Letter from the President

by FCS Ministries on

September 2015  

We have a wonderful privilege at FCS. We are surrounded by a dynamic group of supporters and volunteers who believe in our work. We also have the opportunity to connect with organizations around the country who share our mission in their neighborhoods. With all these relationships, we’ve noticed two questions that we are often asked.

 

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First, What does “FCS” stand for? If you go way back with FCS, you know Bob Lupton started the organization as Family Consultation Services. When he set up the official non-profit, though, the name had evolved into simply FCS Urban Ministries. As Bob has handed off leadership and mentored young leaders, the initials “FCS” have been reframed to provide a more holistic description of our work: with “Focused Community Strategies”.

 

The second question is, What does FCS do? We partner with under-served neighborhoods to provide innovative and holistic development that produces flourishing communities where God’s Shalom is present. There are four areas of focus that allow us to accomplish this vision: Mixed-income Housing Development, Economic Development, Community Development and Training & Education. We align our programming within this four pillar structure.

FCS Logo RGB 300dpi

This month, we are rolling out a new logo that expresses our vision with an image demonstrating the strength of a pattern woven from our four areas of focus. Bob has used the idea of reweaving the fabric of community for years, and we are excited to incorporate that image as foundational to our brand. The logo also forms a cross, communicating a clear stance in regard to how our Christian faith motivates our work.

 

Our aim continues to be to reweave the fabric of communities through innovative and holistic development practices. We know the work requires commitment, creativity, and patience. Decades of work at FCS have shown tremendous impact in Atlanta neighborhoods.

 

Thank you for walking with us during this leadership transition over the last year. Our board and staff teams have dreamed big dreams about our direction and strategy for this next season in the life of FCS. We are energized by the strength of our four pillars and the engaging work going on in our current neighborhood of South Atlanta. FCS continues to be an innovator in the field of neighborhood-based community development. Thank you for your ongoing support that makes it possible for us to empower neighborhoods to thrive!

 

Jim Wehner

President, Focused Community Strategies

 

Ben Teague

Chairman, Focused Community Strategies 

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The Blue Angels and Thunderbirds

by FCS Ministries on

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Carver Market: "Guerrilla Grocer" in the News

by FCS Ministries on

By Jeff Delp We love to tell Atlantans about the Carver Market, and we are encouraged as local leaders and media outlets are sharing in our enthusiasm. Atlanta's 11Alive news recently came out to South Atlanta to see what we are doing and to spread the word.

 

 

We knew we were changing the game when we opened Carver Market in South Atlanta. For the first time in 50 years, people would be able to walk less than a mile to the store. However, since opening in April, we've learned that while folks don't mind walking to the store, carrying groceries home is less appealing.

 

So we're doing what every good business does - figuring out how to best serve our customers. To that end, we've added the bike delivery you see in the video above.

 

Thanks in part to a grant from the Atlanta Cycling Festival, our bike delivery service employs our young bike mechanics from the South Atlanta Bike Shop to carry goods to our customers' houses after shopping.

 

We're starting with a 1 mile radius from the store, including the communities of Peoplestown, Chosewood Park, South Atlanta, and Villages of Carver. As the program gains momentum, we'll seek to deliver to a greater area and may even offer online or phone ordering!

 

Thanks so much to 11Alive for sharing our story. For more information regarding our bike delivery service, inquire within the store.

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3 Keys to Transforming a Community

by FCS Ministries on

By Shawn Duncan

There are many misunderstandings about poverty. But there is one truth around which we at FCS seek to focus our efforts: Poverty is a community issue.

We work with one urban neighborhood at a time. We move in as neighbors and work within that fixed geographic community. Right now, we are at work in historic South Atlanta, a neighborhood of 520 homes just south of downtown.

But moving into a community is only the start. In our community work, we focus on the following three areas of impact:

#1. Economic Development

We have to think about jobs and about affordable access to the things that make neighborhoods thrive (check out this index for more on flourishing neighborhoods).

Economic Development means looking at the assets and barriers that exist and finding holistic ways to address them. It means partnering with business owners, entrepreneurs, and others with the know-how to create wealth and opportunity for others.

Bob Lupton asks a great question in his latest book Charity Detox, “If our goal is to alleviate poverty, does it not make sense to invite into the mission those who are gifted in wealth creation?”

