First Baptist Woodstock has approximately 16,000 members, with 6,000 to 15,000 attending Sunday services depending on the season.
During the week, thousands of volunteers come through the doors, staffing special events and attending classes or workshops.
It takes a staff of more than 160 people to manage the church’s operations.
Yet there’s one very patient lady who answers the phone each day.
Linda Holland faithfully answers every ringing phone: "Thank you for calling First Baptist Church Woodstock. How may I direct your call?"
Sometimes juggling up to six lines at a time, she navigates a network of 188 extensions (not including the weekday preschool offices) directing the callers to their proper destinations.
Holland, a 17-year church member, eased into the position 16 years ago after agreeing to fill in for the receptionist.
A few months later, the receptionist retired and Holland was offered the job. Because she had a background in finance, she told them that she’d fill in until they found a permanent replacement or she found a job in her field.
Now she says she can’t imagine doing anything else.
"I love my job. It’s so neat to meet different people. I hear a lot of stories. At one time I said I wish I had written them down."
One day, according to the counter in the phone room, she answered 1,700 calls. The call volume increases when the church hosts a conference and around the holidays.
Some people call to ask for the phone number of another church.
"I Google it and give it to them. That seems to please them."
Callers can be bizarre, sweet, emotional – there’s never a dull moment. While Holland is too gracious to divulge details about the most extreme conversations, she admits that one of her biggest blessings is to be able to pray with a caller.
"I try to put myself in somebody else’s place. How would I want my call handled if I were calling?" she said. "No matter what somebody calls about – whether it’s a service time, Wednesday’s dinner menu or a bereavement or financial need – they want to talk to a person first. We want them to know that somebody at First Baptist is listening, and cares."
Her work day is 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and until noon on Friday.
Volunteers are scheduled to fill in during her lunch hour, and 15-minute breaks in the morning and afternoon.
An emphasis on keeping things personal is a priority for senior pastor Johnny Hunt.
"Relationship is one of the strongest words in the human vocabulary. It only becomes stronger when it becomes personal. As pastor of First Baptist Church Woodstock, I desire to keep these qualities out front and behind the scenes. It’s wonderful that guests or members call our church and get a person and not a recording. It’s personal," said Hunt.
That attention to detail is part of a church-wide effort to foster a smaller and more personal feel for members of the congregation and community.
"What we strive for is to make the largeness we have been blessed with feel smaller and more personal," said Ron Anspaugh, director of hospitality ministries.
"From attending a Bible study class, being a part of a care group and through serving in a ministry or place of service, we can make the big church feel more like a small church experience, so members can get to know one another on a more personal and spiritual level, minister to and encourage one another."
The church is at 11905 Highway 92 in Woodstock. 770-926-4428. www.fbcw.org.
Editor's note: Versions of these ministry notes previously appeared in the January edition of The Cherokee Vine, a monthly newsletter that highlights news and events from churches, ministries and charitable organizations in Cherokee County.