I have a friend who works in the Records office for our Mission. I know it sounds weird, but he loves records. He once told me it’s because Records show the story of people, and a journey of their development and where God is taking them! I’m inspired to hear him talk this way.
Most of us, including myself, have entered into missions to work with people. When we hear of a job opening in the ‘Records Office’, or other such logistical role, some people even think “Well, I could do that at home and make money doing it - I didn’t come to missions to do that!”
Backbone Staff* is a term used to describe those within a missions setting who hold roles that are operational, logistical or administrative. It’s called “Backbone” because without these roles, many other ministries wouldn’t happen, or wouldn’t happen quite so effectively. Just like our backbone, they hold up and support the other parts. I mean, where would everyone be in a ministry without the computer networks? Or buildings being maintained?
In Acts, the new Church found this also to be the case. They obviously had some type of food pantry or meals service for the poor and widows, like many churches and ministries now have. This was being run by the church leaders (the apostles), because, as still happens today, the church leaders are often the ones doing most of the church work. But it was getting too much. They couldn’t do both the preaching and discipleship, and the ministry to the needy. So they appointed people to be servers.
This appointment was in no way a statement to say the preaching ministry was more important! Actually, what I read says completely contrary to that. They were recognizing that both ministries must happen. If the apostles were not preaching, then the gospel was not getting out there; but they didn’t want the mercy ministries to suffer. The preaching is the gift THEY had, and they recognized that others had the gift of administration and mercy. So they appointed HOLY SPIRIT-filled church members to serve; even praying and commissioning them into their task!
(When was the last time we commissioned in prayer the secretary, the nursery workers or the maintenance guy?)
What I also notice is Stephen had a mercy heart, he served in this practical task. But he was able to preach, and did so right before his death. (Acts 6)
Just because you serve in a logistical or administrative role, doesn’t mean you have to give up all other types of ministries as well. I work administratively, but several times a year I get the chance to teach. My friend John, in the Records office, gets to travel, teach, meet people and lead worship. My friend Wayne works in the maintenance department but he weekly works with the kids at his church. Gary is the IT guy, but also serves in the kids ministry at church. My friend Christina worked in YWAM hospitality, often making baked-goods, cause she knows it will make people smile and sees that as a part of her ministry.
It’s not about the task. “Whatever you do, whether in word or in deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father…” (Colossians 3:17). I’m glad I can do what I do. I am supporting others in what they do. I’m so thankful for all the others who do the same, in missions and church ministry all over the world.
And even for those of you who serve practically a few hours a week in your church or local ministry or charity group - thank you. It’s a job well needed and well appreciated.
*Operational roles and Backbone staff in a missionary organization might refer to such positions within the ministry as - office workers, kitchen staff, hospitality, marketing, IT, maintenance, administrators, personnel, property and project managers, communications, media, finance office, etc.