#2 - Community Development

When people want to get involved in serving low-income neighbors, they often think solely about what is wrong. We encourage people to discover and start with what strengths are present in their community.

At FCS don’t spend all of our time thinking about what is broken in our neighborhood. We think about the the great capacities within our neighbors. We look for leaders and partner with them. We do a lot of listening. Much of the power needed to transform a community is already present within that community.

#3 - Mixed-income Housing

Affordable housing is vital to the stability of any neighborhood. FCS - though our housing ministry Charis Community Housing - creates access to quality, affordable housing. We are finding a way to make our community a mixed-income neighborhood.

Just as most neighborhoods became distressed when families with resources moved out, we invite resourced people to move in. Friendships develop between families with resource and families experiencing poverty so that together, we experience Shalom.

For more insight on our ministry philosophy, we would encourage you to read Charity Detox written by our Founder, Bob Lupton. Or, reach out to me, the Director of Training and Education, to learn more or schedule a training. You can reach me at shawn[at]fcsministries[dot]org.

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Big Heart to Love the Abandoned

by FCS Ministries on

By Bob Lupton  

Shelley and Clay Corrigan have big hearts. When they saw the plight of thousands of abandoned orphans in Haiti, they simply had to do something. Something radical.

 

They packed their essential belongings, cashed in their very modest life savings, bought plane tickets, and headed straight into the most destitute place in the western hemisphere. They signed on with an orphanage, immersed themselves in the language and culture of the Haitian people, and took immediate steps to adopt one of the orphan children.

 

orphans

 

During the adoption process, the director of the orphanage asked them if they would be interested in meeting the child's mother. The question stunned them. They had assumed that the child’s parents were dead or missing. In fact, the little tyke’s mother came regularly to visit him. Of course they wanted to meet her!

 

“Why do you want to give up your child?” they questioned the mother when she came for her next visit. “I don’t want to give my baby away,” the young woman responded emphatically. But she had no way to care for him, she explained.

 

She had no job, could barely find scraps of food for herself, squatted in a make-shift lean-to beside a disease-ridden dump. This was no place for a child, she said with obvious emotion. In the orphanage, at least he would be safe and fed and maybe have a chance for a decent life. But, no, she really did not want to give up her baby.

 

This was an entirely different reality than Shelley and Clay had pictured when they first arrived in Haiti. They had assumed that the many orphanages run by mission-minded westerners were overflowing with abandoned, parentless children who would likely die on the street from disease or malnutrition or neglect if someone didn’t come to their rescue.

 

That’s what orphans are, right? Children without parents. But the deeper Shelley and Clay explored the histories of the children in their orphanage – and in other orphanages around the country – the more disturbed they became.

 

Their research exposed that at least 80% of Haitian children labeled “orphans” actually had living parents! The overwhelming majority of the hundreds of thousands of children in Haitian orphanages were not orphans at all! They were children whose parents could not support them because they had no jobs.

 

Jobs! That’s what was needed! Not more orphanages or more adopting westerners. Shelley and Clay began to scour the area for any available means for a young mother to generate some legitimate income.

 

One resource that lay scattered in abundance was trash. If they could create beads from waste materials, perhaps they could produce necklaces and bracelets that would be marketable to their contacts back in the States. It was worth a try. Their experiments led them to a simple, labor-intensive method of fashioning attractive, brightly colored jewelry that had appeal to their American friends.

 

Corrigan’s first full-time employee was a mother who was desperate to keep her baby. She was soon earning enough income to rent a small room suitable for herself and her infant son. More experimentation. Then another mother hired. And another.

 

By the time the enterprise had registered an official name – The Apparent Project – 29 young mothers were crowded around tables and benches in the Corrigan’s home, producing saleable jewelry products, all reunited with their children. The project expanded into the Corrigan’s garage and then into a larger building.

 

Fathers who had been unable to support their families also joined the workforce. At last count, 220 parents were employed, some of them managing their own teams of workers. All were making livable wages and producing quality products being shipped to international markets. Shelley and Clay dream of employing 1000 parents.

 

There are still many true orphans in Haiti whose parents have died or disappeared. Good orphanages are certainly needed as are good adopting families. The Corrigan’s have adopted two of these orphans themselves.

