CHATTANOOGA — COVID-19 put a halt to many ministries across Tennessee at all levels, from the local church to the association and the state convention.
Prior to COVID, Tina Williams, WMU director for Hamilton County Baptist Association, had accepted the task of bringing the women’s groups in her association together to focus on a missions endeavor they could all embrace. COVID interrupted those plans, she said.
Three years later, she tried again.
She was aware that her husband, Ray, had spoken recently at a meeting for the association’s bivocational ministers. After talking with director of missions Dennis Culbreth, the idea developed for a “Night of Encouragement” for bivcational pastors and their spouses.
It was a natural fit for Williams who is well aware of the struggles faced by bivocational ministers and their wives.
She served in that role for two years when her husband planted One Accord Community Church in Red Bank nearly 19 years ago. He is now full time at the church they helped start.
Williams watched as her husband dealt with the responsibility of balancing the demands of two jobs along with family.
“That gave me a heart for bivocational pastors and their wives,” she affirmed.
“I knew our ladies would get behind serving our bivocational ministers,” Williams said.
And, they did. “The response was overwhelming,” she said.
Various WMU groups in the association participated in the event by securing gift cards for the bivocational ministers, providing desserts for the banquet and serving the couples who attended, Williams said. In addition, the association’s staff and some local Baptist Collegiate Ministry students helped with the project.
“It was a beautiful picture of the association working together,” she observed.
“My favorite part of the night, aside from the laughter in the room is how it ended by WMU ladies sitting at the tables praying with and for these precious servants. The Spirit was sweet,” she observed.
In addition, WMU made a commitment to ongoing prayer for the churches, pastors and wives, Williams said. “WMU is built in prayer and service.”
Pastor Jeff Thornton of Whiteside Baptist Church, Whiteside, and his wife, Lesia, attended the event. “Any bivocational minister and wife who missed the evening missed an evening of fun and great encouragement. It was wonderful to see WMU ladies giving to bivocational ministers and their wives.” We are thankful to be part of the HCBA.”
Culbreth observed the event “was fun for our bivocational pastors and wives to get to know and to fellowship with each other,” he said.
Culbreth noted that the association’s bivocational ministers meet every other month, but there has not been anything for their wives. It helped the wives to see there are others who understand what they face and that they are not alone, he said.
The DOM expressed appreciation for Williams and all the WMU women who participated. “The WMU made this event successful,” he affirmed.
In addition to the fun and games and the food and fellowship, every bivocational minister and his wife left with at least one gift card to a local restaurant so they could have a “date night” at some point, Williams said.
Events such as the Night of Encouragement are important for bivocational ministers, Culbreth said. “Bivocational pastors and their spouses are constantly giving of their time, their wealth and their talent to the local church,” he observed.
Culbreth also noted that bivocational ministers “have very little down time. They don’t have the luxury of study time or time to visit their congregations. Many of them work seven days a week and their spouses serve right alongside of them.
“They are constantly ministering tangibly to others, so it is nice if we can minister in a tangible way to them.”
Williams said she hopes the event will become an annual partnership between the Hamilton County WMU and area bivocational ministers and wives. B&R