Katie Eubanks: What is Jackson Leadership Foundation?
Samuel Bolen: We are a ministry to ministries. Our desire is to work with ministry leaders in Jackson to help (them) grow as leaders, and grow their ministries to the scale of the vision that God has given them, all for the purpose of being able to transform lives in their community.
Our mission statement is, we’re seeking social, spiritual and economic transformation in Jackson’s under-resourced communities through the empowerment of leaders, development of ministries, and networking of volunteers and donors.
Our goal is to identify the leaders who are engaging Jackson’s communities and to ensure that they are getting the support they need.
KE: How did this come about?
SB: In March 2016, I had breakfast with Dr. John Perkins of the John and Vera Mae Perkins Foundation, and proposed a problem to him. … Jackson is filled with incredible ministry leaders … but (it seemed they) did not have a place they could go to get the support they needed to ensure they are well-equipped, well-networked and well-resourced.
There was also a need to engage individuals, families, churches and businesses in our resourced communities in the Jackson metro area to help them find ways to use their time, talent and treasure strategically to come alongside of these ministry leaders.
Dr. Perkins said, “I want you to meet a guy.” A few weeks later I’m going to Memphis to meet Larry Lloyd, the founder and president of the Memphis Leadership Foundation. He’d take us to ministry after ministry in Memphis and introduce us to leaders. It was obvious that these leaders were really well equipped. And I found it interesting that all these leaders (said), “We had a vision for the community, we opened a ministry for the community … And it was because of our partnership with Memphis Leadership Foundation that we were able truly to take the vision we have in our hearts and grow … ”
I had never seen, up until that point, a ministry that existed to serve other ministry leaders.
About a year later, I had coffee with David Hardin, who at the time was the local missions pastor at Pinelake. And I pitched the idea to David of starting a leadership foundation in Jackson. (He said) “I’ve been serving ministries in Jackson for over a decade. I’ve mobilized thousands of people to serve in the city of Jackson. If we can get a leadership foundation off the ground in Jackson, it’ll be the greatest thing I’ve ever done for the city.”
That was such an impactful statement for me to hear. I thought, “OK, I’m not crazy.”
So we got together a team that helped launch JLF in late 2017. It was not until May 2018 that we realized hey, we’re ready to hire a staff member … So I left my job at Broadmoor Baptist Church in Madison in September 2018 and came into an empty office with about four months (of capital) in the bank.
KE: What kinds of ministries and leaders do y’all work with?
SB: We want to work with essentially any ministry leader serving in an under-resourced community in Jackson. This could be a church, this could be a parachurch or a community ministry, this could be an unincorporated ministry, maybe a group of people who are just out serving.
We are currently serving 11 ministries. Our plan all along has been to grow rather slowly. We want to ensure that if we take on a ministry partner to serve, that we are able to provide that ministry with what (it) needs.
Among the 11 ministries we serve are God’s Haven, which serves children and adults in south Jackson; HIS Heart Ministries, which focuses on serving families in west Jackson; Soul City Church, who is serving the community of Midtown; Red Door Jackson, which is an excellent mentoring and family ministry in Fondren; Full Count Baseball, a baseball ministry in the Broadmoor community; and you can check out the full list on our website.
KE: Could you give me some examples of the kind of work these ministries do?
SB: We work with leaders who are addressing a range of topics, from housing to employment, education, discipleship and evangelism, trafficking, homelessness, meeting emergency needs, parenting — even sports and recreation.
KE: What is one of the biggest or most common problems that y’all help ministry leaders with?
SB: I think the most common issue that we see is that the demands of leadership are just incredibly vast, and we want to help a leader be able to manage those demands — from leading a board, to overseeing financials, recruiting donors and volunteers, ensuring the ministry has all its policies and procedures in place, its legal filings in place, and also helping the ministry leader as he or she meets the needs of the community that he or she serves each day.
KE: What specific services do y’all offer?
SB: Our three service areas are capacity-building, volunteer and donor connection, (and) collaborative ministry initiatives.
Capacity-building services include leadership coaching, leadership training, ministry health assessments, (and) any as-needed consulting and training.