 

But something is quite wrong when the prevailing non-profit orphanage system – mostly faith-based – “creates” orphans by mis-labeling them and markets them as abandoned, yet does little to correct the underlying problem that forces their parents to give them up. It is a classic case of rightly motivated people rushing in to rescue the perishing, establishing emergency ministries that do in fact save lives, but failing to shift to empowerment strategies as the crisis becomes chronic.

 

When poverty becomes an industry supported by misinformed donors that enables professional workers to maintain a western lifestyle under the guise of alleviating poverty even as they perpetuate dependency, that industry must be challenged. Shelley and Clay Corrigan are doing just that. And in the most productive, self-sustaining, family-strengthening way.

Photo credit: DVIDSHUB

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Charis Housing Summer Update

by FCS Ministries on

We have been busy at Charis! Two houses sold this summer, and two more are currently listed. Watching new homeowners close on our houses never gets old, and it’s a joy to welcome more neighbors to our South Atlanta community.  

charis

 

In July and August, we hosted Metro Atlanta Project (M.A.P.) and their amazing volunteers. They served 30 Charis families with their skills, time, and enthusiasm.

 

One homeowner commented, “Those young folks were wonderful. I am pleased with their work and wanted to reward them with pizza!” Who could ask for a better thank you?

 

MAP

 

This fall, we’re completing four more houses that will soon be listed, and we’re in process of buying two more homes. We are working steadily towards our mission to strengthen families and neighborhoods one house at a time. And we couldn’t do it without your help! Thank you so much for your ongoing support.

 

To donate to Charis, click here.

 

Check out our current listings: 

1607 Lakewood Ave SE

61 Dorothy St SE

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3 Common Misunderstandings About Poverty

by FCS Ministries on

By Shawn Duncan

FCS has been working in urban neighborhoods affected by poverty for decades. We've also welcomed service teams and connected with other groups doing similar work all around the country. In that time we have learned a lot about what works…and what doesn’t!

It's exciting to see individuals and organizations dream big about how a community can be revitalized and re-energized to thrive. An important place to start is a holistic understanding of poverty. Along the way, we've observed three common misunderstanding about poverty.

Misunderstanding #1: Defining Poverty as Material Lack

When evaluating a community, how you diagnose an issue will directly impact how to attempt to address it. Do we see "poverty" solely as a lack of stuff? Does limited money, clothes, or food make up our entire definition of poverty?

If we focus on material lack, we will spend our time, resources, and energy sourcing and distributing that stuff. Before we know it, our community development can become a "fill the empty bucket" approach.

Unfortunately, this strategy will never really alleviate poverty. It may make one day easier for someone experiencing poverty, but it will not impact the problem. In some instances, this approach actually digs the poverty hole deeper.

Misunderstanding #2: Envisioning Poverty as an Individual (or Family)

Yes, there are individuals and families experiencing poverty and affected by its presence. However, focusing on such personal realities can miss the bigger picture. We have to expand our understanding of poverty beyond the person or family that approaches us with a need.

FCS defines poverty as a systematic reality. We do our best to take into account issues of place, access, transportation, housing, etc beyond the simple "lack of stuff" paradigm. We have to know the difference between the manifestations of symptoms the original, systematic causes.

Misunderstanding #3: Addressing Poverty from One Angle Only

If the first two misunderstandings go unaddressed, it is extremely likely that the solution will approach only one aspect of the need. For example, a poor family that shares a need for housing will be helped with the provision of a place to live.

While this may occasionally be the "hand up" this family needed to escape poverty, that is not the norm. Typically, challenges with housing are intertwined with additional systematic issues that must be addressed, such as jobs, education, food, etc.

Even if this approach does help one person or family at a time, it is not an approach that can sustain real change in a poor community. For groups who seek to move the poverty needle in a community, a multidimensional strategy is a necessity.

These are 3 common misunderstandings about poverty we have observed over time. At FCS, we aim for neighborhood transformation, using methods that engage a community holistically.

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We Wish You a Merry... Pride for Parents!

by FCS Ministries on

It’s September and that means… Christmas! Right? For retailers across America and for us at FCS, we’re dreaming and scheming for Christmas 2015. You in? Our Annual Pride for Parents campaign is kicking off!  

