Christian leaders have found that mission work starts with the Church, not a church, in Sisseton.
Parents in the town of 2,500 agreed that the youths of the community needed a positive focus, but old-style “denominational segregation” had kept that from happening until a meeting of the Impact World Tour movement in the spring of 2013 aimed to overcome those limitations, and a group of adults banded together to make it happen locally.
“Families of youth were coming to us and saying that we need to do something with our youth,” said Lori Moen, chief operating officer of GrowSD. “They were seeing more signs of frustration … or lack of activity or lack of involvement in the community. … We, as parents—or as community leaders—needed to step up to the plate. … We just decided that it needed to be done, and (we) … had to look outside the walls of the church, and look at the walls of the community.”
So, a group of adults from seven Sisseton churches tore down the centuries-old walls that had divided Catholics, Lutherans, Baptists and other churches to discuss nondenominational evangelization efforts toward the community’s youths.
“If we’re truly doing our mission as we say we’re going to do, then we need to let down some of those barriers that we put up. … The ultimate focus was to bring the Word,” she said.
From those discussions, the group birthed yoUthNITE, a monthly Wednesday evening gathering of Sisseton’s teens for fellowship and informal Christian teaching. Members of the group’s steering committee meet a week in advance of each yoUthNITE to plan that month’s menu, message, music and entertainment or activity. Feedback from the youths also is considered in making decisions, although the adults have made it clear that some ideas are not permissible. The group meets at the local senior center. And, as an unexpected opportunity, the community’s 20- to 40-year-olds, who typically are not very involved in community action, are taking interest in chaperoning each month’s events.
“Maybe that’s what’s going to help me … (get) them to become active in town,” Moen said.
She added that the development of yoUthNITE is a reminder of how change tends to happen in rural America.
“You have a few key people in the community who are determined to make that project a success,” she said. “When we’re changing our mindsets, those are pioneering efforts … looking at some of those ideas that are outside the box.”
That outside-the-box thinking has helped bring Sisseton’s Christian community under one theoretical roof.
“I think they are looking at their beliefs and how they have a lot of similarities,” Moen said.
And the group is committed to continuing its mission.
“If it’s the structure of the organization that’s hindering us from going forward, we’re not going to let that be a hindrance. We’re going to move forward and do our mission,” said Moen. “I have a sign hanging in my office that says, ‘You must make a choice to make a chance, or your world will never change,’ and I think that’s so true.”