Traditional church isn't dead in Sun City Center, according to the Rev. Ron Churchill.
As an example, Churchill, the pastor of Trinity Baptist Church for three years, noted that his church raised $407,000 for the first phase of a three-part expansion plan. Phase one includes the expansion of the parking lot, which will add 103 parking spaces.
"We had to go to two services because we could not hold everyone in one service any longer," said Churchill, adding they offer two services January through Easter.
Phase II of the expansion plan will be a new drive-under awning that will stretch over the driveway, large enough to allow the easy flow of traffic while also allowing parishioners to be dropped off out of the weather. Phase III will be a 10,000-square-foot, three-story building addition which will house classrooms, restrooms, meeting rooms, offices and a new choir room.
"We have really been blessed," Churchill said. "We have had a lot of folks joining. We have a few people pass away every year since we have a lot of senior adults. It changes all the time, but there is growth. In order for a church to grow in SCC, you have to grow more than you have losses."
Churchill said the church has 303 members, less than the 3,500-member First Baptist Church in Plant City where he was pastor until he retired at 66.
"I thought it was time," he said. "I was retired three weeks. I hated it. They asked me to come down here and be the interim pastor three years ago. Very shortly after coming as interim they asked me to be the pastor. So I did."
Churchill said he is noticing a growing number of baby boomers joining the church, which he describes as conservative and traditional. He thinks people join because they like the security of knowing someone will look out for them as they age.
"We are having a number of (baby boomers) join," he said. "The thing we do is we go to visit every visitor. A lot of churches don't do that. We are very aggressive in trying to reach out and draw new folks into our church family."
The church participates in the National Day of Prayer, which takes place every year in early May. They also have a women's group, a men's group and at least a half-dozen Bible study classes.
Although they have Sunday school classrooms, they aren't used for children. Those classes are for people over 55.
"We don't do all the contemporary things a lot of other churches are doing," he said. "We are very traditional and we don't apologize for that. We sing the great hymns of the church and we emphasize that. People come and visit here and say they move to town and visited five or six churches and this was, by far, the friendliest church they visited which makes us feel good."
Spencer Faircloth of Sun City Center, 83, serves on the church's building committee.
He believes the church is growing because members visit homebound people and those in nursing homes. And, he thinks people like the pastor's charisma.
"We have so many new members, we can't fit them in," Faircloth said. "He is a fantastic preacher. He is very dynamic. We have the friendliest church. That's why I changed churches."
Faircloth said he was a member of a different church when he first moved to Sun City Center until he visited Trinity Baptist.
"Since I'll be here until I die, I wanted someone who would look after me. They do look after me real well," Faircloth said.
For information on Trinity Baptist Church, 702 Del Webb Blvd., call (813) 634-4228.