EDITOR’S NOTE: In recognition of the SBC’s October emphasis on the Cooperative Program, Baptist Press will provide readers with extra news and information detailing the scope and depth of the Cooperative Program and its impact for the Kingdom. Using vignettes and profiles of churches and individuals, as well as historical and ongoing accounts, our intent is to explain the Cooperative Program not just as a funding channel but as one of the critical ties that bind Southern Baptists in voluntary fellowship for cooperative ministries and missions.
GRANITE FALLS, N.C. (BP)–Dudley Shoals Baptist Church goes with the “tried and true.” This is true in Sunday School and in its Cooperative Program giving.
Seeing the need to reach the families in two local trailer parks, each a mile from the church in Granite Falls, N.C., church members took Sunday School “on the road.”
The church built small “children’s chapels” in each trailer park and brought Sunday School to the children. On Sundays, adult teachers lead the Bible Study for up to 50 children before bringing them to the main church campus for “big church.” The church has baptized 30 children through the outreach.
Using Sunday School as an outreach tool is a time-tested strategy, pastor Ronald Winkler said. “It still works.”
Going with what works also is why Dudley Shoals Baptist Church gives 25 percent of its undesignated receipts to missions through the Cooperative Program.
“The Cooperative Program is the lifeblood of our church,” Winkler said of the way state conventions in the Southern Baptist Convention work together the Acts 1:8 way — supporting local, regional, national and international missions and ministries.
Winkler credits a strong missions education program as the driving force behind their missions giving and their mission service. The church has an active Woman’s Missionary Union as well as Acteens, Royal Ambassadors (RAs) and Girls in Action (GAs) programs.
Winkler also credits the 32-year pastoral leadership of his predecessor — Donald Ingle — for building the church’s steady commitment to missions. Winkler stepped into the senior pastor position five years ago after serving as the church’s associate pastor.
A decade of children’s chapel Sunday School has produced tangible results. The parents of the children are invited to participate and have been touched with the Gospel as well, Winkler said.
A Wednesday evening Bible study also takes place at the children’s chapels.
Crime had been a problem in the trailer parks prior to the opening of the children’s chapels. The high rate of resident turnover and the number of broken homes in the trailer parks made them an unstable environment.
A drop in crime after the children’s program began prompted the local sheriff’s office to thank the church for its contribution in stabilizing the community.
Other Dudley Shoals mission projects include the distribution of Bibles and ministries at a women’s shelter and a local prison.
The church’s successful children’s chapels, local mission projects, national and international mission trips have fueled its passion for missions, Winkler said. Nearly 40 percent of the church budget is dedicated to missions giving and missions service.
“We try always to keep missions before our people,” Winkler said. “We are growing up a generation to be involved in missions.”
Four young men in the church are preparing for the ministry, three of whom are enrolled at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C., where tuition is supported in part by Cooperative Program funds.
Randy Smith, who recently joined the church staff as director of ministries, and his wife Debbie served as career International Mission Board missionaries. Winkler said the church is anticipating Smith’s leadership in involving more members in short-term international mission trips.
International mission service projects under consideration by the church are designed to appeal to, and involve, a broad range of membership, including retirees and farmers.
Winkler said mission trips help members understand the importance of giving through the Cooperative Program as well as giving them an opportunity to see the work that Cooperative Program dollars accomplish.
“Letting people see the results of what we give is motivating,” Winkler said.
The church’s many years of commitment to the Cooperative Program have not always been easy.
“In spite of difficulties, we still gave to the Cooperative Program,” Winkler said. “Supporting missions is what we are commanded to do.”
Marilyn Stewart is a freelance writer and member of Edgewater Baptist Church in New Orleans.