Presbytery of Giddings-Lovejoy
Rev. Dr. Craig Howard, Transitional Leader
Passion Drives Membership
Since arriving in St. Louis, I’ve heard so much about the Missouri Botanical Garden. Last week I and a group of people volunteering at the office went over for lunch at Sassafras Café. The volunteers talked up the garden on the trip over. The place was filled with people coming and going; talking with one another about the various flowers and plants. I got so excited, I became a member!
Passion drives membership…
As your Transitional Presbytery Leader, I spend a lot of time in numbers (not the book of Numbers in the Bible!). I am constantly massaging our presbytery statistics to figure out our strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities. At the Vision Team meeting last week, Mike Willock and I shared information about the presbytery trends as seen through our annual statistics. Here are some of the highlights of the highlights!
We have 79 Congregations with 12,585 members. We lost 13.5% of our membership in 2016. If we remove Bonhomme from the statistics, we lost 4.5% of our members in 2016.
- 18 Congregations grew. The total increase was 112.
- 36 Congregations lost members. Total losses were 708.
- On Average 73 people attend worship each Sunday.
- 15 congregations had 25 members or less in worship each Sunday.
- 47% of our members are over age 65.
- 5 Congregations have 75% or more of their members over 65.
- 10% of presbytery members are racial ethnic. 90% of these are of African descent.
- However, 50% of our congregations have zero Racial Ethnic members.
As I visit congregations, I hear the concerns about membership declining, aging congregations, and lack of youth and young adults. These are real concerns indeed.
I’ve been inspired in my Lenten reading by James Baldwin’s book, The Cross of Redemption. Baldwin writes, “We are misled here because we think of numbers. You don’t need numbers; you need passion. And this is proven by the history of the world.”
I believe Baldwin has something here. It’s not about the numbers, it’s about the passion. And there is a lot of passion happening in our presbytery! After writing last week’s article about my visit to New Hope Presbyterian church, I received four emails from other congregations expounding on the interesting ways they do worship, and the energy and passion they experience. This week I am now hearing more and more stories about congregations where exciting things are happening.
I believe passion can drive numbers. When the gospel is being preached and the liturgy is being done with creativity, quality, and excellence, people tend to show up. But the passion cannot stop with the choir and the pastor. The members must show passion about their God and their faith as well. I believe when people are excited about something they tend to share their excitement with others.
So, where is your passion? What makes you get up in the morning and want to live the day? Where is the passion in your congregation? I’d like to hear about it, and share your story with others.
Rev. Craig M. Howard