Sheryl Page, ministry assistant to Adult and Youth Discipleship at Texas Baptists, knows the joys and challenges of serving in a support role. Amidst the COVID-19 crisis, Page, along with the rest of the Texas Baptists staff, shifted to working from home, handling canceled events and many new tasks. She realized other assistants might be in similar situations. She decided to see how she could reach out to the ministry assistants at Texas Baptist churches to pray for and encourage them.
“There are many people and resources reaching out to pastors, which is important,” Page explained. “But ministry assistants handle a lot of the communication, social media and phone calls for churches, so I thought they might be overloaded right now, and I wanted to let them know they were being prayed for.”
Page sought out the names of the ministry assistants in the Texas Baptists database, where she found over 1,700 contacts. These included secretaries, ministry assistants, finance assistants, administrators and many more important support positions.
Given the large number of contacts, Page knew she would not be able to reach them all on her own. She asked the other ministry assistants on the Texas Baptists Great Commission Team (GCT) to help her send out prayers and encouragements. Page felt that these ministry assistants would be able to connect with those at the churches as they have similar responsibilities and titles.
Each of the six staff members took a different service area and began working through the names on the list. They send an email of encouragement and ask if the ministry assistants had any specific prayer needs.
“It’s to let MAs know that we are concerned for them and praying for them. We know that communication has been stressful and that they may have been overloaded, and we wanted to encourage them,” Page said.
Ministry assistants look different at each church or ministry. Each one’s job uniquely caters to what their church needs, whether it is social media, coordinating communications efforts, filing taxes or all of the above. In this time where churches cannot congregate in person, ministry assistants have stepped up to meet the changing needs of the congregation. They are handling all their regular administrative duties and learning how to set-up live-streams, coordinate help for those in need and help other church staff create online resources.
Sarah Johnson, Ministry Program Coordinator for Childhood Discipleship on the GCT), was nervous when she first began sending out the emails. She was worried that people would not care or respond, and she wondered if it would amount to anything. Then she remembered an email that she had received during her first year at Texas Baptists. It was a note of encouragement from a staff member of the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor, and Johnson remembered feeling excited and blessed to receive the email. She hoped that the recipients of her emails would feel the same.
Johnson has received many replies to her emails. One of her favorite replies came from the ministry assistant at a small church, whose church, though doing well, had a family with two cases of COVID-19. Despite this, the church has been more actively involved in the community than ever before and had begun to have meaningful conversations with non-believers. Johnson was able to pray for the family and rejoice over the church’s outreach. The ministry assistant explained that her daughter was also named Sarah, so she felt a special connection with Johnson. Johnson has continued to regularly pray for her and her church as they navigate through these challenging times.
“It was amazing to connect with these people who I may never meet and pray with them and really feel a bond,” Johnson said.
Deby Miller, administrative assistant to the GCT, agreed.
“I have had stories about their families, telling me all about their kids, grandkids, and even one asked for prayer for her family that is being affected because they are all involved in an industry that has been struck hard by the pandemic,” Miller said. “One reply said that she was so thankful she had received my email that very day because she needed it. She said the Lord really takes care of us in so many ways just when we need it. I was really glad to be a part of that blessing to her that morning.”
Miller’s favorite part is seeing the good that is being done during this pandemic. She spoke to one church that had to stop its pastor search due to shelter-at-home guidelines. Despite not having a pastor, the church was actively serving their community through food distributions and support ministries.
The ministry assistants at churches across Texas have been instrumental in keeping churches going during these difficult times. Giving them encouragement and support is the GCT ministry assistants’ way of showing their appreciation for the work they do.
“It’s amazing how much faith and blessings I have seen from those whose job it is to be the glue of the church,” Miller said. “Each email I get back is so full of gratefulness and encouragement that touches my heart. Praying for these that are walking the same path as I am has been quite a wonderful experience.”