New to our holiday program? Each year, we offer new toys at greatly reduced prices so that parents in our community receive the joy and delight of purchasing Christmas gifts for their kids. It's a different kind of model that replaced our Adopt-a-Family program many years ago.

 

P4P

 

We watched as suburban families delivered presents to the homes of needy families. And it wasn't long before we noticed the hurt in eyes of struggling parents as they watched others provide for their children. We knew there had to be a better way, and Pride for Parents was born.

 

Pride for Parents is our bustling, community Christmas store. We welcome neighbors as they get into the spirit of the season and find great deals to delight their family on Christmas. Can you feel a little bit of that spirit already?

 

bball

 

We are seeking toy donations for all ages. Gifts that are always a big hit include: bikes and scooters, anything Frozen or Doc McStuffins, and Lego. We also have an Amazon wishlist to help you shop.

 

Finally, please contact us if you want to host a toy drive or volunteer at Pride for Parents. We are looking forward to another cheery season, offering families in our community dignity alongside affordable gifts. Thank you for partnering with us!

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10 Smart Quotes from Charity Detox

by FCS Ministries on

In July, we celebrated the release of Charity Detox, Bob Lupton's latest book on what charity would look like if we cared about results. It's been fun to see the enthusiastic response and read reviews of the book. Our own Shawn Duncan shared his thoughts here.  

As a fun gift, we've put together some of our favorite quotes from the book. We designed captivating visuals that are sharable, printable, and anything-else-you-want-able. Here's two examples to give you an idea:

disservice

 

Unexamined Charity

 

Get all the images for free. Just fill out the form on this page.

Have you read Charity Detox yet? Let us know what you think in the comments!

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When Following God Doesn’t Follow Protocol

by FCS Ministries on

By Jim Wehner

A resident in our transitional housing program was late on her rent. Since the program provides assistance to families and individuals that need help with housing, this predicament is nothing new. Part of assisting people in their housing needs includes mentoring in financial choices and prioritizing payments.

This particular tenant had been through all our channels of assistance and, as happens sometimes, it was time to begin the eviction process. This ending is never easy for us. Even though we invest a great deal of time, resources, and energy before we reach this place, it still feels like we have failed somehow.

But this time something happened. A fire in her apartment.

This same resident - whose worldly possessions fit into a one room efficiency apartment with two of her children - now lost almost everything. She moved in with her mother, who was in another apartment in the same building.

FCS worked feverishly to repair the damage from the fire, which ended up costing a great deal. This was no small event. It challenged the strength of our entire team as we dealt with the crisis.

And for the resident, it was not the first time for her to start over. The very fact that her mother was in the same transitional program reveals the generational dynamics at work in their family.  

We resumed conversations about her rent, now unpaid for three months, when the unthinkable happened. Her mother went into diabetic shock, then a coma, before passing away 24 hours later.

The apartment could be repaired. Most of her possessions could be replaced. But now she had lost her one source of strength in her life. It was devastating.  

And though I felt guilty for even thinking about it, I realized we never answered of our original question: Should we evict her? Of course, we had reasons to say yes. Our protocol requires all our residents to be involved in their own process. The months without paying rent, as well as by-passing other opportunities, would typically lead to ending our support.

But our goal is to support families and individuals that need help with housing. In this case, we chose not to evict. There was just too much happening in her life to add homelessness to the pile.

And we are reminded that God is our provider. God is bigger than the tragedies and intensities that enter our lives at the worst moments. And honestly, in our work, the level of need almost always outstrips our personal and corporate resources.

Over time, God provided a place for our resident to live with a family member, and she moved out of our apartments. For us, we grow in our experiences of waiting on God to provide beyond our abilities.  And we watch expectantly for him to do so. This consistent posture has developed in us low-frequency trust in God to fill these gaps between resource and need. And God always shows up.

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Grapes and Plums: Juicy Street Talk

by FCS Ministries on

By Jeff Delp  

I rarely drive to work. I live four blocks from Carver Neighborhood Market, so I typically ride my bike.

 

plums

 

And sometimes people talk to me.

 

Or rather, after 15 years in South Atlanta, I’m used to people shouting at me. Pedestrians, drivers, and other bikers often holler above the noisy streets anything from “hey” to more colorful language I won’t go into here.

