So You Want To Save An Old Church?

Written by Kelly Gomez | Posted on 21 November 2022

So you want to save an old church? This is great news and we are excited that you’re interested in saving our history. We need more people like you who will step up to do the work necessary! Historic Rural Churches of Georgia is a non-profit, focused on the documentation of historic rural churches, and as such, we don’t have the ability to monetarily support your project. However, we want to do whatever we can to help you to have a successful project and to get the word out. 

Over the years, we have become aware of a handful of preservation projects across Georgia that were started by people just like you. From these examples, we have gathered some insights on what is necessary to accomplish to get a project like this off the ground. The most important of which is local involvement and a solid long-term plan. Keep in mind that each individual site will have its own specific considerations, but below, we have outlined some of the general steps that we would recommend you explore to get started. (This list is not exhaustive and not intended to replace legal advice).

Getting Set Up

Form a committee and establish goals and timelines. Consider involving local business people and local leaders.

Apply for 501c3 (non-profit status) and open a bank account.

Set up an online presence so you can spread the word about the work you’re doing (ie: a simple website, a social media page, or a newsletter).

Research professionals who can help with legal paperwork, bookkeeping, structural repairs, construction, and groundskeeping.


Online: Set up an account with an online platform to make donations simple. Some examples are GoFundMe and IndieGoGo.

In-Person: Talk to church members, descendants of former members, local government, other local churches, etc.

Sponsorships: Approach corporate, business, and related non-profit sponsors for matching grants.

In-Kind Donations: Approach local businesses for donations of supplies, time, work, etc.

Raise Awareness

Spread the word: Share the progress of your work regularly so people who are interested can follow along and hopefully contribute to fundraising as well. Consider contacting local news stations and newspapers to tell them about your project.

Get the community involved: consider opportunities for volunteer cleanups, open houses, fundraising events on the grounds, etc. 

Church Preservation Projects to Check Out

There are a handful of incredible examples of this work that has been done or is currently underway across Georgia. Below are a few examples for you to find some inspiration. Click the links on each to learn more about that project.

Walker Grove Church in Screven County

Walker Grove Baptist in Screven County, GA was in terrible shape and we feared it would be lost forever until a local savior named Zandra stepped up to save it. Through many challenges, including a pandemic, Zandra worked tirelessly to breathe life back into this building. With the help of a local contractor, she has completed work to repair the steps and windows, repaint the exterior, and repair interior walls. Click HERE to see her Facebook page where she shared about the work and events that she completed at Walker Grove.

Photo courtesy of Cynthia Jennings.

Mt. Zion Primitive Baptist in Thomas County

Mt. Zion Primitive Baptist

Mt. Zion Primitive Baptist in Thomas County, GA. Mt. Zion Primitive Baptist in Thomas County is a unique example of a Wiregrass Baptist Church. But for years, it sat empty and suffered damage from neglect and vandalism. After an ownership dispute, a group of descendants gathered and was able to take ownership of the property. They hope to bring the church back to its former state. Thus far, they have done work to clean the cemetery, to repair damage from vandalism and they hope to have to it listed on the National Historic Register. The group also hosts semi-annual gatherings to involve locals and for clean-up days.

Photo courtesy of Steve Robinson.

Glendale Chapel in Floyd County

Glendale Chapel in Floyd County, GA was in bad condition after years of sitting empty and from damage from vandalism. Neighbors were inspired to try and save it and together with descendants of the church founders, work was done to completely restore the building that partially collapsed while work was being done to repair it. The story of the people who came together to save it and the history that they saved is incredible.

Photo courtesy of Gail DesJardin.

Antioch Baptist in Taliaferro County

Antioch Methodist Church was organized in 1886 by a congregation of previously enslaved people who had worked on the area plantations. The church appears abandoned, but there is actually a strong support group of church descendants who attend an annual reunion on the church grounds every August. Support is now building for her preservation and you can learn more about how to get involved at the links below.

Sundown Chapel in Colquitt County was formerly located in Leesburg and was built in 1906. The congregation outgrew the church and had reluctantly come to the conclusion that it was going to be too expensive to bring the building up to code for church functions, so it was relegated to storage. The only thing in its future was, eventually, demolition. So it was great news when Ellen Alderman, owner of Sundown Plantation located outside Moultrie, stepped up to buy it. Sundown Plantation is a successful quail farm and event venue and Alderman was looking for an authentic wedding chapel for weddings on the plantation.

The move from Leesburg to Sundown Plantation took four days to complete but what a storybook ending for a beautiful piece of Georgia history on the verge of demolition.

Photo courtesy of Steve Robinson.

Sugar Creek Baptist in Morgan County

Sugar Creek Baptist Church in Morgan County was scheduled for demolition in 2016. At the last minute, Dr. Ellis Johnson and his wife Crystal, with the help of the Madison–Morgan Conservancy, came to the rescue. The Johnsons, who own the Hundred Acre Farm, made an arrangement with the congregation to buy the church and move it to their farm for a wedding chapel. You can get a good overview of the farm here. The Johnsons moved the church 1 mile to their farm and then embarked on a renovation effort to return the sanctuary to its former glory.

Photo courtesy of John Kirkland.

Fowlstown Methodist Church in Decatur County

Fowlstown Methodist was built in 1887 and was inactive since 1962 so the Swicord Family bought it in 1967- not knowing what he would do with it but wanting to keep it in the family and the Fowlstown community. Recently, Mr. Swicord and his grandson decided to move the church to its present location and set up The Church on the Farm where the church now has a second life as a wedding chapel and event venue. This required some repairs and renovation which you can see in the gallery attached to the History of Fowlstown below.

Cedar Grove Church in Tattnall County

Cedar Grove in Tattnall County, GA is lucky that Janisse Ray, an iconic Georgia author, lives nearby. After years of watching this church deteriorate, Janisse decided to do something about it. Over time, she has completed projects to repair the roof, windows, and steps.

Photo courtesy of Randall Davis.