But seek the welfare of the city...,
and pray to the Lord on its behalf,
for in its welfare you will find your welfare. (Jer. 29:7 ESV)
All summer long, we're challenging you to "See the City," to notice the people and places outside your door and beyond Watermark's walls. We hope you've already begun - by serving, by learning, and by connecting. (Visit watermark.org/go to start!)
But once you really start to see the city, it's easy to get overwhelmed with all that is going on in your particular town. My guess is that as you start to see more, you will start to wonder why certain things happen: Why did this area grow so fast? Why is that school district better than this one? Why is there all this controversy around a certain project?
You might also start asking more "fun" questions, too: How can I find out about the fun new restaurants? What is the next concert coming to town?
So how do you get the low down on everything happening in your town?
The easiest way to stay informed is to find different content sources. These could come in print, via email, or simply by liking a Facebook page.
I try to "like" different sources on Facebook, and then I read an entry if it connects to my personal passions or to conversations in my circles. For instance the newspaper, Dallas Business Journal, the Chamber, City Hall, and Dallas's mayor, Mike Rawlings, all have Facebook pages you would probably guess are useful - but maybe have never followed. I also try to keep up with things like Culture Map , Klyde Warren Park, D Magazine and the Dallas Arts District. And those are just Facebook pages - there are of course "hard copies" of the newspaper, magazines, etc., and a host of web sites that share info on our city.
If you live in Fort Worth or one of our many great suburbs, you have similar media outlets worth connecting with. (And the outlets listed above can help you track regional news, as well.) These sorts of resources keep us up to date with our cities, giving us a better vision for all that is happening around us.
But since there is so much information out there, it can feel overwhelming trying to keep up with everything in any city - let alone the larger Metroplex. So how do I know what is important? How do I know if there is something I am passionate about that isn’t getting discussed by the media?
I have found it helpful to identify good "content curators" on a particular issue, and then stay connected with them. I have also found that content that is curated from trusted sources - prioritized and often with their own insights - can be more informative than just picking up the newspaper.
For example, I have a friend that is on the city council of my town, so I follow him for up-to-date news on all things city government. (I also follow the other council members for different points of view.) I know someone else who runs a business incubator nearby, so I find that what he posts on social media is usually interesting to me about the business start-up community. I know a couple of the folks that work at some of our Ministry Partners, and they offer the inside scoop about new initiatives happening in their particular area of service. I follow someone else involved in commercial real estate, and he usually covers that area well.
Whether your city is large or small, someone is likely an expert on different facets of the city. Whether you agree with their particular viewpoint or not, it's probably worth knowing what they're discussing.
Everything above might seem like a lot of steps to stay informed with what is going on. But the very best way to be in the know is more simple: Ask good questions.
Being inquisitive is more of a mindset than a specific technique. I genuinely want to know about our city, so I find myself naturally asking lots of questions of the people I encounter.
This even happens when my wife and I are out to eat. I like to ask the waiter/waitress about the area: Where do they live? What is something we should know about that part of town? Any fun events coming up? If I needed to know one thing about this neighborhood, what would it be?
When you do this, you get unfiltered information that gives you insight into that person's world. And they aren't beholden to a media company, a business, or anyone else.
Ultimately, I want to seek to understand what's happening in my city. Overall, I have found that the best way to "see the city" and add understanding is by looking through the lenses of lots of different people.
If we do this well - if we really grow to understand the place where God has put us - we will be in a better position to pray for the peace of our city - and to seek its welfare.
To jump in to Watermark's "See the City" campaign, visit watermark.org/go.
For weekly entries to help you "see your city" and serve, visit our External Focus blog!