Vocation and the Common Good is a multi-year research project describing the possibilities for Christian faithfulness within nine spheres of modern work. The Vocation and the Common Good Podcast is one way of distributing the findings of the project. Through conversation with selected members of the project, we intend to highlight the role institutions, friends, family, and colleagues have played in sustaining people within their ongoing attempts to be faithful to the call of God upon their lives.

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Today’s conversation is with Nicole Baker Fulgham, founder and CEO of The Expectations Project, an advocacy organization addressing education inequality by resourcing churches and faith communities as they support their local public schools. Recently, Nicole was named one of the top 50 women leaders influencing American culture by Christianity Today.

As we discuss in this episode, both the challenge of educating all God’s children and the statistics conveying our collective failure to do so are familiar to many of us. Depending upon any number of social, familial, and economic factors, some students enter a classroom with all the tools necessary to unlock their God-given potential, while others do not. Moreover, what counts as a “good classroom” led by capable and skilled teachers differs dramatically from school to school, even within a small geographic area. And yet, as Nicole suggests, the typical responses from churches are ad hoc and occasional, rather than sustained through time and structural in nature. But why, Nicole asks, should we expect to quickly solve problems that took years of inattention to develop?

To recall Isaac Wardell’s description and a recurring theme among these conversations, the missionary imagination sees the neighbor’s needs and commits to building institutions of care to meet those needs. At times, this means building new institutions; at other times, it requires Christian churches to leaven, preserve, enhance, and support existing institutions that find themselves incapable of rising to the challenges before them. The Expectations Project is, in this way, an entrepreneurial outfit trying to encourage churches and faith communities to be faithfully present within low-income public schools over the long haul as an expression of neighbor love.