At HOME Cross on New Construction at First Pres Missoula Zoning Map Outside Bernices's Missoula Farmers' Market


Questions for Discussion

The following are questions that could be used for personal reflection and study or with a group.  One goal of Sidewalks in the Kingdom has been to avoid too much theorizing and abstraction.  One strategy for doing this has been to root the ideas in personal stories from my particular context.  I believe that it is equally important for the reader to root these same concepts in his or her particular context before they can be validated or put into practice.  Between the first and second drafts of Sidewalks I taught an adult education class on this subject at my church and found the feedback from those individuals in a variety of concrete situations invaluable. I would love to hear feedback from individuals or groups who have used these questions. 

Introduction:  A Trip to Bernice’s

1)    Think about the place that you live or work.  Would you consider it to be in a city?  Why or why not?

2)    Have you ever spent time in an area where you could walk from where you were staying or working to a corner coffee shop?  What was it like? 

3)    If you do now live in a city, what sacrifices have you had to make to do so?  Do the advantages outweigh the sacrifices?

4)    If you currently live in the suburbs, what were your reasons for choosing that particular setting for your residence?  Have you found your experience in the suburbs to have ‘lived up’ to your expectations?

Part I:  Thinking About Our Cities

1)    When you hear the word ‘city’ what images come to mind?

2)    Are your images primarily positive, negative, or mixed when you think of the city?

3)    Where do you think those images were formed?  Are they accurate?

Chapter 1:  Broken Promises:  Sprawl and the American Experience

1)    Do you have an ideal picture of home, neighborhood, community from your childhood?  What does it look like?

2)    How does your current life compare with that ideal?

3)    How much time per day do you spend in your car?  How do you feel about spending this amount of time driving?

4)    What would you be willing to give up in order to be able to spend significantly less time driving?

5)    Think about the place you now live through the various stages of life (childhood, early adolecence, late adolecence, young adulthood, family life, middle age, retirement).  Does the area that you live work better for some life stages than others?  Will you have to move to a different community to adjust to a new life stage?

Chapter 2:  From the Garden to Jerusalem

1)    Have you ever fantasized about living in a place where you could ‘get away from it all’?  What would that place look like?

2)    Do you think that you would actually live in a place that was ‘away from it all’ if you could (or do you now live in this kind of place)? 

3)    Regardless of whether you would like to live in such a setting, do you think that God cares whether or not you choose to live in this kind of a setting?

4)    Do you think that people who live adjacent to cities should be forced to pay city taxes and receive city services if the city grows?  Why or why not?

Chapter 3:  Waiting for Jerusalem

1)    If you heard someone say ‘lets claim our city for Christ’, what would you think that they were talking about?  Is it a positive or a negative image that comes to mind?

2)    Try to imagine a city where Christ (and/or his followers) has significant influence, what do you think that city would be like?  How would it be different than the city with which you are most familiar? 

3)    If you had $1,000,000 that you had to spend to ‘help the poor’ in the city, how would you spend it?

4)    What is the most fun thing that you have ever done in a city?  What made it fun?

Chapter 4:  Learning to See Our Cities

1)    When was the last time that you ‘walked around the block’?  Was it really a block or was it a cul-de-sac leading to a collector road?  Does it make a difference?

2)    Think of classic neighborhoods that are portrayed on television (Sesame Street, etc).  Why do you think that those kinds of neighborhoods aren’t built anymore?

3)    Do you think that Christians have a special mandate with regards to the natural environment?  What about the built environment?  What (if any) is the difference?


1)    Is the place you live a city?  If not what is the closest city to where you live?

2)    What made you decide that the place you mentioned was a city?

3)    If someone asked you to describe precisely what a city is, what would you say?

4)    Does you definition of a city work for all cities in all time periods?  Why or why not?

Chapter 5:  Public Spaces and Incarnational Ministry

1)    How much time did you spend yesterday on what could be considered to be public space?

2)    When was the last time that you had a conversation with someone who wasn’t a member of your household, church, or office?  What kind of a setting were you in when you had this conversation? 

3)    Describe your favorite public space – even if it is nowhere near where you currently live.

4)    What was the loneliest time in your life?  Would the presence of viable public spaces have had any impact on your experience of being lonely?

5)    If you had an important message to get out (about abortion, war, or whatever) and no money to spend where would you go to reach the maximum number of people?  Is there an adequate place for this kind of activity where you live?

Chapter 6:  Mixed Use, Pedestrian Scale, and the Whole Person

1)    What kind of variety in housing and commercial activity can you find within a five minutes walk from your front door?

2)    Would you rather live in a mixed-use neighborhood or a single use neighborhood?  Try to come up with a list of specific advantages and disadvantages of both models.

3)    If you wanted to live in a mixed-use neighborhood, would that even be possible for you given your geographic and economic limitations?

4)    Do you have any errands or tasks in your day where you choose to walk instead of drive?  What factors lead you to make this choice?

5)    Of all of the neighborhoods that you’ve lived in or visited, what has provided the best setting for walking?  What made it the best?

Chapter 7:  Beauty, Quality, and Other Non-Essentials

1)    Does God care whether or not things are beautiful?

2)    Do you think that God really cares if a particular building is beautiful or not?  Does it matter what kind of a building it is (private home, church, public building, corperation)?

3)    What buildings in your area would you consider to be community treasures?  If there are none in your immediate area, think of the closest city or town that would have some?

