by Pastor Jonathan Steiner
Director for Evangelical Mission and Associate to the Bishop for Stewardship & Outreach
South Dakota Synod, ELCA
This spring we began using MapDash with FaithX as a tool for our ministry. The South Dakota Synod is the network of roughly 200 Lutheran congregations across the state, and we have a variety of community contexts.
Using these tools has been a blessing for many of our congregations. The first way we are using them is to help congregations have accurate information about their communities when they are searching for a pastor. This helps them have a realistic picture of their context as they get started on that process. We have integrated the infographic and lifestyle index reports as part of our site study.
We have also been using MapDash as a tool for congregations as part of a revitalization strategy. When I meet with congregations, we ask them to take a couple hours to go through all the information in the reports, but then also dig into other areas of interest that they may have. A church with a preschool will want to learn more about child care spending and school data, while a church with a feeding ministry will be much more interested in poverty statistics.
Learning about their community doesn’t immediately give the congregation a vision for their future, but it certainly helps them dream about what their call is. I tell leaders that our call is where the needs of our neighbors meets the blessings we have on hand. FaithX and MapDash help congregations see what is going on around them, and identify where their gifts are needed.
Finally, these tools help us understand our network of congregations more fully. Using data about our own congregations, in addition to all the available information from MapDash, we are able to see opportunities in ministry. Perhaps that area is strong, and we can focus on partnerships, while that area is nearly empty, and so they need to focus on a strong structure in-house.
We are less than a year into our partnership, but we are excited to partner with FaithX for the MapDash tool. It has been a blessing to us and our ministries.