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Fund-raising program enables congregation to reach people

ZUNI, Va. (BP)–“If we build it, they will come” is not the growth strategy at Tucker Swamp Baptist Church in Zuni, Va.
Instead, leaders realized, “They are coming; we must build.”
Rising out of the agricultural fields of a quiet rural community stands a church facility any city would be pleased to claim. The unusual setting for the urban-looking church is off the main road between a cornfield and a cotton patch. Last fall, pastor Steve Bradshaw was the only full-time staff member, though a search committee was looking for an associate pastor.
Located between Richmond and Norfolk, the quiet area might cause the casual observer to wonder where so many church members could live. After all, the town does not even have a traffic light.
Bradshaw explains that many of the area’s city dwellers are moving to the country. New housing developments are being created in or near Zuni (pronounced zoon-eye), and other area towns are gaining in population. Members come to Tucker Swamp Baptist Church from a 30-mile radius. A 10-mile circle does not encompass half the membership.
While many SBC churches are found in similar circumstances, Tucker Swamp has demonstrated unusual vision and vitality.
In 1993, recalls Bradshaw, the congregation of approximately 370 knew it needed additional space. Four years earlier, when he became pastor, membership was 261.
Without savings earmarked for expansion, a campaign was needed to accumulate funds for a new sanctuary and education space. In fact, some initial disagreement over which space should be built first was resolved when discussion shifted toward both, building the new sanctuary and retrofitting the old sanctuary for education space.
In 1995, the congregation of 431 persons launched Together We Build (TWB), a three-year endeavor of “equal sacrifice.” Not only did they raise more than $664,000 of the necessary $1.3 million, they added members, many by profession of faith in Christ.
Bradshaw cites among examples of “God’s faithfulness,” 98 baptisms, 167 additions, 640 total members, a Sunday school enrollment of 475, an increase in total receipts from $160,000 to $400,000 in one year and missions giving that topped $40,000.
“One of the greatest testimonies of what God has been doing through this large project is that ministries and missions have not been compromised, but enhanced,” he said. “Budget goals and missions giving have been exceeded. Our focus remains on winning people to Christ and nurturing them into being more like him. As a result, God has proved faithful and has provided according to the need.”
At the same time, the church had studied the discipleship course, “Experiencing God,” which Bradshaw said “led us to see this as a God-sized task. It was a major faith move and something our young people today can see happen.”
Sam Purviance, a layman who was chairman of the stewardship committee during the campaign, was an advocate of the TWB program before coming to Tucker Swamp. Earlier, as a member of a United Methodist congregation, he had seen the TWB principles work for that church when they copied the efforts of a Southern Baptist church.
“I think God is in the program,” Purviance said. “It has an overall positive effect on the total church program. It increases the enthusiasm of the church.
“I pushed very hard for Together We Build. They faxed us a long list of churches about our size, and we called them and asked for references. Even those on the committee who had reservations reported they had gotten only positive feedback from other churches.”
Current stewardship chairman Ron Bridges said he was “amazed at the willingness of the people to give proportionately. I don’t think it was difficult. Sacrificial giving wasn’t a problem for these people.”
Carl Hoffman, executive consultant for Together We Build at LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention, credits the spirit of Tucker Swamp’s members and leadership with much of the success in achieving their goals.
“The membership is loving and welcomes a stranger with open arms,” he observed. And he expressed amazement at the energy the congregation can muster.
“During this campaign the church did a pictorial directory and held a revival during the week preceding the TWB banquet. In short, their folks were worn out, but they still forged on,” he recalled.
Hoffman said the success of Tucker Swamp Baptist Church illustrates his belief that a congregation’s Together We Build effort must have a purpose.
“Many churches have not defined a project but still want to raise money,” he said. “I suggest a church first define the project that fits their potential. At LifeWay, we can help them answer the question of how much to build.”
Finances aside, Bradshaw said the factors that cause a community church like Tucker Swamp to experience a boom in numerical and spiritual growth include standing firm on the Word of God; teaching, protecting, promoting and preserving the family institution; and carrying the ministry of Christ by sacrifices of time, talents, resources and gifts for the needs of others.
Celebrating success was a mere pause in the momentum, however. Today, Tucker Swamp Baptist Church has launched a second Together We Build campaign to retire the remaining debt of almost $688,000, and Sam Purviance will serve as chairman with a goal of early reduction of the debt principle.
Bradshaw cites four reasons debt retirement is important:
“We keep our commitment to God, we reap the blessings of tithing, we experience the joy of sacrifice and we are free to act on the vision God has for our future.”
For now, Tucker Swamp Baptist Church worships in a new sanctuary that includes a vestibule, bride’s room, ushers’ room, dressing rooms, restrooms and storage areas. The former sanctuary now houses two offices, a reception area, seven classrooms and a 90-seat chapel. A newly paved parking lot and a portico connecting the two buildings unify the facility.
Among the congregation’s ministries are evangelism, discipleship, worship, service and fellowship.
For the future, some members envision an administration/education wing. Other see a Christian school.
“The future belongs, to God,” Bradshaw reflects. “Tomorrow, we anticipate God’s leadership to accomplish his purpose for us as his church.”

Together We Build is a campaign to lead churches in giving sacrificially to fund special ministry needs. While many associate the name of the campaign with building facilities, congregations also build assets to fund ministries or retire debt incurred for a wide range of needs. A TWB consultant, working with church staff and key leaders, helps design a plan, guides the communication of the plan, and builds and trains an effective organizational framework. For more information on capital fund-raising or to request a listing of churches previously served by TWB, call 1-800-251-4220.

    About the Author

  • Charles Willis