a view from the board side “Ministering to the ministers”
By Dick Hagerty, Advisory board member
Too many advisory board members have little or no idea what activities and programs are conducted on the corps (church) side of The Salvation Army in their community. It is discouraging to hear an advisory member make a comment like, “Well, I understand how our social programs work to benefit the poor, but I don’t really know what it is you are doing there in the chapel and on Sundays.”
One of the clear precepts of advisory board membership is that we have no responsibility or authority over the corps side of the Army’s ministry. At the same time, the caring and involved member can be of great assistance to the officer who is struggling to build the congregation and a thriving church in the community.
We regularly remind our advisory members that The Salvation Army is first of all a church. It is a Wesleyan, evangelical, holiness church that is similar to such denominations as Nazarene, Free Methodist and Quaker. And, all Salvation Army officers are ordained ministers. This should be the first piece of news that a new advisory member hears.
It is critical that we encourage the officer to give us regular reports on corps activities, church membership and related programs. These reports must be a standard agenda item for your advisory board meeting.
I strongly urge boards to include a local minister as a full board member. Having a minister on the board gives your officers a confidant who can encourage and give support in ways that other board members cannot render. At times the officer will need someone in full-time ministry who can give advice and also exchange ideas on how to make the corps operate more effectively. The board member who is a pastor can also make certain that the officer is included in various local pastoral prayer and sharing groups as well.
The officer must understand four separate congregations exist under his or her ministry. First, of course, is the local corps congregation made up of soldiers and adherents. The officer is also a pastor to the board. Many of our board members have no home church; the Army is the principal spiritual link that this member has to the Christian faith.
The officer is certainly a pastor to the community at large. The community will see most local pastors as linked to specific churches and/or denominations. Not so for The Salvation Army officer, who will be seen by the general public as a community “minister at large.” And finally, of course, the officer is pastor to the Army staff members, many of whom will likely attend the corps as their regular place of worship.
The officer will often be called upon to give blessings at civic events, to take the lead in funeral services of board and council members, and even to be the pastor to those community leaders who have no regular church home. I insisted on having local officers assist in the memorial services for each of my parents, as well as several other deceased family members. When Teresa and I were married 18 years ago, it was just automatic to call the captain and arrange for the ceremony to be performed at the corps.
Years ago we got a newly commissioned officer in our community who still smiles when he recalls conducting “a funeral a week” for his first two months in town. None of these were for board members. They were simply community people who had no pastor, or who saw the Army as their natural spiritual home.
Truly, this pastoral care is a two-way street. We board members must constantly monitor and encourage the needs and cares of our officer. And our officer must carefully watch over each of the four separate flocks, as we minister jointly, hand in hand, to our greater Salvation Army community family.
For more information contact Dick at firstname.lastname@example.org.