10 ideas to inspire community connections this summer

Our family calendar has only been open to May for a few days, and already the sprawling weeks ahead of us are filling up with plans, trips, and activities.

With its long days and lovely weather, summer invites us to escape the walls of our homes and get out and about in our communities.  I find that in order to really squeeze every ounce of potential from the summer months, I have to intentionally plan a little bit because those long, leisurely days float past in the blink of an eye.

What if, amongst the swimming lessons, weeks at camp, and family getaways this summer, we made time to intentionally connect with our communities?

Your time investment could be a little or a lot, but I assure you that the return on time invested will be greatly rewarded with meaningful memories.

Building Community Connections

1. Plan a block party.

Whether you live in a suburban neighborhood or an urban high-rise, summer is a great time to catch up with neighbors you’ve known for years and meet the new ones you haven’t yet met.  As long as there is music, games, and food, it’s sure to be a much-appreciated event!

2. Form a guerilla gardening group.

Scout out locations that are in desperate need of floral intervention and transform the landscape of community eyesores.  Sweet Juniper’s Bomb Detroit! will inspire you to action.

3. Bake for a cause.

Photo by redeye

In the past year, the food banks in our community have served more families than ever before.  Organizations that provide relief for the underfed of our nation are always in need of support. Visit Share Our Strength’s Great American Bake Sale for ways to plan a bake sale in your community to help.

4. Introduce the young to the young-at-heart.

Facilities that provide care for the aging always welcome visitors.  Ask an activities director at a local care facility for ways that children and young people could interact with the residents of that facility.  Music, craft time, performances — whatever you choose, it’ll be a blessing to all involved.

5. Organize a family book club.

Grown-ups rarely have a hard time finding a book club with which to meet, but wouldn’t it be fun to read a book as a family and then share thoughts and reactions with other families?  Your material could be as thought-provoking as Kevin and Hannah Selwen’s The Power of Half or as light-hearted as Summer of the Monkeys by Wilson Rawls.  Ask your local public librarians for ideas on how to organize and spread the word.

6. Step outside of your spiritual box.

Choose several days throughout the summer to attend services at a church of a different denomination than yours.  Introduce yourself to the clergy, and listen for ways other churches are meeting the needs of your community.  As a family, discuss the differences and similarities you found between the churches you visited and your home church.

7. Form a 5K team.

Photo by Josiah Mackenzie

5K events are a popular way to raise money for foundations and charities and are generally plentiful in the summer months.  Invite other families to train for and participate with yours in a local event.  (Cool Running and Runner’s World are great resources for finding events.)  5K events nearly always welcome walkers as well as runners, so children as young as preschoolers could be a part of the training team!

8. Be part of the solution to a community problem.

If your children are old enough, talk with them about what they see as a problem or issue in your community which doesn’t seem to receive much attention.  Investigate the road blocks on the path to a solution, and if possible, begin the process of solving the problem.

9. Organize a community stuff swap.

Create a face-to-face version of Freecycle!  Invite the community to find new homes for the stuff they no longer need.

10. Host an outdoor movie night.

Community connections don’t have to be serious work — we don’t always have to be serving a higher cause.  Sometimes the best way to connect is to just have fun with those around us. Allow Eren of Vintage Chica to inspire you with How To: Outdoor Movie Night.

Sure, there are plenty of days left to enjoy springtimeBut it’s also good to make time for that which is important to us. If meaningful connections are part of your summer plans, perhaps your family will be inspired to start dreaming big for the days ahead.

In what ways has your family purposed to connect with your community lately? Do you foresee community involvement being a part of your summer plans?

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  1. Tepary

    Fabulous ideas! Community so very important.
    .-= Tepary´s last blog ..Prickly Topics =-.

    • Megan

      And it’s usually really EASY to connect, if only we will be intentional in planning and following through on it. (Speaking to myself here more than anyone else!)

    • Megan

      It’s fun to stretch ourselves a little bit, isn’t it? I think so far the comments have some far better ideas than the ones I dreamed up. 🙂

  2. Toni Turbeville

    Honestly, lately we haven’t done much to help our community, but we do have plans. In the past I’ve volunteered at the local nursing home and a reading program for children. I’m hoping to pick those up again now that I’ve settled a bit into being a mommy. My fiancee and I have been talking about offering a community class on real food — shopping, preparation, etc. AND we want to finally start attending the Universalist church in our area because they do so much wonderful work in the community.

    Great post! Thanks for getting us thinking!
    .-= Toni Turbeville´s last blog ..RECIPE OF THE WEEK : Guacamole with Orange =-.

    • Megan

      Honestly, I’ve had the same idea on offering a class on foods. I think there is a real need to help support low-income and underfed families in our community in using their resources well to feed their families. It’s something I’ve been thinking about for a long time, just now sure how to get started on that!

      • Toni Turbeville

        One of our local parks offers space to rent fairly inexpensively, and they also have partnered programs which allows the space even less expensively and includes your class in their promotions. I’m thinking of starting by following up with them and seeing what the interest is.
        .-= Toni Turbeville´s last blog ..Eat Real Food =-.

