Latter-day Saint Life

The fun tradition to help any ward or neighborhood bond

Smiling Multi-Generation Mixed Race Family In Garden At Home Together
Our neighborhood "walkabout" made all the difference in feeling welcome, seen, and loved in our new place.
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When my husband and I moved to a brand new city, we heard about this thing in our new ward called a “walkabout.” And it made all the difference in helping us feel welcome, seen, and loved in our new place.

On a sunny Sunday evening, ward members (and any neighbors who wanted to join in) were invited to walk around to three different homes. People would gather on the host family’s front lawn or sidewalk, and usually, the host family had some kind of treat (popsicles were always a fan favorite). And after an unspecified amount of time—really whenever you felt like it—you could move on to the next house. But there was no assigned order, route, or timing.

Here’s an example of how simple a ward walkabout invitation can be.

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This type of gathering can look different for individual wards, too. It can take place in a neighborhood with homes within walking distance, but it can also take place in a green space at an apartment complex, a local park, or on the front lawn of a single host home.

We LOVED our first walkabout. Sure, we had met a few people in our ward at church, but at the walkabout, we had more time to interact and could connect more casually. And also: popsicles.

So you can imagine how thrilled I was when a year and a half ago, on our first week in another brand-new city, we got a flyer on our door for the neighborhood walkabout.

As I’ve tried to explain to friends and family who don’t have this beloved tradition in their lives yet, here’s how a walkabout can benefit your ward or neighborhood:

  • It gets people outside. Who doesn’t want to spend time getting some fresh air on a warm summer night?
  • It gets people moving. A+ for aerobic exercise.
  • It gets people socializing and connecting. If the pandemic taught me anything, it’s that we NEED to interact with other people. This opportunity for casual interaction is so beneficial for members of all walks of life and ages—families, single adults, empty nesters, new move-ins, YSAs, you name it.
  • It gets people talking to people they might not otherwise. New friends! Old friends you haven’t seen in ages! Neighbors you’ve never had a chance to meet! All great people to chat with at a walkabout.
  • And it’s a great tool for ministering. The casual, outdoor nature of a walkabout can help put people more at ease, lessen the pressure or formality of connecting, and allow for more natural conversation.

► You may also like: 3 hurdles that keep us from ministering—and how to get over them

Not every walkabout is created equal. Here are a few suggestions for creating a successful event:

  • Keep it casual. Make it something easy to plan and easy for anyone to participate in. Pick a day and time, assign a family or three, and let that be the extent of your planning.
  • Do it consistently. Our ward has a walkabout about once a month. Because if people can’t attend one week, they may want to be involved another time. Doing it consistently also helps it become a fun tradition people can look forward to as soon as the weather gets warmer.
  • Don’t host it at the church building (or on the church lawn) if you can help it. Some members of your ward (or community) might feel more comfortable in a non-religious, casual setting.
  • Make it your own. If you live in an area where there aren’t members within walking distance, just assign one host household or hold it at a local park. Maybe you want to be intentional about inviting a family not of our faith to host. Or maybe you ask the youth to dole out the treats at each house.
  • Don’t dictate what a walkabout becomes. Let each hosting house make it what they want it to be. We had one family who hosted every summer and always voluntarily made the most epic scones for any walkabout participants or neighbors walking by. Last year, someone pulled out a bunch of lawn games and let the kids play with their plastic axe-throwing set.

I’ve called the ward walkabout a “beloved” tradition, and I truly mean that. It’s honestly one of my favorite activities because it helps me love my neighbors in a fun, easy way and as Elder Cook says, “include others in our circle of oneness.”

Where our Church meetings can serve as our spiritual feast on Sundays, a walkabout—gathering with our friends and neighbors—can be the perfect social snack we get to enjoy, too.

▶You may also like: A father separated from his family was broken by addiction. His story of conversion is nothing but miraculous

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