River Community Church is led by a plurality of elders, who are assisted by deacons. Some elders are paid, and for clarity sake, we call them pastors. However, in keeping with scripture, we regard all elders as pastors and all pastors as elders. Deacons function to help serve the church’s practical needs (benevolence, building concerns, technology, programs, events, etc.), enabling the elders to focus more time and energy toward the Word, prayer, shepherding and leading. Below is our team of pastors, elders and deacons.
Pastor/Elder – Andy Wright
I grew up in a Christian family on a small farm outside Wentworth, SD and placed my faith in Christ at an early age. During most of my formative years, I participated in a gospel-loving church called West Center Baptist in Madison, SD. After graduating from Rutland High School, I attended South Dakota State University for a year and then moved on to Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, where I graduated with a Bible/Theology degree. After graduation, I moved to Hartford, SD and served as a student pastor while I attended North American Baptist Seminary in Sioux Falls. In 2006, shortly after graduating from seminary, my wife Megan and I moved to Dell Rapids to help plant River Community Church.
I love sharing Christ, helping people grow in their relationship to Christ, planting churches and raising up, training and sending out pastors and missionaries into the mission field regionally and globally.
My wife and I have 5 children: Margaret, Judah, Gabby, Josie and Abraham. I love to spend time with my family, hike, hunt, fish, play sports and read. If you’d like to contact me, feel free to call the office or send me a message to firstname.lastname@example.org
Pastor/Elder – Ryan Franchuk
I trusted Christ for salvation at a young age and was baptized by my father when I was eight. I am blessed with an incredible mom and dad who taught me the Bible and have modeled discipleship to Jesus for my whole life. The local church has been massive in my life, pouring love and grace and support into me and providing a place to grow. I’m grateful to God for the churches of my childhood (Calvary Baptist, Carrington, ND), college (Metropolitan Baptist, Fargo, ND), and seminary years (First Baptist, Emery, SD). I’m grateful for the faithful men and women of those churches whom God used and keeps using to form me.
I am married to Sallie and we have 3 children, Adoniram, Ezra, and Evangeline. We live in Baltic, SD and love that community. I love getting to preach and teach at River Community Church. I also serve as a director for the Timothy Pastoral Apprenticeship, a radically church-centered theological training program. I like reading, backpacking, fishing, roasting coffee, and trying to make stuff on a lathe.
I was born in 1985 in Portland, Oregon and was raised in Grove, Oklahoma and lived there until I was 25. I lived in spiritual darkness until the summer of 2006. I thought that I was “saved” at a young age but it wasn’t until I heard about what a Christian really was that God opened my eyes and radically saved me. I was not raised in church but had Christian grandparents who loved me and prayed for me.
I am by nature a shy and timid person and naturally had no aspirations for pastoral ministry when I became a Christian. But over time God has changed my desires as he has opened more doors to serve him. I love about everything that has to do with the Bible and evangelism.
In 2012 I met my wife Miranda and in 2013 we were married. She is a city girl from Europe and married a small town boy from Oklahoma. We have one child, a little girl named Scarlet. We lived in Owensboro Kentucky before we moved here to Join RCC and to be a part of the Timothy Pastoral Apprenticeship.
Jason spends his time at River Community Church teaching Sunday School, Wednesday night classes, occasionally preaching and doing many other things to bless our church.
Elder – Toby Pulscher
Toby put his faith in Jesus Christ as a youth. He preaches occasionally at RCC, teaches on Wednesday nights and is a regular member of our 6am Monday men’s Bible study. He is also a part of our building renovation committee. Toby provides kind and thoughtful leadership to RCC.
Toby is an engineer at Daktronics in Brookings, SD. He is married to Laura Jean and they have 3 children: Malcolm, Oliver and Mercedes. Laura Jean spent several years as our music coordinator before being diagnosed with ALS. Toby and Laura Jean are battling ALS with faith and courage and have set remarkable examples for our congregation.
Toby loves things like soccer, dirt biking and juggling.
Paul came to Christ as an adult. He served as the very first non-paid elder at River Community Church. Paul preaches occasionally, teaches on Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights, plays bass guitar and helps lead our worship services, and is on the building renovation committee. Many people in our congregation look up to Paul as an example of what it looks like to be a godly husband and father. He has helped guide our church through many leaps of faith over the years.
Paul is the founder and owner of a company called FlagShooter. Paul loves to hunt, fish, play cards, invent things and take road trips with his family.
Paul is married to Anita and they have 4 kids: Henri, Jasper, Evelyn and Ida.
Elder – Matt Larson
I grew up in a Christian home in Mellette, SD. I attended church and Sunday School on a regular basis which led to attending Youth Groups though middle school and high school years, and teaching Sunday School as well. While I grew up in a church-setting, I had a mis-conception of the Christian life much of my childhood and early adolescent years. I had the thought that I attended church, I believed in God, and because of that nothing bad was going to happen to me and I was going to “live the good life”. It wasn’t until almost hitting rock bottom between the ages of 16-20 that I truly began to see what being a Christian was all about. I can’t tell you an exact date/time that I was converted. I don’t have one of those 180-degree life-changing conversion stories, but what I can say is that from around the age of 20-21 through now I’ve been growing in my Christian walk and having a stronger relationship with the Lord by His grace and mercy.
I’ve been blessed beyond what I deserve with two healthy and active boys and a beautiful bride that encourages me and makes me want to be a stronger Christian man each and every day. We have been attending River Community Church almost since the church began, and I undoubtedly have grown as a Christian because of the church….either through sermons, Bible Studies, or just every day conversations with the church family. I love being a part of RCC and this group of believers who encourage and love one another…and show me through examples of their lives of what a Christian is, so that I can learn and grow even more. I’m a firm believer that no matter how long we’ve been a Christian, we can always learn to be stronger all of our lives.