  3. Eren

    Great, great ideas Megan…and thanks for the link. My friend Staci does a Friday night ice cream social in their driveway during the summer. Just plain ol’ vanilla and everyone brings a toping. I loved that idea and thought I would share. Community is essential, especially when families seem to be so spread out these days.
    .-= Eren´s last blog ..Decorating: In Need Of White Space =-.

    • Megan

      I LOVE THIS!!! How easy is that?! Thank you so much for adding that to the inspiration list, Eren!

  4. Lisa

    Megan, Fantastic ideas! I think the focus on real life community is so essential for our well being as whole people.

    It is too easy these days to assume we are getting our human connection needs completely met through the computer. And building relationships with those who live the closest to us (within our walls and right outside) can be hard at times because these are real relationships and we have to learn to take the good with the bad, the convenient with the inconvenient.

    I love how much Mother Theresa always emphasized that world peace began in the home. That it sometimes is harder to offer a smile to your neighbor than to write a check for the hungry in another country.

    My children are still very young– which actually makes them a perfect “reason” for me to get out and connect. We bake muffins, color pictures, pick flowers and bring them to neighbors…it is always so lovely to stop by, say hello and tell them my children wanted to bring you these! It opens wide the warmth of generosity between us and has made my little cul-de-sac of life a very welcoming place!
    .-= Lisa´s last blog ..I’m Featured At Spark Wellness =-.

    • Megan

      This is my number one goal for this summer – just easy and fun ways to connect with our neighbors. Thanks for the encouragement, Lisa!

    • Megan

      I am IN LOVE with the LoveBomb! This is AWESOME, mamas. Love, love, love.

  5. Melissa Gorzelanczyk

    Here’s an idea I learned from Donald Miller’s latest book: Put on a parade. The only rule? No one can watch. Only participate.

    Love these ideas, Megan, I’m going to print them out and share at dinner tonight.

    • Megan

      Oh how FUN would that be?!

  6. jaime

    As usual, fabulous ideas from you, dear friend. Another one, similar to the ice cream social: on Friday evenings someone in the neighborhood will open his/her backyard and turn on the grill. Folks just come by, throw on their already-prepared grillables, and join in a time of socializing. Loads of fun!

    I love the family book club idea. I mean, really really love it. I associate book clubs with gender-specific groups and chats. How awesome to hear perspectives from husbands and families!

    • Megan

      Now you know we do LOVE a night on the grill. I love how easy that is. Do families bring other things as far as side dishes go? Does the host family provide that? I am feeling so inspired.

    • Megan

      The sad thing is I still think of ourselves as “new” to our neighborhood, but we’ll have lived here for TWO YEARS in August! Isn’t that terrible? It’s really, really time for me to put aside my shyness as well.

  7. Kara Fleck

    Our community has a yard sale which is always so fun and we had a block party for a few years and then it sort of died out (I think no one wanted to “be in charge” anymore) … but I’m thinking maybe something like that needs to be revived again after reading this post. Thanks Megan 🙂

    And, ever since I read Eren’ post about Outdoor Movie Night I’ve been pondering the possibilities … 🙂

    Here’s to community and reaching out!
    .-= Kara Fleck´s last blog ..Showcase: Link Love =-.

    • Megan

      I would love to have a community yard sale. We have so much stuff that needs to go! I have seriously contemplated just putting it in the front yard with signs that say “free to a good home.”

      If you do the outdoor movie night, you know we’ll need to hear (see?) all about it!

  8. Renee

    Outdoor movies are such fun!

    I’ve found that going out and taking evening walks allows you to run into a lot of people in the neighborhood.
    .-= Renee´s last blog ..Pilgrimage to The Pioneer Woman =-.

  9. MB Squared

    What great ideas! I especially like the idea of the block party. I actually have been thinking about this one for a long time, and May is the perfect time to organize such a social event In these hectic times, it is important to take the time to get to know our neighbors. I think it is also a good example to our children.
    .-= MB Squared´s last blog ..A Simple Twist of Faith =-.

  10. Joy

    This is wonderful! I am definitely sharing this with my readers, friends and getting my family involved! In this world of online everything, we really do need to get to know our neighbors, share life together and enjoy the differences others bring!

    Life is so much richer when it is shared! We were made for relationships! I love to know others and to be known – and I want that for my children as well!

    “Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire;
    he breaks out against all sound judgment.” Proverbs 18:1

    Thanks so much!

  11. Flora

    This is beautiful, thank you. Wonderful ideas.

    We’ve recently found taking the bus to be a great, unexpected way to be an integral part of our local community. And visiting the local playground. Chat, chat chat!

    We’ve connected up with lots of neighbours just with these two things – oh, and walking the dog and walking generally, it’s been amazingly satisfying.
    .-= Flora´s last blog ..What no television? =-.

  12. molly

    Oh, how I love this — timely, and provoking. I’ve been thinking of late how to keep all 3 of mine in good spirits and in good play. You’ve reminded me, again, that looking outside ourselves is the best way to enjoy this world of ours.

    Thank you.
    .-= molly´s last blog ..things we managed =-.

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