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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Carver Neighborhood Market Launches Grocery Bike Delivery Service, August 3

by FCS Ministries on

New offering extends food access across Historic South Atlanta and surrounding neighborhoods  

ATLANTA – July 28, 2015 – The Carver Neighborhood Market, empowered by Focused Community Strategies (FCS), will begin its grocery bike delivery service on Monday, Aug. 3, 2015. This joint effort with the South Atlanta Bike Shop, also empowered by FCS, will continue to increase access to fresh, healthy and affordable food across Historic South Atlanta and surrounding neighborhoods.

Generously funded by the Atlanta Cycling Festival, the grocery bike delivery service for the Carver Neighborhood Market will have a fleet of bikers who deliver groceries within a one-mile radius of the market during store hours. In addition to serving Historic South Atlanta, the grocery bike delivery service extends to surrounding neighborhoods including Chosewood Park, High Point Estates, Lakewood Heights, Peoplestown and Villages of Carver.

“One of our learning lessons within the first few months is that our shoppers who walk to and from the market limit themselves to buying only what they’re able to comfortably carry,” said FCS Director of Economic Development and long-time neighborhood resident Jeff Delp. “By offering the home delivery service, what may have been purchased across three separate trips to the market can now be purchased in just one. Our goal has always been to provide convenient access to the market’s healthy food options, and the grocery bike delivery service is one more way we’re fulfilling that.”

Since the grand opening of the market on Saturday, May 16, 2015, the store has sold more than 25,000 goods and welcomed more than 6,000 shoppers to the store. This initiative is a stepping stone to a larger vision for the Carver Neighborhood Market – one where online ordering and delivery will be a reality.

The Carver Neighborhood Market is part of the South Atlanta Marketplace and located at 1297 Jonesboro Road, Atlanta, GA 30315. For more information, visit www.carvermarket.com, or join the community on Facebook and Twitter.

About Focused Community Strategies

Focused Community Strategies (FCS) partners with underserved neighborhoods to provide innovative and holistic development that promotes flourishing communities where God’s shalom is present. FCS is a team of visionaries and social entrepreneurs, transforming distressed urban neighborhoods through Christian community development. For more than 30 years, FCS has demonstrated that the most transformative urban ministry is community-based. With an emphasis on neighborhood leadership and a commitment to mixed-income housing development, the FCS strategy yields both social and spiritual vitality as well as economic viability. For more information, visit: www.fcsministries.org.

Media Contact

Ashley Biondich

Office: 404-949-3777 x492

Cell: 404-444-7225

ashley.biondich@phase3mc.com

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A Summer to Remember!

by FCS Ministries on

The thermometer may seem stuck in the 90’s, but it hasn’t slowed down the youth of South Atlanta this summer! June and July have been action-packed and memorable thanks to enthusiastic volunteers and generous donors.  

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What are some of the highlights from this summer? Pool parties, basketball tournaments, in-depth Bible Studies, bike rides, and more! Youth have been able to bond with each other, connect with staff, and make active, healthy choices this summer.

 

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A great source of joy for the kids has been trips outside of the city. With partners like Camp Grace and God’s Farm, South Atlanta youth have experienced camp life filled with lake swimming, canoeing, mosquitoes, campfires, and starry nights.

 

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We’re giving a big shout out to all our committed youth workers, ministry partners, and faithful donors who have made this summer possible. Thank you for creating a safe place for our youth to explore, learn, and experience summer in new ways.

 

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Neighborhood Clean-ups: Residents or Outside Volunteers?

by FCS Ministries on

Sometimes urban communities can collect their fair share (or more) of litter and trash. Keeping the neighborhood picked up and clean is a valuable service that can make a real difference in the way the community appears to outsiders and even how those living there feel about their streets. There are several ways to address neighborhood clean-ups, including local organizing and volunteer groups.  

Chris McCord, a resident of our local South Atlanta Neighborhood and community leader, has been organizing neighborhood clean-ups for years. South Atlanta has gone through different seasons - sometimes welcoming outside help in the clean-ups and sometimes declining outside offers for help - and Chris has navigated these relationships with diplomacy and proactive communication.

