Listening Well During Seasons of Transition

by Holly Duncan

How to differentiate between change and transition? Change is often immediate, easily measurable, and quantifiable. Transition, however, is fluid and reflects an ongoing process of learning and listening. EIRO, along with the city of Tucker, has been in a season of transition, and we have been making space to learn and listen along the way.

Earlier this year, Tucker became an official, incorporated city. Prior to that, and unbeknownst to many residents, we were technically a Census Designated Place within unincorporated DeKalb County. But as of July 1st, Tucker is an official city, and its transition of city leadership and community members has been quite a ride!

Similarly, EIRO has been in a season of transition. In July 2015, Shawn began contracting with FCS to consult and teach, and in March of this year he was named their new Director of Training and Consulting. This unexpected opportunity is allowing Shawn to excel at his strongest gifts and spread the message of healthy community engagement to a national audience. It is also allowing EIRO to double down on its mission of catalyzing healthy church-community partnerships through deep listening and deliberate response.

In early 2016, EIRO began a Community Listening Project in Tucker. Our hope was to listen broadly to our neighbors and a variety of local stakeholders. Through 1:1 meetings, online surveys, and community forums we asked questions, paid attention to the answers, and took notice of themes. We learned that God is actively working in Tucker. There are many opportunities for churches to join God at work here, and people are eager to see EIRO continue helping churches connect with their neighbors!

One area of interest that emerged time and time again was a desire for strong schools. As we heard this concern, we began to identify ways to respond. We’re excited to help local churches join with educators to address students’ challenges and celebrate successes. One immediate way we’ve been able to support a local school is the development a leveled library to meet kids’ diverse needs and reading levels. This new tool will help teachers boost literacy for all students, and we’re glad to get volunteers involved to make a difference.

EIRO is exploring additional ways local churches can support strong local schools by relaunching Young Scholars and multiplying a student banking program. Young Scholars utilizes local volunteers to close literacy gaps for early elementary students, and student banking teaches kids in age-appropriate ways about banking and finances. We’re excited about these opportunities to help churches join schools in our city.  

We have also added to our own team! Ben Garrett joined EIRO in September with a Masters of Divinity from University of Chicago and a passion for community development. Before joining EIRO, Ben consulted for the University of Chicago's Community Programs Accelerator and at Pilgrim Development Corporation on Chicago's West Side. Ben is originally from Marietta, where he and his wife, Candra, now live.

Though change can happen quickly, transition is often a slower process by nature. We are encouraged by all we have learned through our Community Listening Project. And we are excited about the ways it will transform and impact our work going forward. Thank you to all who continually support us in this work of being good neighbors in Tucker. To new friends, we invite you to consider joining EIRO today. We are grateful for your prayers and donations. Thank you!