Shanghai is China’s largest city and, arguably—as one of the country’s largest economic and industrial hubs—the heart of Asia. We pray it also will be a hub from which churches will go out to reach other cities in the region.
Shanghai at a Glance
More than twenty-four million people—including upwards of two hundred thousand expats—live in Shanghai. Manufacturing, retail, real estate, and financial services are all big businesses in the city, which is home to the world’s busiest port.
In many ways, the East meets the West in Shanghai. In fact, it’s often referred to as the “Paris of the East.” Shanghai is perched by the East China Sea and strung with a web of estuaries that infuse the city’s urbanity with natural beauty. The glittering view of the Lujiazui skyline from the famous waterfront road, The Bund, may be one of the most beautiful city skylines in the world.
Shanghai also is a hub for nightlife, restaurants, and shopping. You can find just about any cuisine and shopping brand imaginable here. Many of the city’s attractions and museums are world-renowned, including the Yu Gardens, the City of God Temple, the Shanghai Museum, and the China Art Museum.
Friends in the City
Shanghai is diverse and has an active social scene, so many find it easy to make friends. Many of the people living in Shanghai haven’t grown up here. So whether they’re Chinese or expats, many are looking to make new friends.
An electrical engineer from the States told us: “We’re very grateful that God has given us great relationships with my coworkers and with our neighbors even though we’ve only been here for a very short amount of time. We’ve had them over to our apartment several times for meals or to hang out. By God’s grace, we’ve been able to share with several neighbors and coworkers and are continuing to discuss Christianity with them.”
Most professionals in Shanghai speak English, which makes it easier for expats to make connections. As the leader of China’s booming economy, Shanghai has a high demand for Western talent in many industries, including education, oil and gas, technology, banking and finance, sales and marketing, hospitality and tourism, management consulting, health care, and the media and creative fields. Finding a job in Shanghai is relatively easy for those with a Western university education, and it’s even easier for those with a graduate degree or work experience.
“Finding a job in Shanghai is relatively easy for those with a Western university education, and it’s even easier for those with a graduate degree or work experience.”
The American perspective is highly valued in China, so having more work experience in the States makes you more attractive to Chinese employers. But even recent grads should have no problem landing a teaching gig in Shanghai.
Shanghai offers unique opportunities for retirees. Experience and wisdom are greatly esteemed in this multicultural city. Here, retired people have earned the right to be heard and are worthy of respect. Professional expertise from years in the workforce, coupled with overall life experience, will open doors for mentoring younger colleagues seeking knowledge from those who understand their field of interest.
Retirees also are sought to join students, professionals, and church leaders to spread the good news throughout the many ethnolinguistic groups living in this city.
Shanghai has a great need for discipleship, biblical theology training for pastors, and more Bible-preaching churches. Many local and international churches in the city have fallen into teaching the prosperity gospel or other forms of false teaching. The biblically faithful churches are often swelling with new believers and seekers, and the pastors of these congregations are excited to see more mature, disciple-making believers move to Shanghai.
“The biblically faithful churches are often swelling with new believers and seekers, and the pastors of these congregations are excited to see more mature, disciple-making believers move to Shanghai.”
Professionals and church leaders told us some ways you can be a part of making disciples in Shanghai:
1. Share the good news with colleagues.
Because people from all around the world come to Shanghai for work, Christian professionals have abundant opportunities to build relationships and share the good news with coworkers who’ve never heard it before.
2. Befriend your neighbors.
In Shanghai, many people are raised as atheists. Build relationships with them and share the good news.
3. Disciple young believers in your local church.
There are numerous opportunities for cross-cultural discipleship in several of the English-speaking congregations in Shanghai. These churches are comprised of many young Christians who are hungry for discipleship from mature Christians.
4. Serve the children’s ministry in your local church.
Many gospel-preaching churches in Shanghai need more workers to serve the growing number of children during the children’s ministry time at church services. This is a great way to serve your local church and to help build up the next generation of disciples in China.
5. Serve the urban poor, homeless, migrant workers, and orphans.
Many of the construction and service workers in Shanghai move there from more rural, poor areas of China. Join others in ministering to these men and women, as well as to the homeless and other poor families in Shanghai, by caring for their physical, emotional, and spiritual needs through a variety of charity organizations.
DOWNLOAD our Shanghai City Guide
This article is adapted from our Shanghai City Guide, a resource for IMB’s Global Cities Initiative. Download the free guide to find advice for getting a job in Shanghai, and see what Christian Americans think about living there as students, retirees, and professionals.