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Church busting at seams in S.D. credits programs like FAITH

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (BP)–First Southern Baptist Church in Sioux Falls, S.D., has grown in spurts since Robert E. Grimm was called as pastor 20 years ago.

The church was stop No. 39 Sept. 28 on Southern Baptist Convention President Bobby Welch’s bus tour of Southern Baptist churches across the nation, underscoring the cause of evangelism in kicking off “The Everyone Can Kingdom Challenge for Evangelism” campaign which has the goal of “Witness, Win and Baptize … ONE MILLION!” in one year.

“We’re going to change our name, but that will probably dovetail with our new building,” Grimm said. “I don’t think we’re going to take ‘Baptist’ out, but [the new building] is an opportunity to change to something more attractive to people here.”

About 160 people participate in Sunday morning worship at First Southern Sioux Falls. That’s up from 12 when Grimm was called to the church that was started in 1983. The founding pastor led the church to buy a farmhouse and renovate it. Three months later he left.

Within four years of Grimm’s arrival in 1984, the congregation had grown to 70 in their old facility. They built a 10,000 square-foot building on two levels that they have now outgrown. The sanctuary only seats 200, so they’ve gone to two services on Sunday morning.

“We’re debt free,” the pastor said. “That’s what’s making it hard. We have to build, and that is going to require debt. We need worship and education space, bigger space for AWANA, the nursery is too small — everything is too small! Every Sunday is like trying to put a size 10 foot into a size 7 shoe.

“But we’re in a wonderful, fast-growing town of about 125,000 people, and they’re building all around us,” Grimm continued. “There’s no limit. If we get the space, we can grow. The opportunity is there and we’re doing the things we need to do. We’re doing small groups again because we’re short on Sunday School space. We’re doing all we can to reach the different age levels.”

First Southern Sioux Falls has grown as it has caught the vision for various programs endorsed by the Southern Baptist Convention, the pastor said.

“We took 13 people in 1999 to Tampa, [Fla.] for training in the FAITH evangelism strategy,” Grimm said. “Before that we were averaging 70 in Sunday School and 100-110 in worship. We started FAITH in the winter of 2000 and everything exploded in growth.”

The church had been baptizing perhaps 15 people a year; since FAITH was implemented, that has more than doubled, the pastor said.

“We average 90-100 on Sunday evenings, in an area [where] most churches don’t have evening services,” Grimm said. “AWANA went from 50 to 125. Stewardship — our budget five years ago before FAITH was $144,000 and last year it was $219,000.”

Then came the “40 Days of Purpose” campaign.

“We did 40 Days of Purpose last fall and in those eight weeks grew to 142 in Sunday School, plus 21 home groups and averaged 173 in them. And of course worship went through the roof, near 180,” Grimm said. “You build on each surge. We’re a much stronger church as a result of 40 Days. We have implemented the Purpose-Driven Church model that focuses on worship, fellowship, discipleship, evangelism and ministry.

“It has renewed our vision,” he said. The church allocates 14 percent of its budget for missions — 8 percent to the Cooperative Program, Southern Baptists’ acclaimed method of pooling mission dollars for maximum global impact.

The missions part of the budget also includes direct missions support for missionaries in Mali, Africa and Jordan, plus local ministries like Alpha Health Services, a crisis pregnancy center, the Gideons and South Dakota Family Policy Council.

The church’s positive response to growth and change was evidenced recently as they called Scott Grimm, the pastor’s son, to be full-time associate pastor in charge of worship and student ministries.

“One of the reasons we’re growing is that we put people in places where they’re gifted and not just a warm body filling a spot,” the pastor said. “We have great worship and the ministry of the Word is central here. I believe that staying the course here for 20 years as pastor is starting to pay off.”