Boot Camp—a year later

by Richard Zellmer – 

The Western Territory’s Youth Leaders Boot Camp was held in January 2005. I returned to my corps, Gateway, in Ketchikan, Alaska, committed to continued ministry in The Salvation Army in three areas: youth programs, including children’s Sunday activities, a weekday children’s outreach and the adult soup kitchen.

A year later this is what has happened:

Soup kitchen
I’ll start with the soup kitchen. I soon found a connection between my musical talents and the mundane routine of our soup kitchen. I temporarily played guitar and sang choruses once a week for the clients. Then Major Bonnie Lynch asked if I would play at the Sunday evening service. Eight months later my novice guitar skills had started to bloom. Not only did I attend evening services regularly, but a half dozen folks my age began to attend. Again, in November, I resumed playing for the soup kitchen. And this time my sister Hannah joined me in singing together. We hope to continue offering music for the clients every Wednesday so that they might taste a bit of what a worship service is like.

Sunday school
After returning to Ketchikan, what I found most helpful was the leadership of the local soldiers who were already conducting regular Sunday school assemblies. It wasn’t long before I was attending Sunday school regularly and assisting with the children. Everyone in my family loves to sing. Hannah, who also attended Boot Camp, committed to Sunday school as well. Most of my immediate family has become involved with children’s songs, teaching, and even transportation ministries.

Starting in March I assisted with Sunday school. My sister and I alternated months teaching a children’s class, but we had few consistent students. Then in May I committed to start Sunday van transportation. Attendance increased immediately. We started with one van and five regular pick-ups. In October we added another driver and van. Currently we pick up between 13 to 20 regulars and are praying about upgrading our fleet to accommodate more.

In September our Sunday school activities began in earnest. The Gateway Corps hosted a service team that conducted a vacation Bible school program. On the closing Sunday we had a combined morning service with emphasis on the VBS children. Following the service, the team held a mini-carnival. The kids loved all the week’s events. The adults learned something too. The ministry team helped us to focus our attempts to provide meaningful programs for the children. Praise the Lord for the service team!

In October we held an alternate Halloween event called the “Life’s Battles Mini-Carnival.” We had a number of mini games, prizes and a hot dog dinner. The pinnacle was a mid-program assembly presented to the entire crowd. We sang typical Sunday school songs and showed a short evangelistic music video. Then I gave a salvation message and led in prayer. The mini-carnival was a great success, with over 100 in attendance, and was a springboard for our Sunday school campaign the next month.

In November we launched a children’s campaign called “Life’s Battles Kids’ Sunday School.” I prepared the “Life’s Battles” lessons from a pre-written curriculum that covered basis Christian truths including spiritual warfare. The children learned about the fall, Satan and his eventual doom, Jesus’ victory over Satan, salvation, the Holy Spirit, Christian growth, simplified doctrine, the armor of God and heaven. To boost enthusiasm, I created a tee shirt design, made “Life’s Battle” shirts, produced several types of poster signs and placed ads in the Ketchikan daily newspaper. By the end of the month our children’s attendance had grown 50 percent, and it has now doubled!

It was my intention that this campaign would encourage our members and leadership recruits to believe that our corps is capable of offering quality children’s services and discipleship. It is my belief that this measure of enthusiasm for children’s ministries is the foundation on which a successful outreach program can be built. As the third part of my Boot Camp action plan, I continue to seek the Lord as to the means of implementing the children’s evangelism portion of our corps ministry.

Note from Captain Tim Smith, divisional youth secretary: “Richard has taken his action plan very seriously, and the corps is seeing new life in its outreach to young people. He gave me permission to share this report–a helpful glimpse into the positive impact the Boot Camp experience has made in one person’s heart.”

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