BY JEFF FALK
NORTH LEBANON – Craig Griffith wears a lot of different hats.
Some feel different on him. Some look different on him. Others make him look different.
But they all contain the same logo. And they all fit him very well.
Griffith is the pastor of Open Door Baptist Church, located on north Eighth Avenue in North Lebanon Township. He’s also the principal of the church’s sister institution, Lebanon Christian Academy. But that’s not all.
In addition, he’s the head varsity boys’ basketball AND head varsity girls’ basketball coaches for LCA’s Panthers. And as if that’s not enough, he’s also the father of seven school-aged children.
While Griffith never sought out many of those hats, neither did he ever refuse any tossed his way.
“The pastoral role and the ministry, and caring for people is the umbrella over all of them,” said Griffith. “The coaching end takes you over the pedestal image and brings you down to a more personal level. But they all tie in. They’re all allowing me to pastor.
“My calling is definitely pastoral ministry,” Griffith added. “I do think educating kids with a biblical world view is a part of that. The coaching provides a different way to connect. I’m amazed at the lifelong connections I’ve made through coaching. I really love those connections. It’s just another way to minister to people.”
In many ways, Griffith came to wear his many hats out of a matter of financial necessity. Griffith certainly isn’t the only staff member currently donning multiple caps at Lebanon Christian Academy, his just come with a bit more responsibility.
“A lot of things with a church and a small Christian school comes down to dollars and needs,” said Griffith, 46. “We don’t have a large budget. All of my roles could be their own full-time jobs. I would give them up, but I do enjoy all of them.
“I would love to be able to delegate in all of those areas,” continued Griffith. “Then I can be the organizer, the fan in the stands. Just so you don’t wear too thin, just so you don’t burn out. In a perfect world, I’m just the pastor. But I really enjoy boys’ basketball. Boys’ basketball would be one of the last things I’d give up. I hope it happens one day. We’ve seen more church growth over the last four years. It’s going in the right direction.”
A small, religion-based private school, Lebanon Christian Academy was founded in 1978.
“That’s probably the biggest challenge,” said Griffith of his time management and prioritizing skills. “The thing I fight for is time with my wife and children. You find some moments here and there. The next four months are the worst, with holiday services and basketball. It’s a pretty hectic time of the year.
“The truth is we have excellent teachers and excellent secretaries helping to shoulder the load,” Griffith continued. “It’s all the people around, and it’s one day at a time. I’ve got a great wife, and my children are very supportive. And I do look to the Lord for strength and wisdom.”
A native of Chester County, PA and the son of a minister, Griffith and his family came to Lebanon from Georgia, in 1996. A year later, Griffith became Open Door’s pastor, and now Lebanon is his adopted home.
“We wanted to come back to Pennsylvania, but we didn’t want to be too close to Chester,” said Griffith, who recently celebrated his 25th wedding anniversary. “We wanted to find a place with ease of travel. If you look at a map, there’s no better place to live than Lebanon. We love it. This is home. Most of our children were born here.
“We’re definitely working towards a new school principal because we think that’ll help the school in the long term,” added Griffith. “I love our advisors and our helpers. And we’d be very open to hiring a girls’ and boys’ basketball coach.”
Griffith believes his role as a minister to be his true calling. His duties include leading the church’s services on Sundays, various types of counseling, officiating religious services like baptisms, wedding and funerals, conducting summer camp, visiting hospitals and homes, overseeing youth groups, just to name a few.
“Primarily, you’re faithfully preaching the bible,” said Griffith. “That’s your responsibility to people. You look to meet their spiritual needs. You’re ministering people from life to death, and towards the Lord. ”
As the principal, you’re responsible for the vision of the school, and daily overseeing the school, and how it runs,” added Griffith. “And that includes connecting with parents.”
But while God may be his job, sports serves as Griffith’s hobby. In addition to heading the Panthers’ boys’ basketball program for the past 14 years and coaching the girls for the last six, Griffith has also served as LCA’s junior high boys’ and girls’ basketball coaches, head girls’ volleyball coach and even drives the team bus to away games.
“I love to tell the kids, ‘We do want to win,'” said Griffith. “Sometimes the pendulum swings too far the other way (towards sportsmanship and away from competitiveness). I believe sports are a character revealer. They show who we are. But sports are also character builders. Sports become very positive when they’re more than just about winning.
“Basketball is my joy,” continued Griffith. “I love it. It’s a release. But recognizing my calling as a pastor, I would step away.”
If it sometimes seems that there’s more than one Griffith at Lebanon Christian Academy, it’s because there is. Griffith’s brother Jeff is an administrative pastor, as well as a music director, financial wiz, a teacher, the varsity boys’ soccer coach and the junior high boys’ basketball coach, among other things.
Another Jack of all trades.
“His plate is rather full as well,” said Craig Griffith of Jeff. “The bottom line is it’s worth it. In the end, the wearing of various hats is worth it. I don’t regret anything.”