 

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Chris had been coordinating volunteer groups to participate in some clean-ups in the neighborhood when he received a complaint from a local resident, saying she had no idea a clean-up was happening. She was concerned about the unfamiliar faces and the image these activities portrayed of the neighborhood. Acknowledging some resistance from a few community members, Chris decided to shift planning efforts towards using fellow neighbors.

 

He scheduled regular neighborhood clean-ups, communicated them to the residents, secured dumpsters in strategic neighborhood placements, and led the events. Community-led clean-ups certainly offer benefits, such as local pride and neighbor bonding. An annual highlight of South Atlanta has become our infamous tire clean up. Thanks to City Council Representative Carla Smith’s tire amnesty on Earth Day, the neighbors have rounded up more than 4700 tires in the last six years!

 

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After some time passed (and a few clean-ups received less-than-stellar turnout), Chris approached community members at a civic league meeting to discuss the possibility of including outside volunteers again. It was overwhelmingly supported. "You can act and ask for forgiveness later," says Chris. "But my philosophy is to try when you can to catch it on the front-end. In the end, it's a great stress reducer."

 

So Chris has been working to include outside volunteers in a way that is dignifying to the community and that helps in tangible ways. One strategy he has used is to choose projects that benefit neighbors directly. For example, he shared about one senior whose view from her porch was an empty lot that had been used as a dumping site. When a group of volunteers cleared it, she was grateful for the change of scenery, and she had the opportunity to interact with the volunteers and share with them the deep history of South Atlanta.

 

Ideally, it would be great to organize clean-ups that include a mix of local and outside volunteers. So far, though, Chris admits it's been a challenge to match the scheduling of what works for both groups. But that is something he is working to organize.

 

Regarding potential complaints in the future, Chris says, "People may not realize how much work actually goes into organizing clean-ups. What I say to those who complain is to judge my work, rather than their perception. If there's a complaint about the work, let's talk about that."

 

How does your community spruce up? Do you work with local or outside volunteers, a mix or both separately? 

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How to Say Good-bye to a Legacy Program

by FCS Ministries on

by Jim Wehner  

This past year, FCS has faced the reality that two of our longtime programs were not producing the results we so often discuss and demand of other organizations. Make no mistake, these are important programs. When we talk about the work of FCS, these two legacy programs are often part of the discussion. But what do we do when our beloved programs have lived (or even outlived) their time?

 

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Some of you reading may be already saying, “just shut them down!” But as a leader of a nonprofit, I can tell you there are competing voices from all the invested parties in a legacy program.

 

1. Staff (or congregation) - Getting a group of passionate, justice oriented community developers to agree on the right the plan of action is a feat in itself! Many of our staff have devoted their lives to what they do. They encounter Christ in the margins where we have chosen to serve. Mess with those margins, and you may be stepping on their very faith. Ouch!

 

2. Neighbors - The most obvious adjustment of our legacy programs is the fact that we are changing, reducing, or restructuring our services to people we love! My experience is that, when we do this, our neighbors speak up. In my most honest moments, I admit I would rather maintain an outdated, toxic program than leave our neighbors with nothing.

 

3. The Bible - As Christians, our fundraising and program stories often include Scripture. Jesus speaks of the “least of these” and the programs we run are designed to build them up in Christ’s name! With that foundation, how on earth do I communicate that we are no longer offering the program? You get it, right? It’s not that this program is somehow designed to work into eternity, but when you connect its purpose to the eternal Word of God, people never think about it failing, or even coming to an end.

 

4. Donors - Let’s face it - legacy programs connect us to a support structure. Whether it’s real or imagined, there is a risk of losing funders that were connected to that specific program. It’s a rare nonprofit leader that can ignore this reality.

 

Of course, none of these voices alone make it worth maintaining a program that destroys dignity or builds dependency. But when these voices combine, it can push the strongest leader or organization to question motives and intentions.

