SIOUX CITY | Chris Ver Steeg is in the process of establishing a brand new church in Sioux City, with the help of a team of people that have faith in him and his vision.
Ver Steeg, a Sioux City resident and a pastor for 14 years, conducted the first services of his Elevate Community Church last Sunday. The church does not yet have a house of worship to call its own, so Ver Steeg preaches in a large room in the Siouxland Center for Active Generations, 313 Cook St.
About 300 attended the first services on Sunday, the first in a series of monthly services that will continue through 2017. Beginning in January, they'll become weekly services.
"This is really my first experience of launching a church," Ver Steeg said. Before this, he was on staff at Sunnybrook Community Church in Sioux City.
The church found the space it occupies through a member of its launch team, who happened to be on the board of directors at the center.
"He called me up and said, 'Hey, you need to come check out the Siouxland Center for Active Generations,' and my initial thought was, 'Eh, I don't know, it kind of sounds like a nursing home,'" Ver Steeg said. "We came and checked it out, and walked in here, and I was like, 'Wow, they've really done a nice job of remodeling this place, and it's not what I expected it to be.'"
So, impressed as he was with the space, the church found a home. It may be a bit early to talk about finding its own space, Ver Steeg said, given that they haven't even started weekly services.
"We're taking this journey one step at a time," he said.
'Grow in their faith'
An abbreviated motto of the new church, which is nondenominational, is "Know, Grow, Go," Ver Steeg said.
"Elevate Community Church exists to help people know Jesus Christ, grow in their faith and go make a difference in the world," he said.
Not belonging to a synod or any other formal grouping of churches, Ver Steeg said, gives Elevate Community Church a lot of room to do its own thing.
"If you get attached to a denomination, right away you kind of begin to exclude people," Ver Steeg said. "People go, 'Well, if I'm not Lutheran, I can't go to that church. If I'm not Baptist, I can't go to that church.' We want to present a church that's open to anybody and everybody."
So, rather than go by rules set by a group of churches, Elevate Community Church is governed by a board called a "consistory," made up of six people who make the rules for the church.
Ver Steeg said there were a number of different signals that told him a new church was needed.
"I think God's been preparing me to maybe lead a church," he said. "We've had some friends come to us, and just say, 'Hey Chris, you should think about starting a church.' We've visited multiple other different churches in town and just recognized that there's probably room for another thriving church in Sioux City. Ultimately, my wife and I, along with some close friends, spent a lot of time praying about it and just felt like God was opening a door."
Sioux City is a place, Ver Steeg said, where too many people remain "unchurched" -- not affiliated with a church, or not religious in general.
Sensing this, Ver Steeg hopes his church can reach those people and bring them into the fold.
"I'm not called to judge people, I'm not called to change people, I'm called to love people," he said. "It's God's job to change people."
The church is trying to reach out to two groups of people -- college students and those in the neighborhood.
"College is a place in life where a lot of people walk away from their faith," Ver Steeg said.
The church already has a man in the trenches, on campus -- Ethan Stofferan, a clinical assistant at CNOS in Dakota Dunes and the church's college ministry director.
His role in the church, he said, will involve leading Bible study sessions for college students.
Even though college may constitute several years of non-religious behavior for most students, Stofferan said ministry has a place on campus.
"If you talk about Jesus, he goes into some of the craziest places on Earth," Stofferan said.
Elevate Community Church will hold services at the Siouxland Center for Active Generations on October 1 at 10 a.m.