On the Corner
An open letter to Preparers of the Way
by Robert Docter –
You did it. You completed 21 months of training. Now your education begins. We are throwing you “off the dock,” and yelling, “Swim!”
You are about to assume one of the most complicated professional roles available in human interaction. It’s complicated because it is so diverse. Sometimes you’ll think you almost have to become “all things to all people.”
Don’t worry! Be happy!
You’ve already had excellent experience in assuming diverse roles in life, and you’ve been very effective in some, possibly less effective in others, and maybe a borderline failure in others. Whatever you did was only minimally taught. You had to learn it as you went along through interaction with those around you.
You’ve already been a son or a daughter—a student—a homemaker or a wage earner or both—a soldier—maybe a local officer—maybe a mother or father—definitely a sinner—now a sinner saved by grace—possibly a leader. And these are just a few. Most of these roles are still part of your life.
Now you will become a captain in The Salvation Army and will be required to assume even more roles that present increasing complexity. Notice, I didn’t describe you as a “reverend”—or a “pastor.” No! These roles lead a church. Captains lead a force designed to nurture people spiritually in whatever phase of spiritual development they are found and to do whatever possible to facilitate social health. So, you see, the Army asks you to play many roles—to some of which you have been introduced.
On the same day you’ll probably be in the roles of executive decision- maker, custodian, preacher, principal musician and song leader, youth leader and disciplinarian, accountant, social service provider, counselor, Bible teacher, motivator, evaluator, witness—and many more.
Each role brings its own pressures.
So how do you keep this “three ring circus” going?
Answer: you go from strength to strength—build on your own strength by staying in shape—integrated—spiritually, mentally, emotionally, socially (love God with all your heart, soul, body, mind). Don’t get “down” on yourself. God doesn’t disappear. Recognize that life presents its continuing cycle of ups and downs, and if you’re feeling down, be glad, because there’s an “up” coming soon. And then build on the strength of your community by reinforcing what’s working—not what’s not working. Forget railing against the evils of the world or focusing only on the problems. Regardless of your session’s namesake, you are not prophets in the wilderness. Find something that’s working and begin to build on it. As Jiminy Cricket said: “Ya gotta accentuate the positive—eliminate the negative—latch on to the affirmative—and don’t mess with Mr. In-between.” Especially, ignore Mr. In-Between.
How do you keep all the plates in the air?
Answer: You throw them up one at a time and catch them before they fall. In other words—start simple, be organized, be prepared for anything by maintaining a positive mind-set, communicate an open spirit, be friendly, smile, talk, be available to people—and most of all—relate, relate, relate!
If you’re operating in the role of “leader,” be democratic. Remember, soldiers are volunteers—not employees. Involve them in decision-making if they are in any way impacted by the decision to be made. Use the corps council. Use the advisory board. People who share your goals and enjoy you as a person will want to help you. So communicate your hopes and dreams and be an encourager.
Build the best corps in the territory!
Yes, you can!
So go to it. Do it!