 

So how do we do it?  Here are four elements we’ve included in our transitions at FCS:

 

1. Start the conversations. - You have to begin to talk with staff and neighbors about the program, its effectiveness, and ideas. Listen to them, and let them tell you what they think. These conversations take time. With the two programs FCS closed, the process took more than a year in both cases. The staff grudgingly came around and even began to lead the discussion with the recipients. Strong leadership will engage the multiple voices listed above.

 

2. Gather your data. - Get the history of the legacy program down in writing. What is the key issue this program is designed to solve? Is it still solving that issue or has it morphed? Both our programs were more that 20 years old, and they had experienced multiple changes over time.

 

3. Celebrate the successes. - Once you have done the work of naming the legacy, you will be able to give it the honor it deserves. You can legitimately celebrate the great work that has been done - changed lives, faith stories, and God-sightings are all part of its story. As you celebrate, you are also reminding people of the reason the program was created and setting the stage for its transformation.

 

4. Launch a quality replacement program. - If you are exploring the option of implementing an alternative program, gather a group of experts to help you shape that program.  Ministries often start new programs after praying and feeling a sense of calling, but they rarely ask those who have expertise to help them. Creating a high-quality program to replace your legacy program will ease the transition as well.

 

In the last year, FCS closed its transitional housing facility and its thrift shop. The transitional housing was a 64-unit apartment complex that helped people transition out of homelessness and brokenness. It was a great program. Unfortunately, over its 28 years of operation, it had become burdened with issues of building maintenance.  FCS was simply unable to sustain its operation, so we made the heartbreaking decision to close it.

 

We raised the money to hire a case manager, and we relocated every family that wanted our assistance. Now, eight months later, we are in the process of rehabbing 12 houses in our focus neighborhood and trying to acquire 12 more for 2016. There is no way we could do this work while bearing the financial weight of maintaining a dilapidated apartment complex that was no longer serving families well.

 

The thrift shop simply lost its steam. Yes, it was providing clothing at a low cost, but we didn’t feel it was building dignity into the lives of our customers or community. It wasn’t that it was a failure, we just knew we could do something more transformative in the neighborhood. We also had another organization opening up a thrift store near ours. When we were honest with ourselves, we felt they were more strongly positioned to do this ministry.

 

So we asked the neighborhood what they would like to see in that space rather than a thrift store. As of last month, you can now shop at the Carver Neighborhood Grocery. The grocery provides affordable and healthy food options to a neighborhood considered a food desert. We now employ five young people from the neighborhood, and they are learning transferable skills they can use in the broader marketplace one day.  And to top it off, we have a growing partnership with another organization!

 

Saying good-bye to programs that have been meaningful to staff, the community, and supporters is no easy task. Change always comes with its challenges, but it's also full of new beginnings. We are excited about the current work happening at FCS. By making the decision to change, we have written a new future for FCS and the neighborhood we serve!

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Shout Out to the Interns!

by FCS Ministries on

It takes a team to launch a new project, survey the community, and keep all the fun happening. This spring, we've been grateful for the energy and work of our two interns from Georgia Tech. Before they head out for the summer, we wanted to introduce them and again say thank you for their amazing commitment to FCS this semester.  

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Meet Brandon (pictured left)

 

Brandon grew up in many places (his dad was in the Army), but he attended high school in Augusta, Georgia. Now he attends Georgia Tech, studying Civil Engineering with a concentration in Environmental Systems.

 

He is passionate about the city and its subcultures, so he jumped at the chance to intern at FCS. (It helps only a little that he didn't have to take classes during the internship!) He was involved in several projects during the semester, including administering and analyzing the Flourishing Neighborhood Index survey, helping launch Carver Market, working with the South Atlanta Bike Shop, and assisting with the After-School program.

 

Brandon says he will walk away from FCS with some real-life skills like bicycle maintenance and handy-man skills. He also says, "I've learned about the balance, difficulties, and harmony between business ethics and spiritual ethics encountered throughout these organizations.  I've been honored to be affiliated with an organization that is on the frontier of what they do and to see how the whole team reacts to opportunities and responds with solutions.

