BRENTWOOD — During the meeting of the Tennessee Baptist Convention Secretaries Association held April 16-18 at the Baptist Center here, members celebrated the organization’s 30th anniversary.
About 75 members, most of whom now hold the title ministry assistant, heard from Lana Rose, ministers wives/secretaries ministries, TBC, how the late Johnnie Hall, retired Church Training director, TBC, who died in December 2011, started the organization in 1982. Hall met with some Tennessee Baptist church secretaries and then helped them plan their first meeting at Manley Baptist Church, Morristown.
“Today, we simply want to say thank you to Johnnie for his vision and love for Tennessee Baptist secretaries and dedicate this celebration banquet to him,” said Rose. She reported that Phyllis Hall, Johnnie’s wife, would have been present but was on a missions trip.
Rose also recognized Donna Gandy of Murfreesboro, the second national consultant for secretaries for LifeWay Christian Resources, Nashville. Tim Holcomb also was recognized. Holcomb was church business administration consultant for LifeWay when he helped develop the Certified Church Secretaries Instruction program. In the first group of contract trainers led by Holcomb was Gandy and Sarah Farmer of Johnson City. Farmer is retired administrative assistant, Southwestern Baptist Church, Johnson City. Holcomb went on to hire Gandy from Texas for her role. Holcomb also served on the TBC staff, from which he retired.
Others recognized during the anniversary celebration for their support of the TBCSA were Leanne Robbins of Nashville, former TBC staff member; Gary Rickman, director of strategic relationships, TBC; Steve Holt, leader growth coordinator, TBC; and Randy C. Davis, executive director, TBC.
Rose also reported that over the years the organization expanded its membership to include ministry assistants of Baptist associations and began participating in missions trips. TBCSA members have served in Canada, Iowa, New England and Montana with a high participation of 25 ministry assistants on one trip.
Farmer said over the years she has seen the role of ministry assistants in churches and associations receive “more respect, support and appreciation.” She is an early president of -TBCSA who before serving -TBCSA went through the first certification course of LifeWay in 1978 and then taught certification courses and other training seminars for LifeWay and the TBC from 1983-2009. She still leads training for the TBC.
She hopes that the training received by ministry assistants has helped elevate them and their positions. Farmer explained that God called her to be a church secretary. She also served other churches and the Baptist Collegiate Ministry center, East Tennessee State University, Johnson City, as secretary.
She said she doesn’t know of another denomination that provides help to ministry assistants of churches and other offices like Southern Baptists. She has had ministry assistants of other denominations attend her conferences.
Farmer noted that the current LifeWay training, Professional Course Certification for Ministry Assistants, requires 18 hours of attendance and successful completion of a 100-question test. Some of the PCCMA and TBC conferences she has led cover finances, church records, time management, team work and the professional ministry assistant.
Pat McGill, administrative assistant, Big Emory Baptist Association, based in Harriman, said she attended the first TBCSA meeting and has attended most since then. She also served as a TBCSA officer for about 10 years and has served the association and churches for 30 years.
She said she has benefited from being an active participant of the organization because she has made many friends. She also appreciates the training which has helped her in her work and the fun. McGill said she will never forget when at one TBCSA meeting Johnnie Hall portrayed Dolly Parton in a skit from the movie “Nine to Five” about secretaries.
The time spent together by the members is helpful professionally and personally including spiritually, said McGill.
Rose said she has learned after leading the TBCSA for 15 years that most of the ministry assistants have “a strong sense of call” from God to their work.
Many have the education that would allow them to hold more lucrative jobs but they work at the church or association “to serve. If that does not humble you what would?” asked Rose.
Over 1,000 secretaries in Tennessee have completed a part of the PCCMA “and I think our churches are better for it. … The ministry of the church and association office has taken on a new standard — a higher standard,” said Rose.