1. Learn the city.
Find the best sources for learning about your city. There are likely newspapers, magazines and websites that can help you learn about the city. Some of these will be surface-learning resources, while others will give you a sense of what’s really going on below the surface.
The best learning takes place by getting to know a wide variety of people who live in the city. What are they like? What are their values? Are they mostly positive or negative when it comes to their outlook on the city? What kinds of things are they pursuing? What do they wish was different? What makes it hard for people to thrive in your particular city?
One of the most helpful ways to learn about our cities is by spending time with Christians who have lived there for a considerable amount of time. We can learn how their families have thrived in this unique place. We can understand how their faith has been challenged and grown during their time here. One of the most helpful things we can learn is what personal rhythms have served them well in the place we now call home.
What could you do this week to learn more about your city or your area of the city?
2. Become a local in the city.
If you aren’t from the place you now live, make it your mission to move from being considered an outsider to an insider. While this takes time, it can never be done without much intentionality. The timeframe for this will vary from city to city. Our family lives in San Francisco, which has a high turnover rate annually. This has helped us to seem like “locals” more quickly. But we’ve also lived with great intentionality. We are plugged into our kids’ schools, coaching little league baseball and hosting parties for our neighbors.
What could you do to speed up the process of becoming a "local?"
3. Make the city small.
While God has called us to love our entire city, we can make our greatest impact by going deep in a few areas of the city. Someone taught us to think about the four quadrants we belong to in the city: where we live, where our kids go to school, where we go to church and where we work. In an ideal world, it would be amazing to do all four of these in one neighborhood or area of your city. That being said, make an impact in the areas where you live, go to school, work and worship.
Based on your four quadrants of life, where should you/your family be making the greatest impact in your city?
4. Walk the city.
One of my favorite things to do is to go on a long walk (5-10 miles) in San Francisco. I don’t always have a specific destination in mind. I spend time praying for our church and the city. I try to pay attention to what’s going on all around me. I notice what businesses are closing and which ones are opening. It could be a café, a bookstore or a start-up of some kind. Occasionally I will come across a place that has historic significance in San Francisco. It’s also a great opportunity to scout out future date nights with my wife. If walking doesn’t work well in your environment, what are some ways you could discover what’s new in your city?
What neighborhoods/districts in your city would you enjoy walking through for the sake of discovery?
5. Pray for your city.
Your heart engages the city every time you pray for your city. We must remember that God cares more for our cities than we do. He loves for us to trust Him to do great work in the places He has called us to live and do ministry. One great way to pray is to adapt the Lord’s Prayer to the place you call home. For me, it would be this, “God, may your kingdom come and your will be done in San Francisco as it is in heaven.” Prayer for our cities sets the tone for all other forms of engagement.
What kinds of things are you asking God to do in your city?