The number of people living in Sioux Falls who struggle with financial self-sufficiency is growing. Many enter a state of hopelessness, which increases the probability of poor decisions and negative behaviors. The impact of poverty and its effects is very visible in the public schools, where we now have more than 51% of our elementary age children economically qualifying for the free or reduced lunch program (i.e. A proxy for the federally defined poverty line.).
At the same time, Sioux Falls is blessed with many churches and nonprofits who offer a wide array of wonderful ministries to assist struggling people. Unfortunately, in the church we are too often not aware of what others are doing (or not doing) to care for the least of these. Many of us also struggle to determine ‘the best way’ for our individual congregation to address these needs and do not spend much time discussing/sharing ‘best practices’ for serving our community.
Recently leaders in business and government have asked the faith community to get engaged at an even deeper level (ex.. See the Sioux Falls Tomorrow 2014 Report and the Hope Coalition.) In response, 22 congregational leaders met and expressed a desire that we explore ways to increase our collective impact. Empower Sioux Falls has been formed as a collaborative effort to enhance each church’s impact by improving the education, collaboration, and coordination of our congregations.
Our Vision (Desired End State)
People in poverty will experience hope through tangible expressions of God’s love.
Our Mission (What we are seeking to do to achieve our desired end state)
Unite the churches to serve as the hands and feet of Jesus in our city.
Our Guiding Principles (High level parameters to help us govern ourselves.)
- We will be unconditional in who we serve, because of the teachings and invitation of Jesus Christ;
- We will recognize and honor that the Christian churches of Sioux Falls possess their own individual culture and identity;
- We will encourage congregations to actively partner/collaborate with other like-minded congregations as we share God’s resources within the city of Sioux Falls;
- We will create a collaborative process to assist congregational leaders as they strive to encourage and engage their congregants in incarnational community development and service; and
- We will utilize and strengthen existing Sioux Falls nonprofits wherever practical; while being open to exploring new strategies when unmet needs are identified.
Our Strategy (How we will strengthen the collective impact of our congregations.)
Create a framework to assist the Christian congregations of Sioux Falls as they strive to fulfill this vision through improved:
Education - Create an avenue to identify and communicate to congregational leaders ‘best practices’ for poverty ministry to better equip us as we encourage and engage our congregations to serve in effective and impactful ways. Potential examples include:
- Invite topic experts to provide perspective and deepen our understanding of the issues/barriers that confront people who are living in poverty.
- Share information about successful initiatives/programs tried elsewhere, along with practical assistance in how to introduce these practices in Sioux Falls.
- Develop communication strategies and materials to assist congregational leaders in raising awareness and engaging our members.
Collaboration - Encourage more congregational service-focused partnerships by creating a collaborative environment for congregational leaders to come together to a) learn more about community needs and opportunities; b) share about their congregation’s gifts, efforts, and goals; and c) facilitate service partnerships with other like-minded congregations. Potential examples include:
- Create a forum where congregations desiring to serve in a given area periodically come together to learn from each other and potentially coordinate their efforts.
- Develop ‘blueprints’ for creating and maintaining collaborative relationships to assist congregations who desire to come together with another congregation(s) to address a common concern or objective.
Coordination - Improve the collective impact of the churches of Sioux Falls by providing congregational leaders with timely and comprehensive information about felt needs and service opportunities within our city. Potential examples include
- Create a centralized database and communication system to: a) alert us to specific needs in our city, b) identify nonprofits and other congregations who have existing programs to address these needs, c) identify the gifts and service interests of congregational members, and d) facilitate the engagement of members who desire to serve.
- Provide feedback to congregational leaders where our members serve, how often they serve, and what is accomplished through their service.