Up Close with Lay Leader Stephanie Griffin
Watching a slideshow presented by missionaries from the Belgium Congo changed Stephanie Griffin’s life as a mere 9-year-old and set her life’s course to serve God. She has recently stepped in to the position of Conference Lay Leader.
“My mother had to take me out of the missionary meeting because I was crying so hard I could not stop,” says new Lay Leader Stephanie Griffin, thinking back to her childhood experience watching a ministry slideshow presentation from the Belgium Congo. “When I saw children my age walking around with dust covered faces and distended bellies from starvation I knew God had a calling on my life. I clearly understood that I was well fed, clean and in the arms of loving parents, and going to school without a care in the world and asked my mother why God chose that for them and not me. She told me that, when God gives you much, you have much to give back. Since that day I have looked for ways to give back, not because I have to but because it gives me great joy to know that I am being used as His vessel.” Stephanie calls herself “one of those United Methodists that grew up in the church on the pew right next to my mom and dad, sisters and brother.” She is one of four children, the wife of Les Griffin for almost 39 years and the mother of two: Annie, who lives in Tokyo, Japan, and Matthew who recently moved to NW Houston and will soon introduce a baby son to his grandparents. “Family is important to me because it is a bond that connects the heart. So, I must tell you that the Church is my family too. The same connection I feel to my parents, brother, sister, and children, I feel to my sisters and brothers in Christ.”
A Legacy of Service
As newlyweds, Les and Stephanie served as Youth Leaders at Asbury UMC in Tyler, and moved from there to every elected job in the local church. While she grew up in a small UMC, she is now a member of a larger congregation at FUMC Lindale, and has since worked with children, youth, and adults, including seven years of service as the Northwest District Representative to the Core Leadership Team --- four of which were served as the District Lay Leader for the Northwest District. “During this time in my ministry, I realized that the TAC is blessed with talented leadership. There is a great deal of statistics and research that indicates the decline of the UMC. “I was part of a group of leaders, with Bishop Huie’s guidance and encouragement, that developed a strategic plan to go back to our roots and do what we do best -- be Methodist in order to touch people in a hurting world with the Gospel.”
“As the Conference Lay Leader I look forward to watching the mobilization of an army of laity across the Conference connecting and leaving the safety of the confines of our walls to share the love of Christ with the neighborhood, the country, and the world. First I want to be a part of an active Board of Laity comprised of the nine District Lay Leaders. These men and women are key resources for laity and know their districts and the churches in their boundaries.” Her second goal is to connect the laity through the laity blog on the Conference website “to share stories and solutions for challenges that all of us are facing.” Griffin also hopes to witness the transformation of laity leadership to the next generation….a younger church that recognizes the challenges and pitfalls in the world today. “I know it may not be easy, but it is not impossible.” Referencing Dr. Schnase’s book, “Remember the Future,” she quotes: “One of the tasks of leadership is to pass the mantle to the next generations within our congregations, conferences, and general church…We squeeze them into our mold, urging them to play the role we used to play and do things the way we used to do them. This is not what passing the mantle means.” He goes on to say: “We need reverse mentoring, an intentional process for listening to younger people who see challenges from a different perspective.” Stephanie looks forward to finding opportunities to listen to young leaders, get better acquainted and learn from them.
Systems for Sharing
She loves to share the love of Christ and stories of Jesus sightings in her life and encourages open dialogue via firstname.lastname@example.org. “The laity blog posted each week on the TAC website could be a great place to generate conversation and strengthen the connection if you, the laity, start to respond.” At the outset of her four-year commitment she issues a challenge: “I pray each of you will do one thing a month that touches a young person whether that be providing an hour of babysitting for a young mom in the community or church, reading with a child for 30 minutes, working in a church nursery or youth program, Sunday School classroom, making snacks for UMYF, helping a college student fill out a resume….the list is endless.” She urges others to visit the blog and “share what you are doing to pour yourself out today.”
Adds Griffin, “I am excited about our future in the TAC. We have direction, great leadership, and a heart to serve. The goals of vibrant, growing missional congregations, forming transforming lay and clergy leadership, and investing in the young give every church across the conference a unified vision to journey toward. Friends we aren’t in Egypt any longer and the promise land is just over the rise. So what if there are giants there? We have God on our side. The battle is already won!”
Her model for living is simple and rewarding. “Every morning when I roll out of bed I pray that God will fill me with His Holy Spirit and pour me out during the day until I am empty. The best days are when I come home and fall in bed exhausted knowing that God used me up today for Him! My prayer for all of us is that we are poured out for Him everyday. See you across the Connection.”