Host a Block Party
A block party is a positive and powerful way to bring the community together. It breaks down barriers and is a great opportunity to fellowship with your surrounding neighbors.
Set a date and theme for the block party, allowing a minimum of three months for preparation. You can have it in the spring or fall when the weather is nice or the summer for fun in the sun. You can also host one around Thanksgiving, the start of the school year, end of the school year, or whatever comes to mind.
Scout the neighborhood for possible locations if your church compound/parking lot is not large enough. Find places with electricity sources for music boxes and lighting, and restroom facilities. When the location is finalized, apply for temporary street closure permits from your local public works department for information.
Contact your local police department about barricading the street. Make arrangements with the emergency and fire departments as well in order to make sure emergency vehicles are able to enter the party areas at all times.
Advertise this event extensively to church members. Enlist as many volunteers as you can. Because this is a big event, you may want to form a Block Party Committee to stay organized. Have a briefing meeting with the volunteers and coordinators at least twice prior to the party.
Organize the volunteers and assign clear roles for each group. Each group should have a leader. You will need volunteers for the following tasks:
- Coordinate activities
- Handle legal requirements such as permits and insurance
- Round up supplies
- Set up
- Meet and greet guests
- Serve food
- Take pictures
- Clean up
Set a budget. To cut costs, ask for donations from local businesses. You might be able to get gift certificates as door prizes. Some businesses may be willing to provide t-shirts or banners if they can get free publicity as well.
Plan activities/entertainment for the block party according to the budget you have set. Consider ages of adults and children when planning. Some options include: playing in the sprinkler, drawing with sidewalk chalk, face painting, karaoke, lawn darts, basketball shooting, potato sack races, etc. You may want to hire a clown or magician to entertain the children. You can also have an eating contest or chili cook-off as part of the party.
- Plan the menu, with vegetarian options. Assign people to bring food (side dishes or desserts), drinks, extra grills, and coolers. Grilled/barbecued hot dogs are inexpensive and easy to cook.
Get supplies. Some items you will need are: paper plates, silverware, napkins, cups, condiments, trash bags, etc. Buy in bulk to cut costs.
Publicize the party two weeks to a month in advance through posting flyers throughout the neighborhood and newspaper ads. Post flyers with information about date, time, location, directions, party activities overview, contact information, and special instructions (e.g. no pets/alcohol, bring lawn chairs, bug spray, sunscreen etc.). If possible, take flyers door-to-door.
Send reminders a week before the party to guests and to those who have signed up to bring supplies.
- On the day of the party, set up a table for registration (so that you can follow up) and to make nametags. This is a good time for people to register for door gifts, if you have any.
- Once the party starts, your focus should be on relaxing and enjoying the fun. Visit with neighbors.
- Follow up with guests after the event. Send thank you notes to volunteers and contributors.
- One way to assign food and beverage is using the first letter of each family’s last name (A-E brings side dishes, F-H brings desserts, etc.).
- On the party day, be sure to take a step back, relax and fellowship with others.
No matter how much you prepare, there are bound to be mishaps or last minute changes. Learn from them and take them in stride.
- Practice food safety. Keep perishable foods in coolers.
- For an activity, consider inviting your local police department or fire department for a talk or demonstration. Homeowners can benefit from safety-related information, and kids can get up close and personal with a fire engine.