 

But more recently, I had a surprising conversation with a man who was also a Carver Market customer.

 

While at the store, he had expressed some concern about our new method of packaging grapes. He was hesitant to purchase without being able to taste the produce.

 

So when I saw him walking down the sidewalk during my bike ride, I stopped and asked him how the grapes had been. He assured me they were just fine, and I rode off.

 

I was a half block away when he shouted, “Mr. Jeff… and those plums! They were AMAZING! Best plums I’ve ever had!”

 

I can honestly say that’s the first time I’ve had a conversation in the community about the quality of produce at a local store. Neighbors in South Atlanta now have something new to talk about as they pass in the streets: delicious plums! That’s a food oasis!

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5 Tips for Partnering with Your Local School

by FCS Ministries on

By Shawn Duncan

Working with local schools is a valuable way to engage your community. After all, it’s where local kids spend the majority of their day, and it affects families, employees, and so many others in your neighborhood.

One of the most rewarding things for me in community work is seeing how churches and schools can come together. Currently, I serve on the Family Engagement Parent Advisory Council and the Interfaith Leaders Coalition for the Dekalb County School District.  

A key distinction for me in this work is the idea of partnering with schools, not adopting them. Maybe I am nitpicking words here, but adopting can come with the all-too-common assumption that the church has the resources and the school simply has needs. Your schools are filled with amazing people, abundant resources, and incredible ideas. Come with a posture that embraces the dignity of the school.

I want to share 5 tips you can use to develop healthy church-school partnerships in your community.

TIP #1: Don’t misinterpret a lack of response.

I’ve watched churches get discouraged when attempts to reach out to a school are not responded to warmly or at all. The assumption is that the school does not need help, has some bias against faith groups, or simply does not care enough to respond.

From my experience, these have never been the actual reasons. Most often the slow (or no) response is evidence that an authentic relationship between the church and school has yet to be established.

TIP #2: Leverage networks to connect to schools.

Cold calls (or emails) don’t work. Relationships do. I tried and tried to get a meeting with one principal because I was told how eager she was for community partnerships. It did not happen, though, until a ministry partner of mine who knows her personally called her, told her about me and set a meeting for the three of us to talk.

All of my assumptions about why she never responded were false. She’s amazing! But she is also beyond capacity trying to run a school, and she could only trust me when someone she trusted trusted me (got that?).

TIP #3: Be patient because it will be messy.

Even if you have the right relationships, practice asset-based models, and exhibit the right posture, there is no short-cut to effective partnership with a school. If a school had a full-time community liaison on staff, maybe (maybe!) it would go more smoothly. But they don’t, so it won’t.

If you are looking for something simple, clean, and easy, partnering with a school is not for you. However, if you are seeking a long-term relationship that can have a transformative impact on your community, partnering with a school is right up your alley.

TIP #4: Adjust focus to the school’s objectives. (Not your outreach needs.)

Sometimes churches reach out to schools because the church itself has a need they are trying to meet - like getting another site added to their service project event they’ve been promoting for months. Or they’ve got too many volunteers and not enough things to do. So they reach out to “help” the local school.

This is one example (of many) of how attempts to “serve” schools can have more to do with the needs of the church than the objectives of the school. Take time to learn what the school cares about, and align yourself with that agenda. Be honest about your own needs and motives. When you are ready to learn about and support the school’s objectives, then you are ready for partnership.

TIP #5: Make the school the hero!

When you do develop relationships, understand their objectives, and create asset-based partnerships, you are sure (eventually) to see meaningful results. These stories need to be told and celebrated! When you do, though, make sure the school, administration, teachers, and the students and their families take center stage, not your ministry.

Education is a vital component of healthy community development, and it’s a perfect way for churches to engage their community.  If you are interested in learning more or consulting with your church about school partnerships, please contact me at shawn {at} fcsministries {dot} org.

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Students Ready to Take on the World!

by katiedelp on

by Katie Delp  

Parents rejoice! Teenagers groan. And kids can’t sleep the night before. School is back in session in Atlanta!

 

And thanks to the generosity of our partners and donors, students in South Atlanta started the school year with chic backpacks loaded with school essentials. Over 100 families came into the Carver Neighborhood Market in the days leading up to school to purchase their school supplies.

