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Why Knowing the 3 Kinds of Cities Will Transform Your Ministry

Knowing the kind of city you live in will help you better communicate the gospel to the people who live there. What kind of city do you live in?

At a recent Q & A session with pastors, I got a lot of questions about cities. I tend to be a verbal processor who thinks out loud, and in the course of my response, something rolled out of my head that I had never really put together before. I thought it might be helpful to share, particularly as there is an increased interest in urban ministry and church planting in “upstream” metropolitan areas where culture tends to be created and sent out.

And where you find people, there’s an opportunity to bring the good news of Jesus.

Cities are marked by density (i.e., more people per mile) and diversity (i.e., incomes, languages, religions, life stages, education levels, etc.), but beyond these broad criteria, there are at least three kinds of large cities:

First Cities.

People go to first cities to land their big time job, make their mark and establish their career with a résumé-making opportunity.

People tend to go to these cities for college and then stay to start their career, or they move to these cities after college while still single. Most people who move to first cities do not intend to remain for the rest of their lives.

Examples of major first cities include New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, London, Sydney and Tokyo. Further down the list would be places like Seattle, Austin, Dallas, Atlanta, Houston, Minneapolis and Boston.

If you land a serious job with a serious firm in a serious city, you have serious options for your future career. This explains why these cities attract a lot of college students and college-educated professional singles.

Second Cities.

Once you’re looking at getting married, having kids, buying a home and settling down, you move to a second city.

Second cities offer good career jobs. They’re situated near a major airport for business travel. And they’re more suitable for families, with schools, parks, family activities and reasonable housing.

Second cities are places like Denver, cities within Orange County, Phoenix, Raleigh, Charleston (South Carolina), Salt Lake City, Indianapolis, Little Rock, San Diego, Albuquerque and Boise.

These cities tend to have a lot of families with decent incomes and a high quality of life.