Pastor Jesse Hailey

Pastor Jesse Hailey stands in the recently-renovated sanctuary of the Elk Point Baptist Church.

In the nine years since the congregation was formed, Elk Point Baptist Church has grown from the 28 people who attended their first service to crowds of nearly 100 (pre-COVID). They first met in a suite at East End Plaza that is less than half the size of just their current fellowship hall. Any way you figure it, they’re four times the size that they started.

Pastor Jesse Hailey brought his family to town in 2011, not knowing anyone, just feeling it was the place the Lord meant them to be. Their first contacts around town were through word-of-mouth and door hangers. They outgrew their first space and added the suite next door when Dailey Wash closed. That was soon crowded, too.

They bought land out near Casey’s with the plan to build their own church. Hailey said they are committed to pay cash as they go, with no plans to incur any debt on the facility. Then he heard Elk Point United Parish was moving out of its church on Pearl Street and the Baptists negotiated a deal with them.

Now, the Baptist Church has enough room for all its members, even now when they have to space out.

Hailey said the building is pretty much what they were planning anyhow, except for its beautiful, large kitchen. Congregation members have completed a lot of renovations, including the exterior and sanctuary. They have plans to work on the fellowship hall, bathrooms and entry, with most of the work done by the members. Hailey said it has been neat to see them work, like a diesel mechanic and a guy with an MBA working side by side on a project.

The sanctuary now seats around 100, but they can add chairs in the fellowship hall. That’s helpful for mothers with small children, or people who want to social distance.

“It works so well,” Hailey said. “We’re really, really thankful.”

He said starting this church definitely did not follow the book for new congregations. No one would recommend choosing a small town of 2,000 an hour away from Sioux Falls and 20 minutes from Sioux City and a university city.

Over half of the congregation’s members are from Elk Point, but people drive up from Sioux City, Moville, Dakota City, Sioux Falls, Akron, Vermillion and Jefferson.

“It’s a remarkable thing to think about driving from Sioux City, or through Sioux City to come here,” Hailey said. “There’s hardly a day goes by that I’m not amazed by what the Lord has done. It’s just real humbling.”

See full story in this week’s Leader-Courier.