Woman’s Missionary Union President Martha Pitts discusses all things WMU and the importance of ongoing missions education in the church.
Chris Turner: Hello and welcome into this edition of Radio B&R. I’m your host, Chris Turner. Today I’m in Gatlinburg at the WMUs, the Women’s Missionary Union, an annual get-together and connection, which is a really exciting time for ladies across the state to come together and just celebrate missions. My guest today is Martha Pitts, member at Germantown Baptist Church. She’s also the president of the Tennessee Women’s Missionary Union. I think it’s for two years. Is that how…?
Martha Pitts: Actually, you can serve for four years but they have to ask you every year. This will be my second term.
Chris: Great. Obviously they’ve asked you to—
Martha: If they elect me tomorrow, okay?
Chris: I’m sure they will. Well, just give me a little bit of background about your experience with WMU and what’s brought you to this place and why are you feeling so important in your life.
Martha: I started early. I grew up in GA. Girls in Action was the organization to teach missions at a young age in our church. People invested in me and took me on mission trips and taught me early to look around for people who were in need.
I became a GA leader and got kind of forced into the adult world [laughs]. No, Lord, I do not want to lead adults. I became an associational WMU director. Different positions, different things, but always the same thing. Loved missions, loved getting out to people and telling them about Jesus.
Chris: You mentioned something to your love for missions. Obviously that’s been a big part of your life.
Martha: I think starting early, knowing, “Quit looking at self but look out”, you see the world in a different viewpoint. I’d say that is the key to missions.
Chris: You mentioned something that we definitely wanted to cover. You mentioned GAs. Obviously RAs falls into that, Missions Friends. Why do you feel like that’s such an important aspect of missions education in church? Why is missions education in church so important?
Martha: If you don’t get across that worldview, that looking out and seeing others, seeing the need of others, seeing the need for salvation in others early, it’s just a hard thing to train later on. It’s as simple as filling up a backpack, shoebox for somebody else. It’s that basic learning. It’s not hard but they’ve got to hear it from Mission Friends in preschool. They’ve got to hear it. It needs to be intertwined in a complete church program.
Chris: At the base of it, it sounds like just raising an awareness that missions doesn’t necessarily mean something that’s over there or like in Africa or South America. Missions is something that takes place right around where you are. At least that’s where it can start.
Martha: It can start. The learning how, “Man, my penny, my dime in the church plate, part of that goes to this missionary in Africa. That is amazing”. That was a key element, especially the Baptist.
Chris: Absolutely, with Walker program, of course, here in Tennessee, Golden Offering, Lottie Moon Offering.
Martha: Golden Offering. You understood that when I gave to the Lottie Moon Christmas offer, I helped that missionary in Nigeria. I have a part. Learning just about the country, I’m there. It just made you definitely more aware.
Chris: That really has been one of the historical importances of WMU. Take us back a little bit and tell us a little bit about…
Martha: Oh, WMU has, since 1888, the key landmarks in WMU include our missionary offerings. Immediately they organized and looked around and went, “Oh, we need missionaries”. Lottie Moon was in China writing letters to Annie Armstrong and saying, “Please, please help”. Annie wrote and eventually got the offering. It eventually became named for her, for the whole mission, and Lottie Moon’s for the international.
Those ladies were key WMU founders. One in another country, just by her letters, but Annie Armstrong. WMU still is in charge of the offerings. The Golden Offering for Tennessee missions, the TMB turned around and went, “Who does that best? Wow, let’s” and they steered that offering as well.
Chris: You’ve mentioned two important elements that WMU really is so involved with. The first is missions education. It’s such an important part of who we are as Southern Baptist, for sure. Of course, the offerings that you mentioned, just to recap them. You mentioned Lottie Moon and Annie Armstrong. Of course, we have Golden Offering and then, of course, the cooperate program, we call it Cooperate Program Missions.
All of those things really is the thing that defines what it is that we do as Tennessee and Southern Baptist in reaching the world for Christ. It’s still such an important part of it. How do you see missions education in the church? Do you feel like there’s a need for more of it? Do you feel like it’s growing? Shrinking? What do you feel like churches need to really recapture or something?
Martha: They’ve got to be conscious. It has to be woven into. You can’t wake up and say [Phonetic] [06:18] quarant young adults or [Phonetic] [06:20] quarant our older citizens involved when we want them to be. It has to be woven into the sermon, the Sunday school lessons consciously, to have segments in your church that speak to missions.
Take an inventory. Do the kids hear the word ‘missionary’ once a month in their curriculum? Do they hear it? Yes, ideally it would be great to have GA, RA once a week. If that doesn’t fit in, there are drop-in segments. There are definite tools that Tennessee Baptist have that can help you with that. It has to be from young to old. You have to mention, not just to Southern Baptist, but that you’re invested in lives all over the world and because of the Cooperate Program this dime you’re putting in extends.
Chris: Really, one of the things I hear you saying is so important is that it doesn’t just happen. The church has to be intentional with it, to really have a missional vision, not just in their community but around the world.
Martha: You can plan the mission trip. You can plan, but there’s an education element. I think WMU has one of the best toolboxes to supply you with that and a huge network in every state and internationally. We’ve got a network. We’re there to help.
Chris: Just the fact that we’re here in Gatlinburg about to start this morning session at the get-together, that’s a large network coming together.
Martha: I’ll gather 40 ladies that are spread all across the state at our board meeting, but the 1,500 ladies that are here all have a heart for mission. That’s why this event speaks so much to me. It’s my revival every year.
Chris: That’s right.
Martha: They speak my speech.
