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Thoughts for people named on page two

by Robert Docter – 

It’s time for more coming and going—packing and moving—load the u-haul—we’re on our way—keep that file of sermon notes close to the top of a box I can find—I’m gonna have a fresh audience.

Is this any way to run an airline?

Ooops—wait a minute.

I thought this airline metaphor worked until I realized there’s a lot of coming and going in the airline business. Planes, loaded with passengers, arrive and take-off every other minute.

But there is something very different about airlines and the Army. Airlines hardly care at all about you as a person. They assume a non-qualitative relationship for no more than a few hours. They really don’t even know your name—and they don’t even want to.

Hopefully, Salvation Army officers recognize that their primary function is to establish a positive, supportive, respectful, empathic, caring and genuine relationship with those they have come to serve.

By far, most of these highly dedicated people work long, exhaustive hours for low compensation. Wives don’t earn a penny. Some of them, however, have it in mind that the new place towards which they are heading somehow now belongs to them—that they are the “boss”—in charge. They seem to think they are like that pilot behind the locked door in the cockpit whose distant voices comes over the speaker: “You signed on for this flight—now you’re going where I’m going.” In officers, it’s an attitude destined for failure.

Then again, too many corps have too many soldiers who have accepted a non-role in the operation of the corps’ program. All they want to be are the passengers—sitting in their seats, waiting to be fed their free soft drink and bag of peanuts—assuming no responsibility for the flight except to fasten their seat-belts. They are either lazy, busy, or unwilling to get involved in their responsibility for lay leadership. I suspect, also, they have, somehow, over time, internalized the notion that they don’t have a say—so why bother to talk about something? They assume they can’t change anything—so why try?—what’s the use? Too bad.

Maybe you’re getting new officers. Hear this! This is the time for quality lay leadership to leap into the breach. At this time for moves—build a relationship with those officers—help them unload the u-haul—establish a different culture within the leadership of the corps. Don’t stray far from Army values, traditions or goals—but begin to help the Army maintain its unique identity seeking to provide both personal and social redemption. Work with the officers. Encourage him or her. Help them accept their role as democratic leaders. Make sure the corps council operates regularly. Relate positively to the local Army advisory board. Communicate the needs of both the internal community of worshippers and the local community. Don’t criticize the former officer. Also, don’t insist on keeping everything exactly the same as it was during the former officer’s tenure—and for God’s sake—tithe. If you have a significant investment in the process, you will seek to make sure the ministry works well.

The officers are almost a pawn in the process. So don’t blame them. This whole system is a lot bigger than that.

The job of being a Salvation Army officer is highly complex—downright difficult. I think by far most officers seek to perform up to the expectation of their calling. I hope they understand this means they’re primarily responsible to their congregations. In meeting that responsibility they must reveal the spirit of God in the person of Jesus Christ within their own lives.

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