Lifeline of Hope

Blog Post by
Rev. Dr. Craig M. Howard
Transitional Leader of the
Presbytery of Giddings-Lovejoy

A couple of weeks ago I received a daily devotional from one of our pastors (a huge thank-you for ideas, notes, and articles you all send me!). The devotional is called The Cottage and is written by Diana Butler Bass. This particular article was writing in the wake of the stock market drop, and Diana compared it to the decline in the mainline church. I know you’ve heard the numbers and seen the statistics for our denomination, and our presbytery. Diana’s point though, is that she is tired of the charts and trend lines. She writes, “People are sick of trends. We are searching for lifelines, not looking for trend lines.”

We need a lifeline in Giddings-Lovejoy. And I believe our Presbytery Gatherings can be the lifeline we are looking for.

Our Presbytery Gatherings are changing. On Saturday you will notice a distinctive shift in the format of the gathering. We are organized for change, and the key to change in our local congregations lie in the hearts and minds of our ruling elders. This is why we are inviting all ruling elders who serve on session, to this Presbytery Gathering. Brian McLaren will motivate and challenge us. He will help us to ignite the flame of passion for ministry. It is a message all leaders need to hear, especially those who are responsible for the direction of our congregations. The workshop leaders will speak to our hearts and share ideas we can take back to our congregations and make a difference.

Vanessa Hawkins often reminds me that the presbytery is in a season of resurrection, and we get to decide what that will look like. We need to be aware that in the midst of statistical decline, many, many things are going well. We are designing our Presbytery Gatherings to be a lifeline of hope, and a reminder that God is still active in the world. Our gatherings will remind us that we are being invited into the ministry that God is already doing.

If you haven’t registered, there is still time to be part of our Presbytery Gathering on Saturday at Webster Groves. The cost for non-commissioner ruling elders is only $20. I invite you to the learning, fellowship, sharing, and oh yes, we’ll do some business too!

Rev. Craig M. Howard

Sowing Seeds of the Spirit

 Blog post by the Rev. Dr. Craig M. Howard
Presbytery of Giddings-Lovejoy

Transitional Leader

Lent comes from the old English word “Lenten,” meaning “spring.” Lent is an invitation to a springtime for the soul. It is forty days to remember what it’s like to live by God’s grace alone and not by what we can supply for ourselves. My Lenten practice is not one of giving up something. Instead, it is a practice of nurturing my mind and soul by reading a book each week.

This year I am experiencing a strong yearning for internal change. Perhaps it is because I want to lead a culture of change in our presbytery, and I am learning that the first step of change has to come from within me. I have to ask myself the difficult question of how I must act and be different, in order for the church to be different.

In the book Deep Change: Discovering the Leader Within, Robert E. Quinn writes, “Deep change requires new ways of thinking and behaving; change that is major in scope, discontinuous for the past and generally irreversible. Deep change means surrendering control.”

Unfortunately, we do not have the option of determining when and how the Spirit moves. I know that just because I want to experience deep change, doesn’t mean it will happen.

Richard Foster, in the book Disciplines of the Spirit writes, “A farmer is helpless to grow grain; all (the farmer) can do is provide the right conditions for the growing of grain. (The farmer) cultivates the ground, plants the seed, waters the plants, and then the natural forces of the earth take over and up comes the grain…This is the way it is with the Spiritual Disciplines – they are a way of sowing to the Spirit… By themselves the Spiritual Disciplines can do nothing; they can only get us to the place where something can be done.”

This Lent, let’s sow seeds of the Spirit through prayer, meditation, reflection, writing, walking, or however you get in touch with the divine. May God bless us with a harvest of Spiritual fruit, and bring the needed change in the church and inside each of us.

Craig’s Lenten Reading 2018

  • God Hunger: Discovering the Mystic In All of Us– John Kirvan
  • The Sabbath– Abraham Joshua Herschel
  • Sabbath: Finding Rest, Renewal, and Delight in our Busy Lives– Wayne Muller
  • Leadership and Self Deception: Getting Out of the Box– The Arbinger Institute
  • A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities that Arise in Disaster– Rebecca Solnit
  • Maximizing the Triple Bottom Line: Through Spiritual Leadership– Louis W. Fry and Melissa Sadler Nisiewicz

Rev. Craig M. Howard





Service From The Soul

Blog post by the Rev. Dr. Craig M. Howard
Presbytery of Giddings-Lovejoy
Transitional Leader

On Saturday morning it all came together. The presbytery office hosted a celebration of the work and ministry in Tower Grove. After the celebration, we had a called Presbytery Meeting. Close to 60 people came out to fellowship, tour the building, talk about the past, worship, and imagine a new future for the presbytery of Giddings-Lovejoy.

What caught my attention is how well the staff worked together. Vanessa helped Leigh with the kitchen and set-up. Jennifer helped Joy with handouts and operating the PowerPoint presentation. Janice moved up and down the stairs doing copies, photos, and picking up loose ends.

The presbytery has hired good people. Vanessa, Leigh, Janice, Joy, and Jennifer can stand on their own, do the work they were hired to do, and do it well. But good leadership means taking gifted individuals and forming them into a team. This is done by shifting the focus from the individual, to nurturing relationships between individuals, and the organization.

Teamwork goes beyond individual capability. Being in relationship means moving beyond skills and utilitarian function. Relationships must include seeing staff as people; people with hearts, souls, desires, and dreams. Good leadership is able to knit together these deeper parts of the staff, workers, and volunteers, so they work seamlessly together for the mission and vision of the church.

In the book, Leading In a Culture of Change, Michael Fullan writes, “When individual soul is connected to the organization, people become connected to something deeper- the desire to contribute to a larger purpose, to feel they are part of a greater whole, a web of connection.”

Becoming part of a web of connection is one of the reasons people join churches, serve on session, and go on mission projects. This is what the people who were gathered together on Saturday talked about; this is why they volunteered to work at the presbytery center.

When people experience a soul connection with the church; when staff and volunteers are serving from their souls, it moves people beyond their “jobs” and inspires them to do what is best for the presbytery and church.

Rev. Craig M. Howard