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Why You Should Raise Your Kids in the City

Why You Should Raise Your Kids in the City

Urban areas give children a glimpse of the big wide world—when you're still around to discuss it with them.

In 1988, when Tim first mentioned the idea of us going to Manhattan to plant a church, I reacted by laughing. Take our three wild boys (the victims of below-average parenting, as well as indwelling sin) to the center of a big city? Expose them to varieties of sin that I hoped they wouldn't hear about until, say, their mid-30s? My list of answers to, "What is wrong with this picture?" was a long, long one.

We are now coming up on 23 years as residents of New York City. Our sons have grown up here, been educated in the New York City public school system (as well as private and Christian schools), married, and—to the surprise of my 1988 self—expressed the desire to never live anywhere else. Two have already bought fixer-upper apartments, and the third is doing everything in his power to move back as soon as he graduates with his MBA. Our granddaughter is a New Yorker bred and born, and already knows her way around the playgrounds and museums of New York, as well as how to charm a free flower from the man at the corner flower stall.

I learned in those intervening decades that the city is a wonderful place to raise children, a place where families can flourish in a way that they may not in the suburbs or the small towns. (See the list at the end of this article that Redeemer Church elder Glen Kleinknecht put together [with a few additions from me] for staff considering moving their families to New York.)

Don't get me wrong: We've lived and ministered in both suburbs and small towns, and there are spiritual strengths and spiritual needs everywhere there are people. But because most Christians don't think about the city as a great place to raise their family, Christians are moving into the city at a vastly slower rate than the rest of the world's people. I just hope to break some stereotypes about what it's like to have a family in the city.

As a summary I would say that the two main advantages of raising your children in the city are also its two main characteristics—its darkness and its light.


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Displaying 1–5 of 27 comments


March 28, 2012  10:18am

Thank you for exemplifying a respectful dialogue. I have lived in small towns almost all my life, and I see the great influence that one can have in the city through dialogue and visits. I appreciate how despite the miscommunication that CT accidentally propagated, you were able to maintain a Christ-like attitude of building into one-another. As iron sharpens iron, so one Christian helps another. We looked at these articles as part of our theology class here at my college, and I greatly appreciate the work you put into this in showing how God moves and leads people to be light and salt. May we be in the world yet not of the world; may we be a city on a hill (even if we are in a rural setting).

cynthia curran

March 26, 2012  6:45pm

Well, a lot of suburbs now actually have a more diverse population than some cities. Take a suburb out of Los Angeles its could more minorities than a city like Seattle or Portland. The burbs are where a lot of minorities move not some of the cities, in fact Portland has become more whiter.

Rachel Stone

March 24, 2012  5:17pm

Thank you for your comments! I understand that the title set a tone for her piece that was not Kathy's choosing or intention. I understand that Kathy doesn't believe the city is the only place for Christians to raise children, yet I wanted also to raise the point that many of her points concerning what city life does for children are 1. not exclusive to cities and 2. dependent upon a certain income level. As a native NYer who has been called many different places, I have had my previously Saul Steinberg view of the world broadened, and am inclined to take even missional-minded praise of city life with a grain of salt.

Kathy Keller

March 24, 2012  4:53pm

Dear Christianity Today When I gave permission for you to reprint my article on the Gospel Coalition blog entitled "Why the City is a Wonderful Place to Raise Children," I did not for a moment think you would change the title to "Why You Should Raise Your Kids in the City." That would be a very different article, and one I would not write. Christians should live in the city if God calls them there, and I think more of them are called than may think they are. I merely wanted to reassure those who were called that the city can be a wonderful place to raise your children. Certainly not the ONLY place. I agree with Rachel Stone that the best place for kids to be raised is where God has called their family to be. You titled my article--without asking me--in a way I would never have done, to express a sentiment I do not hold.

Nate Clarke

March 23, 2012  8:19am

At This Is Our City (a Christianity Today project) we value thoughtful and respectful dialogue. To that end, we asked Rachel Stone to respond to Kathy's article. You can see her response here: http://www.christianitytoday.com/thisisourcity/7thcity/raisekidsanywhere.ht ml


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