When a retired Baptist pastor begins with, “I thought I was going to have to start wearing a dress to fit in,” you know you’re in for something special—and some laughs. Ronnie Beane was jokingly referring to his initial weeks as the first male Call Center Specialist in North Carolina Baptist Aging Ministry’s (NCBAM) history.
NCBAM’s Call Center provides information and referral to aging adults 65+ and connects them with Baptist volunteers who meet needs to help them maintain independence. In the last two years, Ronnie has proven he could do the job—and do it well. “It’s being focused and compassionate with each caller, that matters,” Ronnie explains.
In addition to holding sacred space with callers, Ronnie’s goal is to leave each person feeling better at the end of the call. “I love cutting up with people when the situation is right. I asked one lady what denomination she was and when she told me ‘Episcopalian,’ I asked her, ‘Do you know why I’m not Episcopalian? Because I can’t pronounce it!’” Ronnie said that when she cracked up, he knew her spirit was lifted.
Ronnie confesses that his light-hearted attitude has found him in hot water a few times. “My 7th grade teacher Miss Truelove made me spend a lot of time in the hall. And even though I was a rule-follower, standing in the hall was okay if I had made someone smile or laugh.”
As part of the NCBAM team, Ronnie also takes his show on the road as an Elvis impersonator at senior adult retreats. In “Music Bingo” presentations, Ronnie entertains crowds in a flashy yellow blazer, dark aviator sunglasses, and a jet-black pompadour wig. The ladies swoon, he works the crowd, and everyone smiles. Cutting up doesn’t bother Ronnie one little bit if it means someone’s heart is made lighter.
In addition to making quick connections through humor, Ronnie has noticed that his pastoral experience gives him “a leg up” when calling on churches to help NCBAM clients. “It’s invaluable because I have an idea what pastors are dealing with—and extend compassion to them, just like our clients.” Ronnie admits, “When I tell people I’m a retired pastor, their positive responses almost make it feel like I’m cheating.”
Ronnie’s good humor and ministerial experience aren’t the only strengths he brings to NCBAM. He’s also strategic and forward-thinking. Ronnie spearheaded an initiative to connect Call Center Specialists to volunteers through SMS texting. “When I first started, it amazed me how many 70- and 80-year-olds were out there building ramps—and asking if I would text instead of call them. We used our personal cell phones, but this caused delays if we weren’t working that day.”
Thanks to Ronnie’s advocacy, the Call Center phone system was upgraded to handle text messages. Now all Call Center Specialists can view text communications via computers and respond quickly.
Ronnie played a strong role in NCBAM receiving $275,000 in grant funding for ramps and home modifications in the Piedmont Triad. A Meals on Wheels provider Ronnie had been working with called to let him know about the opportunity that was expiring soon. “I hung up the phone and said, ‘Listen y’all, we may have some grant money!” The Call Center hustled, and are now able to meet many needs in four counties served by an American Rescue Plan Act grant.
Ronnie also plays a key role in NCBAM’s durable medical equipment outreach in Thomasville. He keeps the equipment organized and has developed contacts with physical therapists and other agencies who help get the equipment to those in need.
Ronnie retired from the pastorate in 2019, “but not from preaching,” he’s quick to add. “The Lord called me to preach in 1968 and I went to Fruitland in 1970. My first sermon when people came to the altar, I was hooked.” Ronnie doesn’t talk about his ministry very long without mentioning Sheila, his wife of 31 years. “She is my rock!” he states earnestly, and then clarifies with a smile, “along with Christ of course.”
After retiring from pastoring 15 years at Hasty Baptist Church in Thomasville, Ronnie played golf with his buddies for a year before noticing the Call Center Specialist opening posted in the Liberty Baptist Association newsletter.
“This job has made me feel good about myself and my ministry. I’ve done more to help people with their physical needs in the past
two years than I have my whole life. Volunteers building ramps often leave Bibles and we hear stories about successful evangelism efforts. I’m grateful for my part in the love and care being shown to aging adults through volunteers and ramp-building teams all across the state.” Ronnie explains his delight in making people smile and his pastoral calling this way: “When you see God’s love demonstrated, it’s like light. It’s hard not to go right to it.”
Learn more the North Carolina Baptist Aging Ministry (NCBAM) at ncbam.org.
Written by Carol Layton, NCBAM, Director of Communications and Administration