Outside of being a deacon at RCC, I work full time as a computer programmer/analyst for Citibank. In my free time I own and operate Big Sioux Media, am President of the Dell Rapids Little League, follow my two boys around to all of their activities (they love the sports!), and God-willing am creating an example for my boys of what it is to be a Christian man.
Deacon – Bart Blake
I was born premature on Oct 28 1964. The firstborn of identical twins by 8 minutes. I have 2 sisters and four brothers. We didn’t attend church or Sunday school when I was growing up. I became a believer and accepted Jesus Christ as my personal savior when I was forty years old.
I have been married to my beautiful wife Kathy for 5 and a half years. together we have 6 grown children and 3 wonderful Grandchildren. God has been so Good to us and we Love our Church Family at River Community.
I recently became interested in music and have enjoyed teaching myself to play the guitar even though this can be difficult when you are older it still brings me joy to learn. I also fabricated a banjo and have started teaching myself to play this as well.
I like working on antique and vintage cars and I have a appreciation for motorcycles as well. Spending time with family and friends is important to Kathy and I, we both have a passion for prison ministry as well as short term missions trips.
Deacon – Kathy Blake
I didn’t grow up in a Christian home, I remember randomly attending Church for special occasions. I do remember one time getting dressed up and singing a solo as a young girl at a Christmas program in a Church we would attend once in awhile.
I am married to the most incredible man and I believe if you are faithful and wait on God’s timing he will answer your prayers. Bart and I have been married five plus years and we have five children between us. Zach is our oldest son and his wife is Laura, Kayla is our second oldest and she and her husband Jarrod have blessed us with 3 amazing grandchildren, Emma, Addyson and Jordan. Kendall is our next oldest and she has recently completed her college education and is working as a counselor in Sioux Falls. Nick is the next in line and he lives and works in Sioux Falls, Aaron is our baby and he recently completed his schooling at Lake Area Vo-Tech in Watertown and lives and works in Sioux Falls. We also have a son we lovingly have accepted as one of our own and his name in Trevor, he lives in Brookings SD. Each of our children has a very unique personality and our hope for our family is that they come to know Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior.
Bart introduced me to the motorcycle world, which included an organization called the Christian Motorcyclist Association. This ministry is very important to Bart and myself, as we love to share the good news of Jesus Christ! We have met so many incredible people through this ministry.
We absolutely love River Community Church and look forward to each Sunday to fellowship with our church family. Bart and I knew right away that this was the Church for us, as we felt spiritually fed by what we heard. We recently got involved with the missions trips to Ft. Thompson and love this ministry, it is so rewarding to show God’s love to those in need.
In my spare time I love to create things out of just about anything I can get my hands on. I have also taken up a new hobby in music and enjoy the Q-Chord and just recently played on our worship team at Church. I also enjoy cooking and I love to serve others.
Deacon/Treasurer – Amber Larson
I was first introduced to our Lord by my special grandmother. I grew up attending services with her and enjoyed learning together with several friends in youth group and Sunday school. I grew up surrounded by the Word and felt the Lord’s influence in my life.
Later, God blessed me with a loving, Christian husband. While living in Madison, SD, we attended services at West Center Baptist Church. After moving to Dell Rapids in 2005, we continued to attend West Center, until they encouraged us to visit River Community Church. We love being part of a body of believers that is Bible saturated and lead by the truth of the scriptures. I have been greatly strengthened in my Christian walk and knowledge of the Word through the messages delivered by the great leaders of RCC, Life Group discussions, and women’s Bible studies. I am truly blessed to serve as treasurer.
My husband and I have two boys who keep us busy with sports and other activities. We yearn to grow them into Christian men and are blessed by the influence of other great parents in the church. During the day, I work as an accountant. In my free time, I enjoy reading, scrapbooking, and spending time with family and friends. I also enjoy serving on the DR Community VBS board, where we teach 200+children of the Word of God.
Deacons – Nate and Sarah Sommerfeld
Nate and Sarah have been a part of River Community Church from almost the very beginning, and they both do many, many things behind the scenes are RCC. They have 2 children: Bryce and Leah.
Nate periodically teaches on Wednesdays and Sundays, helps maintain the building, and is always quick to lend a helping hand to anyone who is need.
Nate works for Wells Fargo and also serves as an EMT. Nate and his son Bryce are avid hunters and enjoy working on vehicles together.
Sarah is a huge part of our worship ministry, spent years teaching children at RCC, she coordinates the cleaning rotation for our church building (which both Nate and Sarah are on), she coordinates care for people who are in crisis and spends considerable time counseling and discipling women.
After a career in nursing, Sarah is now a stay-at-home mom and homeschools her children. Sarah loves music, animals and canning vegetables. And the entire Sommerfeld family loves to camp on the weekends.
Deacon – Donna Bunkers
I became a Christian late in life, at the age of 30. I was born in Los Angeles, California, but I moved all around the country with my family. My mother was killed in a car accident when I was seven years old. I was raised by a godly grandmother. At age 20 I came to Dell Rapids to teach. A year later I married Henry “Hank” Bunkers. We have 3 sons and 12 grandchildren and 13 great grandchildren. Hank went home to the Lord in 2012. Since the Lord is my Shepherd, I follow Him and listen for His voice. He is my treasure, and He is fully trustworthy. To make Him known through the study and reading of scripture is my passion. Loving and serving people is important to me also. RCC is very much alive with young families and older Christians too. We welcome anyone to come and worship our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.