you win, I pray you receive tools and tips to adapt for your personality, your needs and your neighbors! God bless!

  2. Amy–What a great concept! This is something I’ve given a great deal of thought about–so glad you are championing community. Also loved your advice to be faithful in the little things. Spot-on! Thanks for taking time for the interview today, Amy. Blessings on your life work! Warmly, Suzanne

  3. Such a wonderful Idea ! I looked where i live and where I was living and realize there are no cafe’s there or here. DH and I were just taking about the fact that no one stops and no one here really knows each other. We are contemplating moving back to TN and I have a strong desire for ministering to teen girls who are pregnant and women who are abused. I am so happy that you let us know about this idea and it is a very good one.
    Checked out your website and bookmarked your pages and signed up for your newsletter too.
    Blessings in Jesus
    Linda Finn
    Faithful Acres Books
    http://www.faithfulacres.net

  4. Connie Saunders says:

    What a wonderful and worthwhile project. This Kit would be a terrific incentive for all of us to start our own group.
    Thanks for this post.

  5. valerie monschien laux says:

    would love to win

  6. This sounds so intriguing! Like you, I’d have to grab an extra dose of extrovert lol
    -Blessings!

  7. TAMMY CUEVAS says:

    I love this idea! At the present, I am a part of a small Facebook group of women who share and encourage one another, but we seldom get together in person. This sounds like something to explore.

  8. Ola Norman says:

    Great interview! Enjoyed reading it.

  9. Chris Meyer says:

    What an incredibly cool idea. <3
    I have felt like a bit of a recluse for almost 5 years of taking care of my Grandparents. 24 hr care doesn't leave me much time to get out and do things. I have been taking steps to get to know my neighbors better. I live in a 25 home community with 5 acres each. It is a big effort but I sure am trying.

    • Amy Lively says:

      May God bless each minute you’ve spent caring for your grandparents! This is honoring to Him. I pray that your neighbors may be a help to you during this season of caregiving and loving others so intently.

  10. Sunnie says:

    That is a really wonderful idea! We need more of this in the world today. It truly is amazing how God helps us and opens doors to good things we are doing.

  11. Peggy says:

    Such a wonderful idea! Much needed in this day and age!

  12. Saundra M says:

    The ladies of my small community need this so badly. Living in a small town (pop-722) without a stop light, there is not much to do. So many of our youth get into trouble as well as adults. A group like this would help us all get closer to God and appreciate what we have.

  13. What a needed ministry in our secluded world, Amy!

  14. Sierra Faith says:

    Sounds really neat!