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

On Sunday, I had the opportunity to preach at First Kampsville. I’m sure we’ve never held presbytery gathering on this Illinois peninsula. Kampsville is a town of 302. The drive to our furthest north congregation meant taking a ferry across the Mississippi river and another ferry across the Illinois river, then driving on winding roads through beautiful bluffs and woods. The drive alone was inspiring.
The amazing thing about First Kampsville is the attendance. They have a membership of 12, but over 20 in attendance! This is because of the “12 faithful visitors” who attend along with the members. These visitors belong to other congregations, but enjoy worshiping at Kampsville as well. The church is only open one day per week, and for one hour of worship and any meetings thereafter. They use an Honorably Retired pastor to preach and serve communion on the first Sunday of the month, and then use a lay pastor the remainder of the month for preaching and pastoral care.
Kampsville is a rural congregation that survives because it uses minimal effort. It only does worship, but it does worship well. Each member knows how to step up and lead. Financially, the church can afford to pay its bills, but their saving reduces a little each year. They are an ageing congregation, yet have a healthy view of their limited future.  
Kampsville raises many questions including the life cycle of a congregation, survival of rural communities, efficient use of buildings and space, the role of pastoral leadership, and the value of membership. As we become a denomination of small congregations (100 or less in worship) we will continue to wrestle with these questions. Kampsville’s questions are the presbytery’s questions.
Rev. Craig M. Howard


  • Posted June 13, 2017 9:09 pm
    Carleton Stock

    Thanks for your blogs each week Craig. They are informative and inspiring and real. I wanted to pass this concept on to you altho you are no doubt familiar with it. Susan Andrews, Interim at Second PC, shared one time that in the presbytery she served (Hudson Valley ?) they decided to use their funds to support the congregations that were still viable and had a chance for the future rather than the ones that were on or close to life support. They would all be cared for of course but in different ways. Made sense to me. Can we do that in Giddings-Lovejoy?
    Carleton Stock HR

    • Posted June 14, 2017 2:33 pm
      Craig Howard

      Thanks for your response. I’ve never been comfortable referring to congregations as being in hospice or on life support. What I do support is investing in ministry, and financially supporting ways that create outcomes the presbytery values- such as building relationships, growing members, connecting to communities, and bringing hope.

  • Posted June 14, 2017 11:35 am
    Daae Vandiver

    Interesting article, Craig. I don’t know if it would be worthwhile or not; but perhaps we could have small group discussions about such small churches and what our Presbytery can do for the future of these churches and the people in them — if only that means how do we support these aging congregations in ways that are helpful. Aging persons in their own households face questions about their futures and their worship is important. Perhaps I will see you tomorrow at Stewardship Committee
    meeting — or we could talk about it afterward. My e-mail address is

    • Posted June 14, 2017 2:36 pm
      Craig Howard

      I would love to have that conversation! It is a difficult topic and each small congregation faces different challenges. I really like the small group or task force idea as well. I’ll see you at the meeting tomorrow.

      • Posted June 20, 2017 10:45 am
        Lyman Trumbull

        Kudos, not only small congrgations but founding churches in their communities are on the edge. Alton 1st Presbyterian will be two hunder years old in a decade and a half will it make it is the question… Leadership on the large part along with joining in with the congregants is another part of the pie and serving the membership is paramount over social services in the downding community.

        • Posted June 20, 2017 11:43 am
          Craig Howard

          Thank you for your note. I’m not concerned about the next 15 years for Alton, First. I would ask if it will make it for the next 200 years! Remember, all of the churches Paul founded are closed, but they still live on in our congregations through the epistles. So, the question is what will the legacy be of Alton, First? How will it live in body or in spirit? How can it continue to influence the community for Christ throughout the next 200 years?

  • Posted June 14, 2017 11:37 am
    Daae Vandiver

    Interesting article, Craig. Perhaps we could talk about it at tomorrow’s
    Stewardship meeting at 10:00 a.m., or following the meeting for a few

  • Posted June 16, 2017 7:49 am
    Michelle Smith

    Thanks for telling us about Kampsville, as well as the other congregations you visit. It’s interesting to see how we are similar, as well as different, across our presbytery.

    • Posted June 20, 2017 11:38 am
      Craig Howard

      Thanks! My hope is that we will continue to value our connectedness, and the different yet necessary ministry we are doing throughout Missouri and Illinois.

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