by Gary Helder
About nine months ago, community leaders Randell Beck and Doug Morrison challenged many in Sioux Falls to read the book “Our Kids” by Robert Putnam. This was followed by a series of meetings to better educate a diverse group of volunteers on the needs of Sioux Falls families struggling financially. One of the most concerning things we learned from Sioux Falls Public Schools Superintendent Brian Maher was that in the 2014-15 school year, “47 percent of our elementary school children were not hopeful about their future”. This, coupled with many other concerns, has moved us to action.
We know the Christian congregations of Sioux Falls have a long history of service. We also know we have a wide array of impactful nonprofits serving our neighbors. Despite this, the unmet needs in our community are increasing. With these concerns on our hearts, Pastor Rich Merkouris and I agreed to reach out to Christian church leaders to see if there is an interest in working together to more fully meet these needs.
Since November 2015, we have held two congregational leadership conversations. We were thankful to have 26 congregations represented at these meetings and learned there is a desire to be more impactful in our congregational service. In January, it was agreed we should form a Steering Committee to research and recommend ways to move this initiative forward.
Ten congregational leaders have agreed to serve as Steering Committee members. They are focusing on improving the way our congregations educate, collaborate and coordinate for community service. They have met twice already and are working diligently to:
- Create vision, mission, and guiding principles;
- Explore how other cities are tackling these issues;
- Kicking off task forces to develop materials and processes to help congregational leaders as they lead and engage their congregations in this initiative; and
- Setting up meetings and communication tools to invite all city congregations to participate.
Most recently the Steering Committee selected Empower Sioux Falls as our name. In addition, they announced that The Sioux Falls Ministry Center has blessed us with $25,000 in start-up funds for system development and up to 15 hours per week of administrative support!
So, we are underway!!! Thank you for praying for wisdom and discernment … and for beginning in depth conversations within your leadership teams about this opportunity. We will do our best to update you regularly on what we learn through our research and invite your input and feedback as we progress towards a recommendation.
P.S.: Thank you for sharing our new website: http://empowersiouxfalls.com with your partners in ministry who would value this opportunity!