 

"I've been able to taste a brief moment in the holistic long-term approach to community development. I've learned a lot regarding what I should do for others versus what I can help them accomplish themselves. This is has been especially pertinent for myself because as a future Civil Engineer, I have a desire to find a balance between mission work and civil engineering work; I can now better see how these intersect in a more developing community.

 

"The last big takeaway, something that I continually and hopefully consistently learn about, is that people matter. That to find God's shalom we need to love God and love people. I am happy to have friends and coworkers that practice this in a variety of different mediums and see its application in South Atlanta."

 

Brandon will be taking classes over the summer and leading camping trips for incoming freshmen. Post-college, he hopes to work in a city and earn his Professional Engineer's License. Eventually, he's like to go abroad and use his Civil Engineering skills as a missionary serving God's people.

 

Meet Luke (pictured right)

 

Luke is a Georgia Tech Civil Engineering Major from Augusta, Georgia. His studies include a concentration in Structural Design.

 

He has a strong passion for the the cultural and community aspects of urban neighborhoods plans to work in community revitalization in the future. He wanted to work at FCS because of their established presence in Atlanta. "I saw this internship at FCS as an apprenticeship in urban revitalization and an opportunity to establish a strong foundation in urban redevelopment," he says.

 

Along with Brandon, Luke participated in proctoring the Flourishing Neighborhoods Survey and launching the Carver Neighborhood Market. He also served as the Assistant Project Manager for Charis Community Housing. In this role, he worked alongside our Project Manager to manage the calendar and budget.

 

When you ask Luke what he learned this semester at FCS, he points to two major themes: grand vision and commitment to the process (investment.) "FCS integrated me into their vision for a neighborhood that is built on deep community ties, self-sufficiency, and upward mobility," he says.

 

"With this in I mind, I have seen the steps that were taken towards this vision prior to my arrival at FCS, during my stent here, and plans for future steps to create a holistically thriving neighborhood. These pillars of community development are the two things learned from my time at FCS that will most heavily influence my future endeavors."

 

Luke will continue investing in communities this summer as he serves with Service Over Self (SOS), a nonprofit roofing organization in Memphis, Tennessee.

 

It's been a joy to have Brandon and Luke on our team this spring. Their contribution in this busy season has been so valuable, and we will them well as they continue to use their skills for the greater good.

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Partner Highlight: The Navigators

by FCS Ministries on

During FCS' strategic planning process, we began to reevaluate and reestablish our community development model. We listened to the community, and we assessed our eight components. We saw a need for new youth development programs to be investing in the South Atlanta.  

At the same time, Atlanta Navigators were launching their urban youth initiatives and looking across the city for partnerships. After much prayer and several conversations between FCS and The Navigators, we partnered to bring The Navigators' after-school program into our target community of South Atlanta.

 

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The Navigator's Urban Youth Director Matthew Maxwell says he and other volunteers meet students when school lets out, and they walk together to FCS' Gateway Building for the afternoon. Homework, plus additional math and reading exercises, takes first priority. Kids sit down by grade to complete their assignments.

 

This routine is not without its challenges, however. "Establishing the importance of completing homework and doing it correctly has been stressed. And each day the kids resist doing their homework a little less," Maxwell says. "They are starting to see if they put a little effort into it they can do it and do it well. It’s fun to watch their confidence and belief in themselves and their abilities grow each day."

 

After homework, it's snack time and clean up. Then students enjoy crafts or a time to play games like kickball, dodgeball, or soccer. These typical after school activities open opportunities for life lessons, staff connection, and discipleship.

 

Recently, one student became angry when one of the games didn't go his way. In frustration, he kicked a hole in a wooden door. As a consequence and process of restoration, he was expected to help replace the broken door.

 

Maxwell says, "We spent a day together during his Spring Break, purchased a door at Home Depot, and replaced the broken one with the new one. He had the opportunity to work with his hands, use power tools, and renew something that was broken. We also had the chance to get lunch and spend time together. This is where life-on-life discipleship really happens."

