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North Carolina Baptist Aging Ministry has grown to meet a myriad of frail-aging and well-aging needs

Left, Baptist State Convention executive director-treasurer Milton A. Hollifield, Jr and BCH president/CEO Michael C. Blackwell cut the dedication ribbon in front of the NCBAM administration office in Thomasville on April 15, 2010.

It isn’t often that you’re asked to create something from nothing. But, that’s exactly how the North Carolina Baptist Aging Ministry (NCBAM) began in 2009.Milton Hollifield Jr., executive director-treasurer of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, “laid it on the heart” of Baptist Children’s Homes (BCH) president/CEO Michael C. Blackwell, to create a non-residential ministry for aging adults. Hollifield called Blackwell “the trusted source” in North Carolina Baptist life and said if anyone could create such a new and creative ministry –– with broad-based support –– it would be BCH’s long-time president.

Blackwell accepted the challenge and assembled a blue-ribbon committee of experts in all matters relating to aging adults –– legal, medical, religious, psychological and social.

BCH is a leader in developing family-focused Christian ministries. In addition to residential care for children, the ministry has established a Christian-focused day care, wilderness programs for boy and girls, a ministry for intellectually and developmentally disabled adults, a family care ministry for single moms and their children, college campus ministry at Western Carolina University, Greater Vision Outreach, Family Foster Care, and a children’s home in Guatemala. In further fulfillment of BCH’s calling to serve all of God’s children, NCBAM was created.

Blackwell chose Sandy Gregory, who holds a Doctor of Ministry from Emory University, to serve as NCBAM’s director. At that time, Gregory was BCH’s south central director of development and had experience working in senior adult ministry. Blackwell added to NCBAM then BCH institutional director for communications Jim Edminson and state administration executive assistant Jennifer Shore to help launch the new ministry.

Blackwell connected Gregory with Bobby Boyd, then president of the BCH Board of Trustees and a retired director of Catawba County Social Services with 35 years’ experience. Gregory and Boyd spent the first year in research –– traveling the state speaking to social service directors, older adults and pastors –– asking “what can Baptists do to help older adults?” Gregory remembers two key lessons from Boyd that profoundly impacted the growth of the ministry: “Relationships are key.” and “Don’t promise more than you can deliver.”

With a mission statement in place –– “to help individuals 65+ maintain their independence” –– NCBAM began a three-month pilot program with Liberty Baptist Association. Working with Associational Missionary Mike Ester, NCBAM identified resources, established partnerships with ex