Demographics Specialist Karen Smith has decided to retire after a 26-year career with the Arkansas Baptist State Convention.
The 67-year-old began working for the convention in March 1996 as a part-time secretary for Harry Black, Brotherhood Director on the Missions Ministry Team. After about two years, the convention reorganized, and Smith took on an administrative support role with the communications team and demographics.
Since 1998, Smith said she has completed nearly 5,000 demographic reports.
When she started with demographics, Smith said her supervisor hoped she would start to view the role as missions.
“At first, I was so burdened by the technical aspects of making the program and I had no feedback on where things went a lot of times,” Smith said.
But after two or three years, she started to see the influence the information she provided had in churches across Arkansas.
For instance, Smith noted one time when Bob Fielding, consultant for Chaplaincy and National/International Missions, told her about a “God moment” a church had after viewing demographics information she compiled. There were 200 preschool-age children in their community, and the church only had about three in their building.
“He said they hung their heads and said, wow, we’ve got to change some things. I’ve been here long enough where those stories start to come back, and I do see that it has been a missions field,” Smith said.
Having worked with Smith on the missions side of things over the years, Debbie Moore, Arkansas WMU executive director, said Smith has a “huge heart for missions and missionaries.”
“She is an encourager and a faithful servant. I have benefitted personally from her missions’ heart through prayer,” Moore said. “Always pleasant, Karen has served Arkansas Baptists behind the scenes and has done so well in her different assignments.”
Building Hostess Karen West, who started working at the Arkansas Baptist State Convention in October 1997, said Smith has always been one of the “kindest and most helpful people.”
“She is willing to help anyone with anything. She never expects recognition or thanks. She is a great friend and encourager. Whenever she would give me card, she always signed it, ‘the other Karen.’ I count it a blessing to have worked with her all these years. I’m blessed to call her my friend. She will be greatly missed. Praying for her an awesome retirement,” West said.