Community of faith keeps its faith despite challenges

Published on: October 12, 2017

The Rev. Brad Clark, pastor of the Southside Baptist Church of Sun City in Ruskin, and his wife, Kendra, invite you to come to one of the church’s upcoming events to learn more about its congregation and community outreach.


Hurricane Irma thankfully turned away from the Tampa Bay area, leaving most area property relatively unscathed. But the Southside Baptist Church of Sun City in Ruskin was not so lucky.

The storm damaged numerous sections of the church’s roof, which had been replaced in 2001, and blew off several additional areas of tile. Buying hurricane insurance had been cost-prohibitive for the small congregation, so its members began raising funds two years ago to replace the existing roof with a metal one, said Pastor Brad Clark. “It’s going to cost about $60,000.”

Members have been hosting fundraisers and collecting money internally with full confidence they will come up with the funding needed.

“Our hope is to have the roof redone by the end of the year,” Clark said.

On Sunday, Nov. 5, the Southside Baptist Church of Sun City will offer take-out spaghetti dinners to the community from 12:30 to 2 p.m. to benefit its Raise the Roof Fund. They will include a generous portion of spaghetti, salad and garlic bread for $8. Desserts will be sold separately for $1.

To RSVP an individual meal or enough for your entire family, call 813-649-9633.

As part of its ongoing community outreach, the church is also hosting its annual Fall Festival Oct. 21. The free, family event will feature a blow-up obstacle course, interactive games, a paintball shoot, maze, face painting and family photos. It will also provide free hot dogs, popcorn and nonalcoholic beverages.

According to Pastor Brad Clark, the membership of Southside Baptist Church of Sun City is “growing younger.” Almost 80 strong, the congregation has added several families with young children over the past four years. People of all ages are welcome.

“This is absolutely a community event. We’re here to serve the community,” Clark said. “Everything is free. God takes care of it all.”

On Dec. 3, music minister Jaden Clark and the church’s eight-member praise team, complete will musical accompaniment, will present a free Christmas concert at 6 p.m. on the tennis courts at Riverbend Resort in Ruskin.

Additionally, the church’s youth group will soon be hosting an Escape Room experience with a Book of Exodus theme, so youngsters can study its message while having fun, Clark said. They planned to open it at the Fall Festival, but Hurricane Irma caused a delay in preparations. It’s now hoped the room will be open to public youth groups by the end of the year.

Southside Baptist Church began as a mission of the First Baptist Church of Wimauma and Northside Baptist Church of Ruskin. It was founded as a church in December 1977 and its first sanctuary was opened in 1983, Clark said. Over the years since, it has seen several building and program expansions.

Clark, 52, became pastor four years ago. Born and raised in Missouri, he married his junior high school sweetheart 31 years ago, and together with their three children started the youth ministry at Cedar Gap Baptist Church in Cedar Gap, Mo.

Clark was ordained at the church in 1997 and became its youth minister. He also served in the same capacity at churches in Springfield, Mo., and Madison (Fla.) and Navasoda, Texas, before being called to Southside as pastor four years ago.

Clark has grown both membership and attendance since then.

“We’re growing younger,” he said. The average age was 70 when I came. Now we have eight babies. We’re gaining and reaching young families.”

His supporters include Suzanne Ramella, who came to Southside Baptist 32 years ago, and Frances Hereford, who has been with the church since the mid ̓80s.

“I felt at home the minute I walked in the door, and I still do,” Ramella said. “There was so much love, and everyone was so welcoming.

“Over the years many of the children in our church grew up and moved on with their lives. When Pastor Brad came, he asked us where we wanted him to focus initially and the majority of our members said we’d like help bringing in young families. That’s what he’s done.

“He’s so down-to-earth and very approachable. It’s very exciting,” she said.

Hereford agrees.

“I think the world of him,” she said. “He’s younger than pastors we’ve had in the past, and he’s brought a whole new energy and vibrant, youthful music ministry to the church. He’s exactly what we needed.”

For more information on Southside Baptist Church of Sun City, its ministries and people, visit, email, or call 813- 645-4085. You can also stop in for coffee and donuts at 9 a.m. on Sunday at 4208 U.S. 41 S., Ruskin.