Longtime church member and lay leader John Howard will become Executive Director of the FUMCFW staff starting September 1.
The search for an Executive Director to manage the day-to-day operations of our church staff took an unexpected turn during a breakfast meeting between our then Staff-Parish Relations Committee (SPRC) Chair John Howard and Senior Pastor Dr. Tim Bruster.
According to SPRC Member Allison Barley, who helped lead the Executive Director search, in SPRC discussions over the past few months, it became clear that our church’s staff was in need of someone to take on some of the operational concerns that Dr. Bruster was juggling — in the absence of an executive pastor — along with his other responsibilities. “This was particularly important as our church enters a period of tremendous growth,” Barley added.
The Committee decided to conduct a search for an individual with the experienced leadership background and understanding of the church’s needs who could implement the strategic vision of the church, particularly through administrative and human resource management. A search committee was formed, which created the job description, candidate requirements, and timeline for search and placement.
While the thought had first occurred to John during a Texas Methodist Foundation conference he attended in early February with Dr. Bruster, Rev. Lance Marshall, and Business Administrator Larry Ammerman, he says that he remembers the exact moment several weeks later when “the light came on” and he realized that the person they were searching for might just be him. “I was talking to Tim over breakfast and suddenly the thought occurred to me, ‘I think I’d like to do this job,’” he relates. “All of the pieces fit.” John still shakes his head as he remembers how in that instant he realized that all the background, experience, and personal qualities the committee was looking for in this candidate mirrored exactly what he had done and loved most in his own career in the publishing and promotional products industry. “My favorite thing in the world is bringing people together to achieve more than they imagine possible,” he adds. “Managing managers is a professional passion for me that runs really deep, right alongside my love for this church.”
John says that he hesitated at first, but the impulse to speak up was too strong to ignore. “I just had to go ahead and say it,” he adds, “even though I hadn’t discussed it with my wife, Liz, and I really wasn’t sure what Tim would think.”
He chuckles as he remembers Dr. Bruster’s response, “‘Are you . . . sure?’ Tim asked me.” John smiles and shrugs, “Having served the SPRC during some difficult issues, I knew exactly what he meant. It’s not an easy job, but oddly enough, the exact set of personal and professional skills we said we were looking for were things I have acquired throughout my personal and professional life.”
“At first I was surprised, then intrigued, and then a little curious as to why John would want to take on this challenging role at this point in his career,” Dr. Bruster admits. “And then as we talked I realized what a perfect fit John’s background and experience would be for the demands of this position — and I was thrilled at the possibility of his applying.”
Dr. Bruster says that the SPRC, too, immediately recognized John’s fit with the pivotal role they have identified as crucial to moving our church forward into its new era of growth. “As a lay leader, John has demonstrated the thoughtfulness, resourcefulness, creativity, and decisiveness needed in this position,” says Dr. Bruster, “and as a longtime active member of our church he is well-acquainted with our DNA. We couldn’t be more fortunate than to be able to welcome John to this new staff position.”
Allison adds that when John told the Search Committee he was interested in the position, like Dr. Bruster they were initially surprised but quickly realized what a great fit he was. “Our committee often discussed what a daunting task it would be to find the right person to fill this incredibly important role, much less in the time frame that we felt was necessary to have the most impact,” she says. “Candidly, I worried we were talking about a unicorn, but we did not want to settle for anything less than the ideal candidate. John is a well-known, longstanding member of the church who has established trust with both the congregation and the staff. His church leadership and professional background make him very well-qualified to serve in the Executive Director role, but more importantly he has a heart for service and a great love for the church and its future.”
John and his wife, Liz, have been members of First Church since 1989 and are 1990 charter members of the Good Neighbors Sunday School class. They have raised three kids, Anne, Rob, and Maggie, in our church family who were all active members of Sunday School, Confirmation, Youth, and Youth Choir. While both John and Liz have occupied many lay leadership roles throughout the years (Liz still serves on the Board of Trustees), today John and Liz also occupy the cherished roles of “Amah and Danun” to five grandchildren: Sidney (6), Elsie (4 1/2), Ivie, (4), Jack (2), and John David (1 1/2).
To date, John has served on nearly every major lay leadership committee, including Board of Stewards, Staff-Parish Relations Committee, Church Council, Committee on Finance, the early Outreach Council, and as Chair of our Stewardship Committee as well as the SPRC search committee that brought Director of Music & Worship Arts Robert Stovall on board.
Following Jack Benson as chair of the SPRC this past January, John once again found himself in a group charged with a key search — this time for an executive director of our church staff. “The funny thing about it is,” John says, relating the urgency of the call he felt to this role, “since this thought first occurred to me — just out of the blue — I’ve never felt a bit of doubt. For me, at this point in my career, it’s an extremely exciting opportunity to share what I’ve learned so far, and I couldn’t be more thrilled to put that knowledge and experience to work serving our church.”
As John takes the rest of this summer to move toward “retirement” from his current job in the promotional products industry and into a brand-new chapter of full-time work, we wanted to go ahead and share this exciting news about our newest FUMCFW staffer. (Look for the full story — and some intriguing details — in the July issue of CONNECT Magazine.) Whether or not you already know John, you can be sure that his easy smile, thoughtful words, and gentle wit will become a familiar feature in the day-to-day life of our church.