25 ways to engage relationally with those in poverty

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Last thursday we discussed how to make poverty personal and the concept of moving from transactional serving to relational engagement.

We truly believe that relationships are key to engaging poverty. In order to engage poverty, as Christians we need to learn to love the poor, meet them, build societies that include them, and help them obtain justice. We want to help you and your churches find ways to practically engage with poverty on a relational level.

We have found that it is often helpful to have practical ideas to start engaging with the people around us. This may include neighborhoods or apartment buildings near our churches. You may already be connected to services within the city that may allow you to engage on a relational level. Most of the things on this list are normal, everyday things that many people are already doing. The hope is that we would do these things with relational intentionality. 


Below is a list of 25 practical ways to engage. Not all of these are for everyone, but hopefully there will be several ideas on the list that God uses to help you engage your neighbors:

  1. Become a regular somewhere
  2. Start a weekly open meal night in your home/ or church
  3. Host a coffee and dessert night
  4. Grow a garden and give out extra produce to neighbors
  5. Organize and host a ladies craft night
  6. Do a summer BBQ every Friday night and invite others to contribute
  7. Organize an effort for neighbors to help take care of elderly in neighborhood
  8. Become a regular at your neighborhood pool/park
  9. Host a life skills class (cooking, budgeting, laundry, etc).
  10. Prayer walk and talk to people you come across
  11. Cook out at your local park and invite the people there to eat with you
  12. Consider moving/ re-locating into a specific neighborhood. 
  13. Host an outdoor movie night 
  14. Do you laundry at a laundromat each week at the same place and time. Find ways to engage with others their.
  15. Start a walking/running group in the neighborhood
  16. Start hosting a weekly play date at a park or community center 
  17. Organize a carpool for your neighborhood or apartment complex 
  18. Ask your HOA or apartment complex if they need help with anything
  19. Host a regular Saturday morning breakfast potluck
  20. Cook an extra meal and give it to a neighbor
  21. Start a children's storytelling group at your local community center or park
  22. Organize a kids fun day at your city park
  23. Host a neighborhood block party 
  24. Invite those without nearby family over for a holiday meals and celebrations
  25. Learn and remember names

Empower Sioux Falls April 12th Forum

Join us for the next Empower Lunch Forum on Thursday, April 12th at 11:30am at Linwood Wesleyan Church in Sioux Falls.  The topic this month is "Making Poverty Personal". How do we move from transactional services to relational engagement? Join us for lunch and conversation.

The Empower Sioux Falls Forums are for ALL pastors and church leaders who wish to talk about how scripture calls us to address poverty issues in our communities. We encourage you to invite another pastor or church leader to attend the forums as we continue to build our network.

RSVP at Eventbrite using the link below:

RSVP Here!

February 8 Empower Sioux Falls Forum Highlights Transportation

Empower Sioux Falls will hold its next educational forum on Thursday, February 8, from 11:30 a.m. until 1 p.m. at Linwood Church (1101 E. 57th Street in Sioux Falls).

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A lite lunch provided by Holy Smokes Barbecue will be served beginning at 11:15 a.m. Attendees are encouraged arrive early so the forum can begin at 11:30 a.m. Attendees are also asked to use the south entrance to the church.

This forum will address the issue of transportation and how it relates to those who do not have reliable transportation. The group will discuss the issue and search for ways in which assistance can be provided.

The Empower Sioux Falls Forums are for ALL pastors and church leaders who wish to talk about how scripture calls us to address poverty issues in our communities. We encourage you to invite another pastor or church leader to attend the forums as we continue to build our network.

Those interested in attending the forum are asked to RSVP by Friday, February 2. You may RSVP by using the link below:

Video: November 9, 2017 Forum on School Business Partnerships

Below is the video of the presentation from the November 9 forum on school partnerships. Pastors Doug Bartel and Brian Stroh from Hillcrest Church provide a presentation outlining Hillcrest's business partnership with Cleveland Elementary School. Joining them on the panel are Cleveland principal Mitch Sheaffer and Jackie McNamara, former principal at Cleveland.

At the end of the presentation, participants were given a map which showed the locations of the elementary schools in Sioux Falls. Highlighted on the map were the nine Title 1 schools and a list of churches that have some type of ongoing relationships at these schools. CLICK HERE to download the map.

Pastor Rich Merkouris, an Empower Sioux Falls Leadership Team member, outlined what Empower Sioux Falls would like to accomplish over the next 45 days. He asked attendees to go to do the following:

  • Notify Empower Sioux Falls of any working relationship their church has at a particular school.
  • Take the map to their church leaders and ask the question, "Is God asking us to serve in a certain area?"

November 9 Forum Focuses on School Partnerships

Empower Sioux Falls will hold its next educational forum on Thursday, November 9, from 11:30 a.m. until 1 p.m. at Linwood Church (1101 E. 57th Street in Sioux Falls).

A lite lunch will be served beginning at 11:15 a.m. Attendees are encouraged arrive early so the forum can begin at 11:30 a.m. Attendees are also asked to use the south entrance to the church.

