About the Army’s business

Territorial Business Conference

Territorial Business Conference explores business as ministry.

by Jeff Curnow – 

During three very busy days, May 3-5, delegates from the Business sections from across the territory gathered in Long Beach for the 2006 Territorial Business Conference. Sessions for the delegates included information on public relations, planned giving, major gifts, information technology, finance, accounting, risk management and human resources.

According to Lt. Colonel Kurt Burger, territorial secretary for business, the goals of the Territorial Business Conference were to: “Up-date business personnel on new developments in business administration in the Army; expose people from the different disciplines in the business section to one another; and—hopefully—to allow all delegates the opportunity to see themselves as part of a larger Army—as part of something bigger than themselves.”

According to Burger it is important to have one of these conferences—for all members of the business section—every three to four years. “In addition to giving business delegates a bigger picture, personnel changes during a three to four year span make it important that we all come together to get to know each other and see the way the Army operates. In the intervening years, divisional leaders from the different disciplines may meet as separate units.”

The Business of Minstry

There was a strong spiritual element in all meetings. Burger explained that this was meant to highlight the holistic nature of the Army’s work: “The most important concept we can take away from this conference is to see how the Business department fits into the Army’s concept of holistic ministry.”

He spoke of his convictions that work in the business sections of the Army is an important ministry. “If my work for the Army in the business sections isn’t a ministry—I’m a CPA—I might as well go work for Deloitte. It’s the ministry aspect that interests me.”

It’s obvious that Burger is not the only one who takes a ministry approach in his work. This sentiment seemed evident in several workshops. When participants at a major gifts workshop were asked the reason they work for the Army, to a person they mentioned that the opportunity to have a ministry—furthering the Army’s ministry—was the biggest draw.

The entire conference was produced in an extremely professional manner and reflected the goals of the planners to demonstrate the professionalism and attention to detail required of all who serve with the Army. Along with a team of individuals from many THQ departments, Susan Talamantes, operations director of the CRD department, organized and planned the conference in a manner that was exceptional.

Doing the Most Good

In the conference’s opening session, Major George Hood, national Community Relations and Development secretary, spoke to the delegates about “Doing the Most Good,” the Army’s branding promise.

Hood emphasized that it is “critical to remember that “Doing the Most Good” is a promise. By promising the public that The Salvation Army will do the most good with the immense resources that the public entrusts to us, it changes the way we think about what we do. If we believe and live that promise we will radically change all we do and the way we view our world.

“But—no one will believe it if we don’t live it.”

Hood concluded his remarks by stressing the accountability implied in the promise. “Each of us cares deeply about the Army and its public perception, but not many of us have taken the time to find out what that perception really is. I must tell you that the public doesn’t give a hoot about some of the things we hold most dear! The public doesn’t care about our Victorian heritage; it doesn’t care about our doughnut girls or our distinctive musical traditions. We may care deeply about these things, but the public does not.

“The public wants to know what we are doing with their money, their time and donated goods. That is where the promise, “Doing the Most Good,” means the most. If we can’t live up to this promise, we ought to get out of the doing good business or we will be put out of that business by a public who demands accountability.”

One life at a time

Commissioner Philip Swyers, territorial commander, informed, inspired and entertained the delegates at Friday’s luncheon, the closing session of the conference. He stated, “We’re building for the future—doing the most good in every way we can.”

He told the story—now a legendary part of Texas history—of a major riot that had gripped a Texas town. The town’s leaders quickly asked for help from the Texas Rangers (state police). As the train that was to bring the much needed help from the Rangers arrived at the station, the leaders, waiting with a bus for transportation, were shocked when only one ranger got off the train. They asked the Ranger, “Where are the others?” The Ranger replied: “One riot—one Ranger.”

Swyers continued, saying that when George W. Bush was governor of Texas, a hurricane devastated the area where Swyers was then stationed. When Bush arrived to survey the damaged area, just hours after the hurricane hit, he saw the Army at work and asked Swyers, “Where are all the other agencies? Who else is helping these people?” Swyers said to the governor, “One hurricane —one company of Salvationists.”

Following a roar of laughter, Swyers concluded, “The country needs The Salvation Army more than ever. Our work is not about the balance sheet or donor totals—it’s about serving the people of a hurting world. This Army in which we serve is like a valuable piece of gold in our hands. We have the responsibility of stewardship and the privilege of working to make it ever better. We will achieve that one life at a time.”

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