 

schoolsupplies

 

Families were able to purchase backpacks at reduced cost, allowing parents the opportunity to provide for their children with dignity. As an added bonus, we even watched as older students bought backpacks with their own hard-earned money.

 

We couldn’t pull off our Back to School drive without our fantastic partners! Special thanks to our backpack providers: Christian Church Buckhead, For the Kid in Us, Crossroads Presbyterian Church, and All Souls Church.  

 

backpacks

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Meet Shawn Duncan, Director of Training and Education

by FCS Ministries on

It's not uncommon for FCS to receive requests for coaching, consulting, and training. Therefore, as part of our strategic plan, we are working to create a learning center that offers education, coaching, and training resources for churches, nonprofits, and others interested in smart charity and community development.  

To lead this effort, we welcome Dr. Shawn Duncan to the team as the Director of Training and Education! Shawn has spent the last 15 years in ministry - as a preacher, teacher, coach, minister, and, most recently, as a co-founder of the nonprofit EIRO.

He finished his MDiv in 2006 from Lipscomb University and in 2014 completed his DMin at Columbia Theological Seminary. He describes his professional and academic pursuits as motivated by one thing: "a driving desire to see the church fully participate with God in God's mission in the world."

Shawn and his wife, Holly, moved to Atlanta in 2005 to join the staff of a local church. Since then they have had two sons, started a nonprofit and discovered more of their calling through the CCDA and FCS. The diversity, opportunities, and new friendships they have encountered in 10 years in Atlanta has transformed their lives. They live in Tucker and are continually shaped and changed by their international neighbors.

Shawn and Holly love wasting hours wandering through used books stores, buying too many books and then spending hours in coffee shops reading those books. If you ask him to choose a favorite, though, he says, "Like choosing a favorite child, this is impossible to answer! So, I will say of the handful of books I am reading right nowmy favoriteis The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison. One of the most formative books in my life, though, has been and continues to be The Prophetic Imagination by Walter Brueggemann."

Their two boys (9 & 7) have picked up on this love of reading as well as their mom's love for the beach and their dad's love for backpacking. Shawn loves any excuse to get outside and into the wilderness!

FCS is delighted to welcome Shawn and his family to the team. And we expect great things to come as we develop a learning center. If you are interested in setting up a training workshop or consulting services, please contact shawn{at}fcsministries{dot}org.

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What Does It Mean To Be An Intentional Neighbor?

by FCS Ministries on

One of the core tenets of FCS and our housing ministry, Charis Community Housing, is the value of neighboring. We practice local living, believing that everyone needs each other. There is beauty in doing life together and raising families together.  

When FCS began work in the neighborhood of East Lake many years ago, we included a Strategic Neighbor Program. This program established an official structure for individuals who desired to move to a low-income neighborhood, motivated by their Christian faith and their commitment to reconciliation, restoration, and redistribution.

 

neighbor

 

Strategic Neighbors received rental assistance and stipends to support their work in the community. They also attended regular meetings with other Strategic Neighbors. This programming worked well during our time in East Lake, and the program remained in East Lake even as FCS’ focus shifted to South Atlanta.

 

We did not establish a similar Strategic Neighbor program in South Atlanta. Instead, we began to consider historical residents in the community who had invited us to join their commitment to the neighborhood. Their faith had encouraged them to live purposefully on their streets and in the overall community. Each of these residents held a great deal of spiritual and communal wisdom to share with others.

 

We began to question the term “Strategic Neighbor” and why it would apply to new neighbors any more than these long-time residents. We recognized that without an official program in place, we also needed a new, more inclusive term to talk about those working for transformation of the community.

 

A great deal of thought and debating resulted in the phrase “intentional neighboring” to describe the on-the-ground community work happening in South Atlanta. This wording is more of a verb than a noun. It’s not a job description, nor a checklist of what to do or not to do. Rather, it describes purposeful living in whatever place God has called you.

 

We encourage others who are moving into distressed communities to partner with the residents already working for good. We emphasize neighborhood leadership and a commitment to mixed-income housing development. We believe this partnership strategy builds into the neighborhood’s social, spiritual, and economic vitality. Together, intentional neighbors can and do have a big impact on their community.

 

This post was originally posted on the Charis Community Housing blog. 

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