 

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Maxwell hopes the program will serve local students and help them mature their math and reading skills. There is also a desire to help kids connect in at Community Life Church's youth group, which also meets in the same building.

 

The after school program also seeks to broaden students' range of opportunities in experiences. They are already planning field trips to Martin Luther King Jr.'s birth home and museum, college campuses, summer camps, and more.

 

Youth development is a crucial element of neighborhood transformation. At FCS, we know we cannot meet all the needs of the neighborhood alone. We are grateful for partners like Matthew Maxwell and The Navigators, so we can work together to support and encourage youth in our South Atlanta neighborhood.

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5 Loaves and 25 Tons of Food

by katiedelp on

By Katie Delp Jesus feeds the five thousand. It’s a story I’ve known almost my whole life. Five loaves. Two fishes. Yet Jesus instructs the disciples to distribute the food among the large crowd until everyone is fed. The math doesn’t compute, but God is able to work miracles with one boy’s generosity.

 

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As our pastor preached on this story last Sunday, he encouraged us to reflect on times when we have see God miraculously transform a situation beyond expectations. Maybe beyond rationality. My mind immediately remembered our South Atlanta food co-operative.

 

A couple of years ago, I realized through some interactions with neighbors that some families in my community were struggling to put food on the table every night. I was not alone. Some fellow co-laborers in the neighborhood were hearing the same message. We were concerned and wanted to help.

 

Few folks know how to offer people access to food while maintaining their dignity better than our friends at Urban Recipe. I love their food co-operative model that allows a group of families to pay into a pot and receive needed food in return. Co-op members have responsibilities and roles, and donations subsidize the cost of the food.

 

Together, our small band of concerned neighbors was able to quietly raise the funds to start the food co-op in our community. Two years later, fifty low-income families from South Atlanta meet twice a month to receive food and stock their shelves.

 

I love the food co-operative program and the dignity it maintains for recipients as they become food secure. But there was another miracle of God tucked away behind the scenes. I have constantly been amazed that while only five households of modest income give to the food co-op, there is always enough each year to provide over twenty-five tons of food for these fifty families.

 

The math just doesn’t add up. Still, like Christ’s feeding of the five thousand, God is able to work miracles beyond our expectations. In our “five loaves and two fishes” generosity, there is always enough for everyone.

 

Will you join FCS as we watch God provide resources, dignity, and transformation in our community? Your generosity is always appreciated and goes further than you can ever imagine.

 

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Image credit: the justified sinner

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Partner Highlight: Atlanta Harvest

by FCS Ministries on

We believe strongly in collaboration with others implementing innovative solutions. One creative partner in our Historic South Atlanta community is Atlanta Harvest. They have started a revolutionary urban farm in an abandoned lot in the neighborhood. 

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We are excited to build a “Food Oasis” in our community, and Atlanta Harvest is a vital partner in this work. Not only are they seeking to provide local jobs, but they are growing quality produce right in the neighborhood! 

Check out their work in this short video:

One way we’ve already been able to work together (as mentioned in the video) is they provide lettuce for sandwiches at Community Grounds. Going forward, they will be our greens supplier for Carver Market

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We’re excited about the great work happening in South Atlanta and the opportunities for more jobs and better food.  

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The Best Kind of Unintended Consequences

by FCS Ministries on

The South Atlanta Bike Shop has been investing our neighborhood youth since 2010, and it has had a big impact on the community. Youth work in the bike shop and earn “shop bucks” they can use to purchase bikes, accessories, parts, or registration fees for bike trips. The program enhances job readiness and teaches leadership and management skills in addition to helping kids earn bikes. (You can learn more about their program here.)  

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Kids have earned over 100 bikes from the shop: first bikes, replacement bikes, bikes for siblings and cousins. And of course, some youth have collected multiple bicycles for themselves. Needless to say, there are a lot more kids riding bikes on the streets of South Atlanta these days.

 

The increase in bike riders was evident in our daily lives in the neighborhood. However, it became even more obvious recently when our local elementary school, Slater Elementary, called.

