By Karen L. Willoughby, Managing Editor
JIGGER – Five years ago, a half-dozen people talked about disbanding Shady Grove Baptist Church.[img_assist|nid=7646|title=Shady Grove|desc=Twenty-five years after voting to do away with Vacation Bible School, and five years after talking about disbanding, Shady Grove Baptist Church is alive and growing. Today, at least 80 people each week gather for Sunday morning worship at the church where Kent Nugent is pastor. There’s a full band – fiddle, mandolin, drums, 12-string, rhythm and bass guitars – and the youth group has performed twice at the Youth Evangelism Conference as well as at Christ Christ in Brownsville, Tenn., and elsewhere.|link=none|align=right|width=640|height=404]
Located a rural quarter-mile from the end of a dead-end road, in a town too small to even have a gas station, there seemed little reason to continue for the church started in 1918 in a one-room schoolhouse.
Matter of fact, the church voted in the late 1980s to no longer have Vacation Bible School.
“That was the beginning of the end,” said Neka Williams. “I was part of the mistake. I voted to do away with VBS. What I want to tell people now is, don’t stop VBS. Don’t stop meeting Sunday evening or Wednesday evening.”
Twenty-five years after Shady Grove voted to do away with VBS, Williams and others from Calvary Baptist Church in Gilbert, La., offered to teach in a VBS in the church where her father – Illey J. Thames – was one of the few remaining members.
“This isn’t right, [that the church should close], I said to myself,” Williams recalled. “We’ve got to do something, and this was something I could do. Sixteen kids came – none from this church – and after that, the Lord led different ones to come back from all over the place.”
Today, at least 80 people each week gather for Sunday morning worship at the church where Kent Nugent is pastor. There’s a full band – fiddle, mandolin, drums, 12-string, rhythm and bass guitars – and the youth group has performed twice at the Youth Evangelism Conference as well as Christ Christ in Brownsville, Tenn., and elsewhere.
It’s small white church building without even a steeple is recently gone – sold to and moved by a church just starting out – so the congregation meets in what today is a tightly-packed metal half-gym with pews, which was built last year. The ground where the church building was has been leveled and is ready for a foundation to be poured, as soon as another $60,000 can be raised. The congregation and others raised an initial $70,000 in three months.
“People said we would never grow past what that building will hold,” Williams said.
The 6,000 square foot building planned for the site will seat 298 people, Pastor Nugent said.
“We hope to see a day when it is full,” the pastor said. “We’ve had as high as 120 – more travelers than we have anything else: Caldwell Parish, Baskin. People are drawn to us.
“I’m a King James Bible-believing preacher,” Nugent continued. “We just follow the leadership of the Lord. We stay with the old stuff and we’ve been successful. We’ve done nothing on our own; God has led us. … If you be faithful to God, He’ll be faithful to you.”
This is Nugent’s first pastorate. He was Tri-Association’s youth director “for a spell;” then became an associate pastor at Bethany Hebert for a year. Two years later – after supply and guest preaching in- and out-of-state, Shady Grove called him as pastor.
“We haven’t done anything special,” Nugent said. “We’ve been faithful to the Lord. At the end of the day, that’s what’s happened. He began to rally the people together. We don’t have any bells and whistles. We preach and teach the Word of God.
“When God began to build this church, he began to send the right people at the right time,” the pastor continued.
Williams began to work with the youth. Today they work with black light shows, puppets, skits, drama, sign language and dowel rods.
“Our youth have really blossomed,” Williams said. “Wherever they land in life, they’ll be leaders.”
For the last three years Shady Grove youth and adults have gone on mission trips to Jeaneretta, in Iberia Parish, where 40-year Missionary/Pastor Bobby Hodnett had started a vacation Bible school mission.
“A church in our area had been once or twice; two or three of our youth went with them, and they asked if we’d do it,” Nugent said. “We believe that’s what the Lord wanted us to do. We took it and ran with it, and the Lord blessed it.
“I believe with all my heart the reason our trips down there are successful is first and foremost, God, but God has faithful men He has called,” Nugent continued. “It’s exciting to me as a young man, 46 and a senior pastor for only five years, to be able to walk in the steps of men such as Bro. Bobby Hodnett and the late Bro. Francis Williams of Baskin, La. They had to lay the groundwork of our church to be where we’re at today.”
What also is true, Williams said, is that no church, no matter how remote, is removed from God’s awareness.
“Everybody these days drives to where they want to be,” Williams said. “And 80 people each Sunday want to be at Shady Grove Baptist Church.
“My dad – Illey J. Thames; he died three months ago – he got to see the church come back to life,” she added. “I’m thankful for that.”