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In Wake of Congregations Study, Officials Work to Unify Resources with "Together Springfield"

Springfield Congregations Study
Lindsey Argo

Officials with the Together Springfield initiative, a new, collective approach to community improvement, are gathering the resources needed to hire a director.

Cora Scott, the city’s public information officer, explains that the group of community leaders is currently fundraising to acquire the means to pay for the position.

Together Springfield was first mentioned in conjunction with the release of the Springfield Area Congregations Study (SACS) on September 9th. Researchers Dr. Dan Prater of Drury University and Dr. Catherine Hoegeman and Christina Ryder of Missouri State University combined to deliver the data.

City Manager Greg Burris, among the speakers at the unveiling, explained that city officials have been partaking in a “church tour”.

“We’re working to bring churches together like they have never worked together before,” he said. It is clear, he added, that teamwork is crucial if the community is to achieve its goals, especially concerning poverty.

“The only way this works is if we’re all in this together,” Burris urges. The “collective impact model” of Together Springfield, as Burris puts it, will help unite the tools already present within the community.

SACS focused on understanding the makeup of Springfield-area congregations and highlighting their community involvement. Findings showed a higher density of congregations present in Greene County when compared to other similarly sized counties nationwide.  Of these congregations, 90 percent collaborate with other congregations or community groups.

“Congregations work with other groups in a variety of ways,” explains Hoegeman, “leaders volunteer on boards in community agencies and provide a valuable link between their congregations and the broader community.”

Additionally, it was observed that 91 percent of congregations provide support services for group members, and 88 percent sponsor social service programs for local citizens. The support services seen most often included general benevolence and food pantry assistance, with the highest volunteer activity reported at pregnancy care centers and Victory Mission.

Based on the findings, researchers conclude that, “Religion is an important part of culture in the Springfield-area.” They also see that religious congregations can be a valuable community resource.

“Were doing things in this community that you might just think are natural everywhere, but that’s just not true,” explains Prater.

The Together Springfield initiative is already working with churches of all sizes and of every denomination to forge a collaboration that will positively influence the region. But something is missing, said Burris. 

“It’s time to bring in the coach,” he said, noting that the director of Together Springfield will be responsible for working with and building the connection between various faith groups as well as non-profit organizations.

“Just wait and see what happens next,” Burris enthusiastically stated.

The city’s Cora Scott told KSMU Friday that within the next couple of weeks more information will be available for those interesting in getting involved.

View the entire Springfield Congregations study here.