With our collaborative initiatives, it’s a place for ministries who are unincorporated or who have a dream for ministry but don’t have a place to go to get their dream launched. So a ministry leader can bring their ministry under our 501(c)(3) umbrella and operate as an initiative of JLF, with the intent that one day the leader would spin off and form his or her own 501(c)(3), or that leader can stay under our umbrella as long as they so choose. The benefit of offering that opportunity is that we handle much of the executive leadership functions. We provide back-office support services so the leader can focus more on the programming aspect. We also provide some in-depth assistance (with) planning, networking and ministry growth.
KE: Do y’all charge ministry leaders for your services?
SB: At the moment, we don’t. There will be a point, we believe, though, where we will eventually need to charge something. We’ve always made it a point to communicate regularly with our ministry partners … We tell them, “We’re not charging now, but there may be a point where we need to, in order to ensure you’re served well.” They’re very aware of that.
KE: If and when y’all do start charging for services, and a certain ministry can’t afford those fees, what would happen then?
SB: We would work to find donors who could sponsor that particular ministry’s involvement. We also would work with the ministry to see if there are ways that we can help this ministry grow (to) where they can afford the services.
KE: What kind of results do y’all see when you’re able to help Jackson ministry leaders?
SB: We’ve seen leaders who have been able to grow strong leadership teams, volunteer teams, to bring on more donors, more church and business partners. We’ve been able to see more needs being met in the communities our partners serve — whether it is a need of a particular family in the community, or it is a need of the actual ministry.
(Just a few weeks ago) we had a ministry leader who has a beautiful old bed and breakfast that she is transforming into an emergency shelter. She’d been unable to advance on that project because she needed to get an electrician in to do the wiring, which requires a lot of manpower and cost. We were able to connect this leader with someone who felt particularly passionate about this project and who donated the funds. So we got pictures this week of the lights being turned on.
KE: Besides donating to JLF or the ministries you serve, how else can people get involved?
SB: If they want to volunteer with one of our ministries, they can hop on our website and click the “Volunteer” button to see opportunities available. If they want to donate to JLF, they can do that on our website. If they want to donate to one of our ministries, we have listed our partners on our website, along with their websites they can go to and donate.
They are more than welcome to donate to JLF and designate it as a gift to JLF’s ministry partners, and we’ll make sure those donations go to the greatest places of need among the ministries.
KE: Would a ministry ever “roll off” of JLF’s services after getting to a better place organizationally?
SB: Yes, we might have a ministry who goes through our capacity-building program and somewhat completes that, and may not need the concentrated capacity-building services we offer (anymore). However, we always want a ministry to stay on our volunteer connection platform. That would be an ongoing thing.
KE: What is JLF’s ultimate vision for Jackson? What’s the end goal?
SB: We envision a Jackson filled with thriving, well-equipped, well-networked, and well-resourced ministries that are spiritually and economically transforming Jackson’s under-resourced communities. We envision the church in the metro area working together to give Jackson’s ministry leaders the support they need to transform their community.
KE: Anything else you want to mention?
SB: When people look at JLF, we really want to point people past us … to see the heroic leaders we serve, who are boots on the ground, serving the community. We really just want to be a beacon, a voice for these superheroes in our community.
Jackson Leadership Foundation can be contacted through JacksonLeadershipFoundation.org or at P.O. Box 4671, Jackson, MS 39296.
JLF in action: Red Door Jackson
Red Door Jackson mentors kids in K-12th grades in metro Jackson. Executive Director Emily Hardin says one of the biggest ways Jackson Leadership Foundation has helped Red Door is by providing “incredible networking opportunities,” including through a federal grant, which has connected her organization with other mentoring programs across the country and an online database to track outcomes.
“Another incredible part of JLF is the Ministry Champions (who work one-on-one with each ministry leader),” she says. “The professional development and, really, the pastoral care I’ve received from that, they’ve grown me professionally, (and) it’s been an incredible encouragement to have someone championing me and the ministry and caring for me, you know, as I’m pouring myself out … especially throughout the pandemic. It’s allowed me to not grow weary in doing good.”
Emily’s Ministry Champion? Pastor and leadership coach Dan Hall, who also writes for MCL every other month! (Look for his next column in our April edition.)
Emily also loves experiencing “solidarity with other ministries in Jackson” through JLF, she says. “It’s so refreshing to be with other Christ-followers who love God and love the city.”