 

They explained that so many kids were now riding bikes to school, but the school had nowhere for kids to park them. Without an appropriate place to store and lock bikes, students often brought them into the classroom for the day. Teacher found this solution to be a distraction.

 

When alerted of this challenge, we reached out to the Atlanta Bike Coalition. They partnered with us to install three new bike racks for the front of the school. Those racks were installed just a few weeks ago!

 

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Warmer temperatures are on the way, and kids will soon begin using these bike racks in full force! We know they will also need locks for their bikes, so we are sponsoring a “Bike to School Day” in March. Any youths that bike to Slater Elementary that morning will receive a bike lock for free from the South Atlanta Bike Shop.

 

We’re delighted to be able to serve our community in this way. Partnerships between businesses and schools are important for the health and vitality of a community.  It’s a joy to connect with our local school in this small way.

 

Want to be a part of the fun?

 

If you’d like to help us provide bike locks for the kids or enable us install more bike racks at our shop (we currently have one), you can give here.

 

If you’d like to ride bikes with our young riders, you can join our monthly beginner bike rides here.

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Prayer at the Prison

by FCS Ministries on

By Jim Wehner It was a busy Friday in December. I tend to be task oriented anyway, but at the end of one year and the beginning of the next, I am extremely focused. I love to close one chapter well before I open the next, and I had a lot on my plate in order to make that happen.

 

I had an appointment this particular Friday. I wanted to blow it off, but since it was focused on prayer, I figured I couldn't really do that and keep my Christian cred. As it turned out, I am so glad I didn't skip it because this event set the tone for my holiday season and has extended into this new year.

 

Image credit: Michael Coghlan

 

One of our board members had pulled the event together, and it included a diverse group from the neighborhood. We gathered outside the gates of the Federal Prison in Atlanta simply to pray. We met, shared a few Christmas carols, and prayed together, focusing on four areas for prayer: the prisoners, the guards, the warden that oversees the prison, and the broader justice system. Then we went down the street for lunch.

 

There was no fanfare.  It was not a protest. There were no news snippets or Facebook posts, and no one from outside the community made appearances for the media. We simply locked hearts together as we bowed our heads, stood on the sidewalk of a busy street, and prayed for God to intervene in ways that we could not.

 

I loved the diversity of this group and the laying down of personal agendas. I hope 2015 is filled with more times like this. God, let it be so...

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How Do We Know If Our Work is Working? Measuring Flourishing Neighborhoods

by FCS Ministries on

There are a couple questions we hear all the time in community-based work like ours. How do you know if your efforts are working? How do you know when you are finished in a community? How do you define success?  

We decided it was time to address these questions head-on. FCS needed a way to measure the effectiveness of our work in meaningful ways.

 

Flourishing Neighborhoods

We have partnered with the South Atlanta Civic League (SACL) in our target neighborhood of Historic South Atlanta. Together, we are working towards a thriving and flourishing community.

 

We breakdown the components of a flourishing neighborhood as follows:

• Sense of Place

• Effective, Credible Community Leadership

• Neighborhood-focused Faith

• Meaningful Work and Opportunities

• Mixed-Income Housing Opportunities

• Sustainable Built Enviornment (parks and green spaces, road and walk ways)

• Youth, Families, and Education

• Neighborhood Connectivity

 

To capture useful data about need and areas for growth, FCS has been conducting surveys among neighborhood residents. Our two incredible interns from Georgia Tech, Brandon and Luke, have been interviewing community members covering the range of topics listed above.

 

Measuring Community Development Work

Follow-up surveys will be conducted annually to measure the impact of FCS and the SACL’s efforts and development. We are excited for the direction and measurement this survey process will offer as we continue to refine our models and practices for outstanding community development.

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5 Practices for Stronger Non-Profit Fundraising

by FCS Ministries on

By Jim Wehner I recently shared dinner with two close friends who are both Executive Directors of growing non-profit ministries working with underserved neighborhoods. We spent the first part of our time talking about the good things going on in their ministries.

