a conversation with Bolen on Jackson Leadership Foundation

Although still in its infancy, the Jackson Leadership Foundation is already making a difference in the capital city. Samuel Bolen, the group’s executive director, recently spoke to Sun Senior Staff Writer Anthony Warren about the foundation and its efforts to better equip people for the ministry in the inner-city. Bolen is a graduate of the University of Mississippi Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College and holds bachelor’s degrees in psychology and religious studies. The Madison resident and his wife, Hallie, have two sons, with a third one on the way. The Jackson Leadership Foundation was founded in September 2018.

How are things going since the group was founded?

“They’re going great. We are supporting three ministries in some of Jackson’s under-resourced communities. Our purpose is to support those ministry leaders and help them grow as leaders and grow their ministries. We believe if our under-resourced communities are going to see spiritual and economic transformation, the individuals in those communities will lead the way. We want to give those leaders the support they need to thrive.”

What types of ministries do you serve?

“We serve one ministry in South Jackson that works with children and adults who are homeless or at-risk of being homeless. Another one serves North and West Jackson and works with youth through the sport of baseball. The third ministry we serve works all over the city to train church leaders in low-income areas to better reach out to the community that’s surrounding them.”

I know Jackson Leadership Foundation is still a young group, but how do you gauge success?

“Our main goal is to help ministry leaders grow as leaders and grow their ministries. We track growth data, such as how many board members they have, how many board members they were able to add in the past year, how much their annual budget has grown, whether the amount of support they have has grown, and how much of an increase they see in volunteers.”

What have been the results so far?

“One of our ministries, Bridging the Gap Outreaching Ministries, when we started partnering with them, it was literally an idea in the head of the founder. The founder came to us and said, ‘I have an idea for a ministry that could affect all of Jackson. I don’t know how to pull it off.’ We helped the founder add board members, raise support, develop a strategic plan, develop programs and program curriculum. We’ve seen an organization go from an idea in a head to a thriving organization.

“With another ministry, God’s Haven, which serves the homeless and at-risk for being homeless, she needed help growing the organization to the scale of her vision. We helped her put together a 10-member board, helped her organize the program so she could more effectively minister and helped her think through a fundraising strategy. We helped her put together a budget. Now she has a budget and a treasurer who assists her … She’s getting ready to start a summer camp, which will serve over 100 girls in South Jackson. She’s done (the camp) for seven years and it’s never been fully funded. Now, it’s fully funded for the first time ever.

“With our third ministry, Full Count Baseball Ministries, we’ve helped it add board members, add volunteers and add donors, and that ministry has been able to add a second baseball team.”

So, Jackson Leadership Foundation is a ministry incubator?

“That’s one thing we do, yes. If someone in the city says, ‘hey, I’ve got an idea for a ministry. I feel led to do this,’ and it’s a realistic vision that has potential, we are a place where they can come and say, ‘This is a dream of mine. Will you consider taking me on as a partner to make my vision a reality?’ ”

Eventually the goal is for these ministries to operate on their own.

“Absolutely. There may never be a day where we stop partnering with a ministry, but to set growth measures where a ministry leader is doing so well that they don’t need us anymore.”

Who’s idea was it to start the foundation?

“The idea for the Jackson Leadership Foundation came from Dr. John Perkins. Dr. Perkins lives in West Jackson and is known nationally for his work in the areas of Christian community development and civil rights. He introduced the concept of the Jackson Leadership Foundation to a group of pastors and business leaders in Jackson.”

What is your annual budget?

“For 2020, we’re trying to raise $150,000. For 2019, it was $115,000. Our fiscal year is the calendar year.”

So, what’s on tap for the rest of this year? And, what are your plans for the upcoming year?

“When we started in late September 2018, we wanted to start intentionally slow. We started with three partners – three ministries in town. We said, ‘Let’s serve these ministries really well. Then, we’ll add a ministry at a time, slowly, so we can continue to provide quality services to the ministries we’re already serving.’ For 2019, we’ll take it from three to five. We’re currently interviewing two ministries in West Jackson who want to partner with us … By the end of 2020, we want to be able to serve 10 ministries.”

What are some of the biggest challenges for leaders in these under-resourced communities?

“This is the heart of the matter – my whole reason for doing what I do and why Jackson Leadership Foundation exists. We have great leaders in under-resourced areas. Many of our leaders are overwhelmed, under-networked, under-resourced and in need of leadership assistance. We exist to come alongside these leaders, to provide assistance … We had one (leader) come to us recently and said, ‘I feel like I’m in a band and playing every instrument.’ We want to free the leaders up to spend more time doing the ministry and meeting the needs they’re called to meet. The way we want to do that is by providing the services we provide – leadership, organizational and networking support.”

Let’s go into detail about the support you provide. Can you share that with me?

“Some of the services we offer are one-on-one ministry coaching (Every partner of ours gets an assigned ‘ministry champion’ to help that partner stay on track and accomplish their goals.) We offer networking support. If one of our champions says a partner needs $2,000 to fund a summer camp, we want to help that partner network with donors interested in providing that $2,000. We do monthly meetings where we get together and pray together, do teaching on topics related to non-profit leadership, offer accounting support. Right now, we have volunteer bookkeepers who are helping keep books for some of our partners. We offer communications support, grant-writing support, ministry startup support.”

We’ve talked a good bit about the needs of inner-city leaders. What are some of the foundation’s needs?

“We are still a startup organization. We want to network with people who are interested in doing what we’re doing. We want to share our story and grow our team of people who believe in this mission and want to see this happen.”

For more information, log onto www.jacksonleadershipfoundation.org.

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