The forum will focus on school partnerships for churches Pastor Doug Bartel from Hillcrest Church will lead a discussion that will include Mitch Sheaffer, principal at Cleveland Elementary School, and Jackie McNamara, a retired Sioux Falls School District principal. The discussion will look at the following questions:

  • Is there a need for business partnerships in the public schools?
  • If it is working as designed, what do these partnerships look like?
  • How would a church approach a school?
  • Once  a church becomes a business partner, how do they find out what needs to be done?
  • What kinds of things should business partners NOT do?
  • What kinds of things should churches specifically be aware of when working with a public school.

The Empower Sioux Falls Forums are for ALL pastors and church leaders who wish to talk about how scripture calls us to address poverty issues in our communities. We encourage you to invite another pastor or church leader to attend the forums as we continue to build our network

Those interested in attending the forum are asked to RSVP by Friday, November 3. You may RSVP by completing the RSVP form below:

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Next Empower Sioux Falls Forum Set for September 14

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Empower Sioux Falls will hold its next educational forum on Thursday, September 14, from 11:30 a.m. until 1 p.m. at Linwood Church (1101 E. 57th Street in Sioux Falls).

A lite lunch will be served beginning at 11:15 a.m. Attendees are encouraged arrive early so the forum can begin at 11:30 a.m. Attendees are also asked to use the south entrance to the church.

The primary focus of this forum will help answer the question, "How do we help in a healthy way?"  Pastor Doug Bartel from Hillcrest Church is going to partner with Dane Bloch from The Community Outreach to help us think through this important question. 

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We are also excited to announce a special Poverty Study Group.  For six months beginning in October, interested congregational leaders will meet monthly for two hours to discuss the book Ministries of Mercy by Tim Keller. If you have not already received this book, you can grab one at the September forum.  We believe this will be not only a great conversation starter but it will also help us sharpen one another’s leadership skills while encouraging us to think through how we can work together in our community.

In addition, there will be a recap of Serve Sioux Falls as well as some prize giveaways for those in attendance. The prizes include an iPad Pro, a weekend getaway to Omaha and a commentary set.

The Empower Sioux Falls Forums are for ALL pastors and church leaders who wish to talk about how scripture calls us to address poverty issues in our communities. We encourage you to invite another pastor or church leader to attend the forums as we continue to build our network.

Those interested in attending the forum are asked to RSVP by Friday, September 8. You may RSVP by using the link below:

Serve Sioux Falls: The Time Has Come

by Kevin Ludwig
Empower Sioux Falls Program Manager

The time has come.

Over the next 60 days, hundreds of people will unite to serve this great city we call home by joining forces to complete approximately 100 service projects for local nonprofit ministries and organizations as a part of an event called Serve Sioux Falls.

On paper the concept of Serve Sioux Falls sounds easy enough. Find some nonprofit organizations, ask them for service project ideas and then find people to do the projects. This type of effort has been done successfully in large metropolitan areas such as Portland and Phoenix. But can it be done in a community the size of Sioux Falls?

The Serve Sioux Falls Leadership Team, comprised of representatives from the three partnering organizations – LifeLight Global, Empower Sioux Falls and Volunteers of America, Dakotas – believed it was possible. However, we were unsure as to how Serve Sioux Falls would be received.

As a member of the Serve Sioux Falls Leadership Team I’ve had the good fortune of getting a behind the scenes look at the various aspects of Serve Sioux Falls. I met with numerous nonprofit leaders. A majority of them were taken aback that we were trying something like this. At the same time they were overjoyed at the possible impact that these service projects could have on the way they operate and the way they help people who are in need.

Nonprofit organizations were asked to come up with projects that consisted of “meaningful service.” This means that the project needed to be meaningful to the nonprofit but also meaningful to the volunteers completing the project.

The response was amazing. I heard so many heartwarming stories about how beneficial these projects will be and how the timing is perfect. Needless to say we quickly amassed over 100 projects, or serving opportunities of 2-4 hours in length.

The next uncertainty was how the community would respond. Again, we were blown away. It didn’t take long for teams to start signing up for projects. In an amazing demonstration of support, over 40 teams signed up for projects during our 72-hour challenge window. During that challenge a generous donor offered to pay for the cost of every project that was taken during those three days.

So far, 90 teams have signed up to serve. Among that group, 26 churches, as well as 21 businesses and organizations are represented. Not only are  businesses supplying workers for some specialized projects, they are donating the labor costs and even some supplies.

In talking to some volunteer team leaders, an encouraging theme is resonating. People are excited to serve this summer, but there is a sentiment that this should be just the beginning of the serving, that they hope this one-time service opportunity develops into a year-long relationship with the nonprofit they are helping. How amazing that would be.

There are still 49 serving opportunities still available. It’s not too late to sign up for a project. Simply visit the Serve Sioux Falls web site at www.servesiouxfalls.com and click the “Find a Project” button. The projects that still have serving opportunities available are listed on the first few pages.

For those of you who are planning to complete a service project, thank you for sharing your time and talents. If you have not signed up for a project, please prayerfully consider signing up for a project and then get your family, friends, co-workers or church members to join you in helping serve our city.

The time has come.