NEWPORT — Associational secretaries or ministry assistants (the terms are interchangeable) are “unsung heroes” in the Tennessee Baptist Convention, says Joy Clay-Corby.
And, she should know.
Clay-Corby, administrative assistant for the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board, has worked closely with both associational and church ministry assistants for more than three decades. Clay-Corby, along with Heather Beard of the TBMB staff, recently hosted the annual retreat for associational ministry assistants at Carson Springs Baptist Conference Center in Newport.
“The secretary is a key ministry leader with the churches in their association. Not only do they assist the associational mission strategist in their work, they are there to also help church ministry assistants,” she said.
“The many jobs they do are amazing, especially since most of them serve in a one-assistant office. They serve Tennessee Baptists well,” Clay-Corby added.
Beard agreed that associational ministry assistants play a “very important role” in helping churches in their association to be able to do ministry. “They help provide resources, training and events for the churches,” she said.
Associational secretaries do any and everything in the office, from overseeing food pantries or clothing closets to finances, collecting data from churches for the Annual Church Profile (ACP) and much more.
Serving as an associational secretary is “a ministry and calling,” affirmed Mary Dye Sawyer, who has served as ministry assistant for Western District Baptist Association, based in Paris, for 23 years.
“I would say that some of the most rewarding experiences are not only the people we come in contact with whom we minister to, but how they minister to us as well, without even knowing some of the time,” she said.
Susie DuBois, who is retiring after nearly 23 years as ministry assistant for Nolachucky Baptist Association, based in Morristown, agreed that the role of an associational secretary is a ministry.
“Many times, I am the first contact a person has with the association and our ministries. We assist the churches by getting information to them and serve as liaison between the churches and the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board and Southern Baptist Convention entities,” Dubois observed.
“I am so thankful God allows me to use my spiritual gifts and the training in office administration I received in high school and college to serve Him in the Nolachucky associational office,” she added.
“The greatest joy I have is meeting, talking and ministering with the people,” said Kathy Lyons Wilson, administrative assistant for Watauga Baptist Association, based in Elizabethton, for 30 years.
“I get the joy of hearing needs and concerns. I pray with them and for them. I love to see our churches grow, seeing new believers in Christ and those called to ministry through the years. The pastors and people are like family as we are in Christ. I am thankful for being called to this ministry and all the blessings,” she affirmed.
Wilson laughed that she may be one of only a few who enjoys compiling the ACP reports. “I enjoy seeing the comparison from year to year.”
She also expressed appreciation to the TBMB. “I am thankful for the training providing under the planning of Heather Beard and Joy Clay-Corby.”
Linda Williams, who has now retired after 40 years of ministry with Holston Valley Baptist Association, based in Rogersville, also is grateful for the training she received over four decades, beginning with former staff member Johnnie Hall and continuing with Lana Rose and now Clay-Corby and Beard.
Williams recalled that she would take the training she received back to her association and share it with the secretaries/ministry assistants in HVBA’s churches.
She even set aside a day on the association’s calendar to make them feel special and appreciated. “They are often overlooked,” she acknowledged.
Williams noted that as a young person listening to missionaries speak, she wondered if God “might call me to missions work.
“I had worked several years (at the association) before I realized God had called me to missions and I truly enjoyed the journey,” Williams said. B&R — See guest column by Darlene Bell HERE for an additional perspective on what it means to be an associational ministry assistant.