Chris: True travelled people.
Martha: It is. You will get fired up. You will turn around and go, “Oh, I’m doing this but I can do more or I can do better with this or I can turn around and pull somebody with me”.
Chris: It’s really a great opportunity. I’ve mentioned before, a lady at my church, First Baptist Millington, Miss Bobby Jackson, was just so [Crosstalk] [09:14] instrumental in handling my calling to missions and just helping with that, but really is the one who kept missions in front of our church to a large extent.
Martha: Oh, I love that story.
Chris: The ladies that are involved in WMU are vitally important for missions education. Talk to me a little bit about involving younger women. What can WMU, some of the ladies that have been doing it for a while, maybe grew up sunbeams and mission kids and mission friends and then all the way up. What can you guys do or what are you doing to involve younger women, 30, younger, into the mix?
Martha: There’s some key curriculum. There’s our literature, the Fulfill magazine. Like I said, our toolbox has some things. When I try to tell someone or ask that question, I generally say, “Find someone in that age bracket, target them and go and meet with them, relational one-on-one and find out what they’re doing”.
That age group is in missions. They are doing something. A lot of times it’s not tied to the church but they see the need. They want to help. It’s such an easy time but you’ve got to see what they’re doing and jump on with them instead of creating, “Come to our meeting” or “Oh, we have this. Why don’t you want to come?” We’ve got to start with them. I think it’s the key, and make it.
I get a lot of, “Oh, WMU is the grey hairs”. In general, I didn’t become extremely active until I started those grey hairs but us, we’ve got kids. Make it adaptable for them. Don’t give them a hard time if they can’t come to that meeting every week. Just a few things.
Chris: We have the connection group here.
Martha: Connection, it’s great.
Chris: It’s not just a bunch of grey-haired ladies that are meeting in the mountains here in East Tennessee to talk a little bit about the younger ladies that are here, girls?
Martha: No, no. The girls, seventh through 12th are welcome. [Phonetic] [11:28] Tyndale Sherry has a great program. They have worship, they have fun, they have small sessions with awesome speakers. It’s, “Hey, are you having your quiet time with the Lord? Are you focused on what God has for your life?” He’s calling some up directly into a full-time mission.
Chris: We’re not talking about a couple dozen girls that are here. How many girls do we have?
Martha: I think there are 300. It might be more. That was the general number that I remember from connection. It’s awesome. The ladies that are here in our group, I’m proud to say that most of them look younger than me.
Chris: When you think about just the girls, 300, that’s larger than most of our Baptist churches in Tennessee. We’ve got a church of 300 girls, pretty much, gathered to this meeting.
Martha: If you want to see energy, you go over there and watch them jumping up and down to this music. They are—
Chris: As the dad of a 14-year-old girl, that might be a little more energy than I’m willing to. Let’s see. If someone were to hear this podcast and think, “We don’t have a WMU program at our church. I’d really be interested in finding out more information on how we can go about starting one, maybe, or getting our church involved in WMU”. What are one or two ways that they might be able to move things in a direction towards adding missions education?
Martha: You call Tennessee Baptist office and say WMU. They get you to the right person. There are people that work through the association. WMU is through your church, through your association. If you call your association an office, they know the key contact right across the street from you.
There’s a website, Tennesseewmu.org. We piggyback on TBC’s site. You’ll get a lot of interaction between those two groups. You ask anyone within that has a TCNB shirt on, they will definitely point you in the right direction. We’re out in every county. There are active ones, active organizations. Call me.
Chris: One of the big ways a church can start, of course, the Golden Offering for Tennessee missions is something that we do have a lot of churches that are participating. That’s one way of knowing that all of that money that got sent to the Golden Offering is used here in Tennessee in some sort of missions opportunity to reach people for Christ and then to also serve people through things like Christian Women’s Job Corps and some other things and still give them an opportunity for the gospel.
Martha: Absolutely. The Golden Offering has been great. The re-emphasis lately on, “Let’s re-educate. Let’s focus on getting them educated”. It is the tours that they’re taking in the regions. If your region is offering, “Here’s a mission opportunity. Here’s a mission opportunity”. On every one of those you’ll find WMU ladies helping. It’s a brownie. It’s a gift card. It’s something. They’re connected to those key sites that the Golden Offering invests in.
I’d say the Golden Offering is not just a great way for our money to be corporately distributed to reach the ends of the world. It’s also a platform that we can say, “We’re working together. Come on board”. It’s a great voice for WMU and to also save TBC.
Chris: That’s everybody. We’ve said a lot.
Martha: I’ve been practicing. TNB, TCNB.
Chris: The great thing about the Golden Offering and the way that it has expanded and the fact that, like Randy Davis stayed the executive director of the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board. Any way you slice it, Tennessee is a mission field, with 145-plus language groupings spoken here. I think people think that, “Well, it’s just Spanish”. It’s not. We have 145 global people groups. We have 91 of 95 counties have double-digit poverty. There are so many great needs. Tennessee is a mission field.
Martha: It is.
Chris: It’s a great opportunity for people to get involved and contact you guys and find out how we can get our church moving in a missional direction.
Martha: We might not be the key group but we are right there assisting. Our name is auxiliary. We’re walking beside what’s happening for the Lord.
Chris: As you mentioned before as a key component in the educational part of it, the missions education.
Martha: We’ve got to keep it in front of our people.
Chris: Martha, thanks so much for visiting with us.
Martha: It was great.
Chris: It’s great. As you move forward through the rest of this weekend, blessings on the get-together.
Martha: Thank you, thank you, thank you. We appreciate it.