What’s behind retention at Sunnybrook?
Once people get here, we’ve got to be incredibly caring. In fact, we’ve said we’ve got to go the extra mile. It’s not enough to just say we’re going to be a friendly church but we’re actually going to escort new people from place to place. We constantly tell greeters, parking lot attendants and other volunteers to go just a little bit further.
How exactly do they do that?
So the down and dirty of it…when a parking lot attendant sees someone park in one of our 15 to 20 visitor parking spaces, then someone inside knows to come meet them and stay with them. Get their kids to the nursery. Help them figure out where the restrooms are. Keep an eye on them throughout the day. They know where they’ve been sitting during the service, so after the service, make sure to introduce them to several people in the lobby, get a cup of coffee.
What happens after guests visit that first time?
We really make people take the time to fill out a card. We give them an incentive with a coffee mug, and we follow up from there. There’s a letter sent. We actually have people that make phone calls to visitors. And we’ve set up Willow’s section ministry, too. So, we’ve got a leader over a section of 50 to100 people. They make connections. Get names. Do follow up and parties and gatherings so people want to come back. We do Experience Sunnybrook once a month—it’s a half-hour tour of the facility where people can see who we are and meet the staff. There are also small groups, support groups, Divorce Care, Celebrate Recovery, Financial Peace [University], singles and parenting ministries—just a lot of entry points for people.
What’s been your biggest challenge?
Well, this is a declining area. It’s an old stockyard town. The population of Sioux City is on a downward trend. So, what I see is that it’s very family-oriented. If you grew up here, even though you may move away, you’ll eventually come back. Families and relationships are very tight and valued here. We’ve tried to operate in that context. But it’s traditional in its nature, so it’s been hard to break into. A contemporary church comes to town and is doing things differently than the rest of the churches—not really a good thing initially. So, it was overcoming some of those barriers. Really it’s taken nothing but time. It’s about knowing that we’re going to be here, knowing that we’re true to our word—that we’re going to do what we say we’re going to do.
In what ways have you been true to your word?
We try to serve as much as we can. We have tons of work days in the community, partnering with a lot of agencies, and it means a lot to people. Somehow we connected with the mayor and now we’re his contact when he hears of a disabled person in need. So, when someone needs a wheelchair ramp at a house, we’re the ones who build it. The other thing; we built a large, new building and there was a lot of construction over the past three years. So, we’ve been working with halfway houses, employing people from there to be on our construction teams. Our executive pastor has the philosophy that we pay $1,000 up front and they work it off, and that has created a lot of loyalty. We’ve seen a lot of life change. All six people we hired now attend Sunnybrook. In fact, two are now working in maintenance, and one of the women is leading our Celebrate Recovery ministry.
SUNNYBROOK COMMUNITY CHURCH
Sioux City, Iowa
Senior Pastor: Jeff Moes
Affiliation: Reformed Church in America
AN OUTREACH 100 CHURCH
No. 54 Fastest-Growing
Weekend Attendance: 1,796
20-30 visitor cards filled out each week; 10% annual growth
—Interview by Heather Schnese