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St. Andrew By-the-Sea opens second campus in Bluffton

St. Andrew By-the-Sea opens second campus in Bluffton
The Rev. Daniel Burbage (left) prays with members about the new SABTS campus.

By Sara White

New church starts in the South Carolina Annual Conference are funded through apportionment funding in two agencies: Congregational Development and Equitable Funding. The funding schedule works on a four-year span of decreasing funding annually for every new start.

This month, December, one of the new starts of the South Carolina Annual Conference moves out of conference funding and into full local support. St. Andrew By-the-Sea United Methodist Church is one of only two congregations in South Carolina Methodism who worship at two locations. The founding congregation is located on Hilton Head Island and the campus in the town of Bluffton. In the founding vision for the two-campus ministry, the desire was to share not only Jesus Christ, but also the local congregation’s way of following Him with a community that was among the fastest-growing in South Carolina.

In a two or more campus system, the administration, staffing and ministry are coordinated in a unity that is then adapted to the unique needs of each campus. The Pope Campus on Hilton Head of St. Andrew By-the-Sea has a long history of mission and commitment to the lives of young people in the community. The Bluffton Campus was birthed with a focus on providing a ministry for the young families of Bluffton who preferred a more traditional congregational life. Both campuses have staff that work with children and a director who works with both campus settings. The Pope Campus works with Upward Basketball in their facility, while the Bluffton Campus has chosen to focus on tennis with an emphasis on the principles of Christian discipleship and sportsmanship. Two pastors share work at the two campuses. Worship styles are designed with the need of the campus in mind. Administrative tasks are unified.

It has been a very fruitful four years—really, five years. Because of funding uncertainties, the official start of the project was postponed a year, but during that year and the year proceeding, a foundation of prayer, planning and relationship was in motion. Those years really were the foundation. In a very entertaining small book called “Ten Mistakes of Church Planting,” Jim Griffith seriously notes that the chief cause of problems and sometimes failure in new starts—of congregations or ministry—is starting the calendar of worship and other ministry life before the relationships are in place, the structures firm and the desired goal clearly defined. Some of the leadership at St. Andrew By-the-Sea will remember well the visit that followed our first interaction when they firmly stated their vision and the commitment that they made to it.

Starting a new ministry is never easy. Some of the challenges that the two campuses faced were predictable, and some were surprises. It was not a surprise but a challenge to fund two campuses. The stewardship training at the newer campus is intentional and the Pope campus has generously supported both campuses. The quick growth meant a need for locations that would support the numbers and ministries. Multiple services in both places are necessary. Communication is crucial and can never be taken for granted.

I would leave out someone’s name if I attempted to thank individually the lay leadership who has been the engine of this endeavor. I’ll simply say to each and every one of those who have sat in finance meetings, delivered gallons of coffee, laid out mats for children’s ministries, listened patiently to the rationale for the decisions made along the way and provided support to your brothers and sisters in each campus—thank you. I know it was work. I hope that it was a joy, as well.

I don’t know all the staff of the two campuses, but the men and women who lead St. Andrew By-the-Sea ministry in music, care, administration, discipleship and mission have supported the vision, and they have followed the vision into ministry. I know that it was work, and extra work at that—thank you. I know that it was work. I hope that it was a joy, as well.

Lead pastor the Rev. Neil Yongue and campus pastor the Rev. Daniel Burbage have trusted each other and the process and continue to move these campuses into the next phase of ministry. Vision-caster Yongue has been generous in sharing the journey toward fulfillment and patient with the twists and turns of living out dreams. And Burbage has tried something once and sometimes twice, decided to punt and adjust as the new campus moved from dozens to hundreds. I know that it was work—Kingdom work, but hard and worthy of our thanks. I hope that it was joy, as well.

What if there are many congregations in South Carolina who have just the vision, trust and desire to create new ministries in other campuses? As St. Andrew By-the-Sea moves into the next phase, other congregations prayerfully consider following their model. It will be Kingdom work and will be challenging, but I hope that for each of them it will be a joy, as well

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