It is encouraging to hear passionate leaders describe their work. Before long, though, the discussion turned to funding and fundraising.

 

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It always amazes me how passionate, gifted leaders can feel so frustrated when it comes funding their vision. I have been raising funds for several years, and it can be challenging. But I have also found some practices that help me support the work about which I care deeply. You may find them helpful as well.

 

1.  Give yourself a clear funding goal for the year.  

Most of us struggle with this part of our job because we have trouble connecting the dots between our vision and the costs that accompany it. If you lack clarity on funding needs and goals, your staff and board have no way to partner with you on achieving and exceeding them.

 

2.  Block time weekly for this part of your job.  

Most leaders work regularly to clarify, tweak, and strengthen their thinking in program goals. However, they spend very little time addressing funding goals. Give yourself a small block of time weekly to clarify your asks, schedule appointments with funders, write thank you notes, and prepare grant documents. This simple discipline will make you a better communicator, too!

 

3.  Look to multiple sources for your funding needs.  

Personal support, donor events, program fees, board giving, and grants should all be part of your overall plan. Some may come easier to you than others, but make sure each funding stream gets your attention during your weekly blocked time.

 

4.  Become bilingual.

While many non-profit leaders speak fluently about their program, funders often speak the language of finance instead. They want clear metrics that help them discern the effectiveness of the organization’s work and by extension, their monetary gifts. They want to see audited financials and a clear program budget. Mastering this language, as well as your program language, can immensely increase your effectiveness in grant applications and donor conversations.

 

5.  Add journaling to your prayer life.

Journaling can strengthen and deepen your prayers. Nurture an ongoing conversation with God that connects and develops over time by writing. It has helped me gain a clearer picture of how God answers prayer, as well as how He shapes the requests themselves. The journal can engage your faith as you await God’s provision for future funding needs. Fundraising can become an experience that develops your spiritual strength and maturity rather than a source of stress and frustration.

 

Funding is a key aspect of a non-profit leader’s work that cannot be overlooked. Without creative support streams and generous donor partners, many organizations will not be able to accomplish their vision. But attention to this aspect of a leader’s role can unlock incredible potential for growth and leadership development.

What practices strengthen your fundraising strategies?

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When Outside Gifts Bless Community Work

by FCS Ministries on

By Jim Wehner The Charis staff was talking yesterday about one of the houses we are currently renovating. It will be beautiful when we are done. It will be important on the street, and the family that purchases it will be integral to our work of re-neighboring the blocks.

Cynthia, the managing director for our housing partner Charis Community Housing, was adding up the expenses on this property. Even though it has so much to offer the community, it is becoming clear that we are not going to cover our costs on this house.

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The conversation is what we call a “process check.” In 2008-2009, we pulled together a task force made up of men and women of faith that work in the Real Estate industry (builders, agents, lawyers and an architect). This commited task force  helped  us develop and clarify a process that would keep Charis healthy and enable us to do sustainable ministry. They developed a strong business plan and pro forma (budgeting process).

A process check is a simple way of saying we (Cynthia and I) are comparing the work that we have done on this house against that plan and pro forma. It is not surprising that we found two mistakes.

First, in the pressure to complete the house on time, we had begun work without finalizing our construction budget. When we ran into an unexpected (and unbudgeted) structural issue on the house, we made a second mistake. We did not add those new costs into the budget and subtract other work so that we could stay on plan.

These are easy mistakes to make in the remodeling process. Fortunately, because of the work done by our task force to create a clear set of guidelines, we can make adjustments prior to completing the project. We can hold ourselves accountable to a healthy process.

When I think about the gift those members of our housing task force gave to Charis and FCS five years ago, I am extremely humbled and blessed by the way the body of Christ can work together to serve a whole neighborhood.  Their expertise has provided more than $2.5 million in development of affordable and market rate housing in our focus neighborhood.

Housing redevelopment is not a sure thing.  It takes a specific skillset, as well as capital, to support the work. The ability to draw from the gifts of others and hold ourselves accountable is a huge gift to the organization and the community and a daily reminder of the power of body of Christ working together.

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