4)    When were these buildings built? 

5)    Have any been built in the last 50 years?  Why or why not?

6)    What civic values does your closest City Hall or County Courthouse reflect?

7)    Of all of your friends and acquaintances how many of them would you consider to be true craftsmen in their primary vocation(carpenters, stoneworkers, masons)? 

8)    Would it matter if, as a culture, we no longer had individuals who could do stone carving, masonry, or fine carpentry?

Chapter 8:  Local Economy and the Permanence of Place

1)    Do you live in the same town that you grew up in?  Why or why not?

2)    Do you have any relatives (parents, adult children, or siblings) that you would choose to live near if there were opportunity for meaningful employment?

3)    Have you ever conducted a commercial transaction that was also satisfying from a relational standpoint?  What were the conditions that made this possible?

4)    How is where you live different from anywhere else in the world?  What gives it its identity?

5)    Has the place in which you live been able to maintain (or strengthen) its identity over the past 50 years or is it becoming more like every other place in the country?

6)    Who chooses whether a particular place preserves its identity or becomes standardized?

Chapter 9:  Critical Mass and Making Friends

1)    What images come to mind when you think of the word ‘density’?  How is it different than ‘overcrowded’

2)    Why do you think that some people will pay top dollar to live in ‘high density’ settings such as Park Avenue?

3)    Are there any activities that you enjoy which require critical mass for their existence (symphony, community theatre, art museums) or could you be perfectly happy without any of these things?

4)    Have you ever voluntarily traveled to a location specifically for the critical mass that you would find there (rally, concert, or conference)?

5)    Do you have any specialty interests?  Would you enjoy having a group of people who share a similar interest that you could meet with regularly?

Chapter 10:  Strangers and Hospitality

1)    How comfortable would someone with no car and no connections be if they had to spend the day hanging out in your neighborhood?  Where would they probably spend most of their time?

2)    Have you ever:

o      Fed the hungry,

o      Provided clothing for someone who needed it

o      Visited someone in prison

o      Visited with someone who was lonely

3)    If you have done any of these things, was the time in which you provided the help the only time that you had ever seen the person, or had you seen them in other settings?

4)    If you have never done any of these activities, do you feel that you should?  What has thus far prevented you from doing them?

5)    Have you ever felt unsafe in a city, what contributed to that feeling?

6)    Have you ever felt safe in an urban setting?  What factors contributed to that feeling?

7)    How do you account for the violence that we are seeing in the suburbs (Columbine and etc)?  How could it be helped?

Conclusion:  Seeking the Welfare of Your City

1)    Why do you think that Seaside has been so popular?  Would you like to live in a place like Seaside?

2)    Do you think that Seaside provides a viable model of residential / commercial settings for the future of this country?  Why or why not?

3)    Describe the elements of an ideal neighborhood.  How close is the place you live to that ideal? 

4)    Who are the players who could make it more like a neighborhood (new home buyers, current homeowners, realtors, architects, government)

5)    Are you an architect, planner, developer, or builder (or do you know one)?  What might be a distinctly Christian approach to these vocations?

6)    Have you ever been really excited about a new and exciting movement before?  What was it and how has your interest held up over the years?

7)    If it were possible to do so, what is one specific change that you would make with regards to either your immediate environment or your personal motivation that would help you to be a more obedient urban Christian?

8)    What is one thing that you might change about your church (its physical setting or its membership) that would help it to be more obedient to its ‘incarnational’ mandate?

9)    Do you know of any churches that have abandoned central city sites to move to the suburbs?  How has such a move effected the church and its original setting?

10) Do you know of any urban (or neighborhood) churches that are having a hard time surviving?  What could you do to help these churches to survive and thrive?

11) Are you more comfortable with our Christian mandate to evangelize the world or to help those in need?

12)  Have you been interested or involved in national level politics before?  Did you find it a meaningful place to invest your time and energy as a Christian?

13)   What do you know about your municipal government?  What city issues could you see yourself getting involved in?  Are there any issues (or people) that you are convicted to pray for?

Appendix A:  City Words -A Constructive Glossary

1)    Can you think of any examples where being familiar with a particular word actually changed the way that you perceived a particular phenomenon?

2)    Have you ever had an experience where you felt left out of a discussion because you didn’t know the jargon?

3)    Were there any words on this list that were completely new to you?

4)    Were there any words on this list with which you were already familiar?

5)    Were there any words on this list that were defined differently than you would have expected?

Appendix B:  City Reading

1)    What one book (besides the Bible) has had the greatest impact on your life?

2)    How did you come about reading this book?

3)    Among the books on this list, which sound most interesting to you?

4)    Are there any books on the list that you wouldn’t read if you were stranded on a desert island with them?

5)    Think of any Christian books or articles written about the city, do you think that the authors of any of the books on this list would be interested in reading them?  Why or why not?

6)    Pick any book and/or author on this list.  From what you know about them in the description, what would you say to them to make a case for the Christian faith?

Appendix C:  Charter of the New Urbanism

1)    What do you like best about the Charter?  What are you most skeptical about?

2)    How do you think that this document would be received by your neighbors and friends? 

3)    How do you think that this document would be received by fellow members of your church?

4)    Do you think that your city council would ever adopt municipal codes that were consistent with this document?  Who would support or oppose such a move?

5)    What issues raised by this document seem most relevant to the Christian community? 

6)    What unique contribution might the Christian community make to this document?


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