‘Emerge’ comes to life at Crestmont

Roughly 35 individuals spanning various ministries attend first training session.

The Salvation Army Western Territory held its initial training session on how to implement a new small group training regimen called Emerge, at the College for Officer Training at Crestmont, this week.

The three-day seminar welcomed roughly 35 individuals from across the Western Territory to gain familiarity with the program material and learn best practices for facilitating an Emerge small group in their respective communities.

The biblically based program formed in 1992 in the Canada and Bermuda Territory, to more effectively serve those involved with the criminal justice system, but now it’s being adapted more broadly by the Western Territory to reach anyone looking to positively advance their lives.

The training material teaches that criminal behavior often occurs in tandem with other stressors in a person’s life. Through small group discussion, activities and reflection, participants learn to face the consequences of their behavior, understand the relationship between their behavior and life challenges, and acquire tools for making better choices.

Group leaders administer seven sessions—five in a group and two individually—on topics ranging from stress management, problem solving, assertiveness, grief, doubt, self-esteem, goal setting, mental fitness, anger management and conflict management.

Dianna Bussey, who co-authored the original version of the program, conducted the initial training session, along with Donna Bueckert, a social worker with The Salvation Army’s Correctional Justices Services in Canada.

According to Bueckert, the training material is used in Canada specifically to reach those involved with the criminal justice system, but it’s useful as more than just a jail diversionary tool.

“I think the material can help anyone,” Bueckert said. “Any community members, even myself. Learning how to communicate more effectively and how to problem solve are things that everyone can benefit from, but specifically individuals in crises.”

Lt. Jeff Walters, Santa Barbara corps officer, attended the training session because he said he would like to see Emerge implemented at the Hospitality House, a 70-bed transitional living program designed to help homeless men and women secure and maintain income and permanent housing.

“We’d like to have residents partake in it, maybe do classes once or twice a week to start, and basically set it up like an [Alcoholics Anonymous] or [Narcotics Anonymous] meeting,” Walters said. “We have a lot of folks who are chronically homeless, who’ve obviously been in the court system. Some are dealing with addiction…This is beneficial to all of those folks.”

Bueckert added that some of the challenges in implementing the material are managing the often eclectic dynamics of small group meetings and getting others from within the organization to buy in.

Major Tom Ford, territorial secretary of correctional services, said he recognizes these challenges but sees ample opportunity to use the program to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ to an even larger population.

“I hope what people take from this is the not just the material, but the approach behind it,” he said. “I want people to get behind the approach, and the biblical principles that come with it.”

Subsequent training sessions will be included in future divisional training events, such as social service councils and officers councils.

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