Jodi Craiglow has been a teacher, but she has a desire now to be a teacher of teachers. And she is sure that is the direction the Lord is leading.
Craiglow, who was appointed as the newest member of the Presbyterian Lay Committee’s Board of Directors in the fall of 2012, has earned multiple degrees already and is close to earning a few more. When she does, she will become that teacher of teachers.
What she means by that is educating teaching elders in the proper ways to share God’s Word with their congregations.
“What I feel called to do is teach at the collegiate or seminary level, working with pastors and other leaders teaching them how to teach,” said Craiglow, 34. “You can have ministry leaders who know the Word and know theology but can’t translate that to people in the pews. I want to help them learn how to communicate and increase their effectiveness in their respective calls.”
It’s teaching the teachers.
“Pastors are called teaching elders, and teaching is a very important part of what they do,” Craiglow said. “I want to make sure they do it right.”
Craiglow is doing that by better preparing herself. She taught high school English in her native Ohio for a couple of years after graduating in 2002 from Grove City College in Pennsylvania with degrees in English, communications and secondary education. It was during her freshman year that she decided to attend seminary, so also studied religion.
“I made a deal with God,” she recalled. “I told Him I would only teach as long as it took to get enough money to put myself through seminary. After a couple of years, God said, ‘OK, it’s time.”
Heeding the commitment she made, Craiglow enrolled at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in Charlotte, N.C., where she earned a master’s of Divinity in 2010.
But Craiglow did not feel called into ordained pastoral ministry. Instead, God called her to follow a different path, one to teach and educate those entering the pastorate.
The last few years, she worked toward her master’s degrees in Comparative Religion and Educational Psychology at Miami University in Ohio in preparation to begin her doctoral work at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Ill., as she continues to pursue her call.
“I’m a perpetual student,” Craiglow said. “I started out wanting to take a look at how the rest of the world looks at Christians, and it has been an eye-opening experience thus far.”
While she was born and raised in northeast Ohio between Canton and Akron, Craiglow moved to Monroe, N.C., with her parents in 2005. That’s where they still make their home, even after Craiglow moved back to Ohio in 2010 at attend graduate school.
A lover of the arts, Craiglow enjoys drawing, graphic design, singing and theater as well as speech and debate. She even minored in theater as an undergraduate student. She helped put herself though seminary by singing opera.
Having the opportunity to join the PLC Board of Directors is another tool in Craiglow’s educational arsenal and a way for her to continue learning and teaching.
“What really excites me is the PLC’s goal to equip members of the church to carry out the mission of the Gospel. I really take that seriously,” she said. “(Lay) People need to be equipped, and it’s just as important for them as the people who wear the robes and stoles.
“The educational opportunity really excites me. I’m dedicated to the educational ministries of the church, and I hope to blend the talents God has given me to that end.”
Craiglow said serving the PLC also creates opportunities to network and connect with others and share the message of Christ across the nation, something she holds dear.
“I think it’s really important that every part of the church understands what it means to follow Christ, what God had done, and what He continues to do,” she said. “At all times we need to be prepared to give a testimony of why we believe what we believe. Being able to use the PLC’s nationwide connections allows us do that and is really a great opportunity. (The PLC) provides resources for people to gain a deeper love of the Lord, and that really excites me because of the lives I’ve seen changed in that way.”
In a similar vein, Craiglow wants to draw off the experiences of seasoned board members who have served the PLC and share her own with them as they work toward that common goal of informing and equipping Christians to share the Biblical faith by proclaiming Jesus Christ alone as the Way of salvation, the Truth of God’s Word and the Life of Discipleship.
“The healthiest relationships are those that are symbiotic,” she said. “Each side has something to give and gain. I’ll be learning from people who have lived the faith and be able to share mine.”
Craiglow has not always been a Presbyterian, though, saying that she was a “Johnny Come Lately” to Presbyterianism. Her father was part of the United Church of Christ (UCC); her mother was Southern Baptist. While pregnant, Craiglow’s mother told her father the choice of faiths did not matter but they would be taking their daughter to church.
Staying in the UCC as she grew up, Craiglow determined she was not getting the theological depth she needed and began attending an Evangelical Friends Church. She encountered Presbyterianism at Grove City while in college. A good friend of hers was the pastor of a Presbyterian Church (USA) congregation, and Craiglow started attending. Eventually she joined and within five months filled the final year of a session term when an elder passed away. A year later, she filled another final year of a term for the same reason and knew she was where God intended her to be with her faith.
“I really felt this was where God was calling me to be, and I started getting more and more involved at the presbytery and denominational levels,” Craiglow said.
She served as an elder, Sunday school teacher and presbytery representative at Westwood Presbyterian Church where she is a member. Additionally, she has served on the Miami Valley Presbytery’s Committee on Preparation for Ministry and the Evangelism Network as well as a General Assembly Ruling Elder Commissioner in 2012.
Craiglow fully recognizes many of the issues facing the PCUSA these days, and she has dedicated herself toward working to restore the denomination.
“We’ve got our issues, but I’m committed to working for the health of the PCUSA, to help people come together and work for a common goal,” Craiglow said. “We as a group – progressives and conservatives need to develop a way to somehow work through these issues and not self-destruct. I have to believe that some way we can work through this. We are at the point of coming apart at the seams, but I believe that God can and will renew our denomination. I can’t and won’t believe God has turned His back on this denomination.”
As Craiglow sees things, God’s presence and intervention is what will be needed if the PCUSA is going to overcome the issues it has been plagued by through the years.
“I’m going to hold that God will stir a change of heart in every member of the denomination,” she said. “We are all sinners and fall short of the Glory of God. It will take God working within every member of the denomination for that to happen, me included.
“But I’m an optimist. The God we serve is powerful enough to do that, and when it does happen it will be obvious it is Him and not us. God can make the dry bones live.”
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