Pie in the Sky?
The Body Builder
by Captain Terry Camsey –
One of the things the recent divisional visioning rallies have again highlighted is the concern about a perceived separation between our social work and our spiritual work. In fact, this was J. David Schmidt’s fourth “Ouch!” in the September 10 issue of New Frontier. His concern is primarily with the lack of an outreach program to social service clients in 80 percent of our corps… according to the survey he conducted.
This is not a problem for Adult Rehabilitation Centers, which have for years offered a holistic ministry to those who enter them for help with addiction problems. In fact, a recent visit to the Carpinteria ARC Corps demonstrated that the concept of such specialist corps (a “boutique” church as Faith Popcorn, futurist, described such churches in an issue of Leadership magazine) is working well. Ms. Popcorn suggested, in the same article, as I recall, that the future lies in larger churches that can offer comprehensive programs with many options, or smaller “boutique” churches that cater to a specific client base. Certainly Carpinteria was packed with a mix of clients attending voluntarily, family and others. There must have been at least 30-35 first time visitors in that meeting, many of whom stayed to enjoy fellowship over lunch afterwards.
But, back to the subject at hand. The concern raised at visioning rallies had more to do with the lack of connectivity between congregation and social services clients than anything else. Rightly so…
For one thing, much if not all the social work conducted in early corps stemmed from activity of the congregation itself. Admittedly there were not the governmental restrictions then regarding spending of grants, or qualification of social workers, yet not all social work demands such restrictions. The surge in “acts of kindness’ by many growing churches demonstrates that.
Additionally, the church (the Army) has no excuse for failing to offer a holistic package embracing body, mind and soul provided that the immediate relief offered is not conditional upon some required prior attendance at chapel or a ‘spiritual pep talk.’ Booth saw provision of “food in the belly… roof over the head… clothing on the back” as only steps towards increasing receptivity to “spiritual food for spiritual needs.” Accomplishment of God’s purpose (John 3:16) being the ultimate objective.
Secondly, when I last counted (must have been back in 1987 or so when we were embarking upon “Grow in the Strength of the Lord” campaign), there were something like 1.8 million people coming to corps in the territory for social help. Non-duplicated count and all living local to the corps rather than being transient.
We suggested then that there be an effort to reach these people, and provided a packet of resources to help. Based on the “law of large numbers” it was estimated that if invitations to attend the corps were extended to all those people, we might expect 18,000 to come once (whether they came back would depend on how they were treated if they visited!).
That would have exceeded the number of Senior soldiers at that time.
“This is all pie-in-the-sky!” Wrote one officer.
But, why do you think other churches envy us? They’d love to get their hands on names of the people we help… I have even known of corps who passed such names on because they were unwilling or unable to follow up themselves. But, why should churches be interested? Because people already served in one way by the church are especially open to being served in other appropriate ways. What does the insurance salesman ask you when you have just bought life insurance? “How’s your health insurance? How’s your householder coverage?” They know that if you are pleased with the way you treated them, they are likely to do business with you again. It beats making cold calls!
“Two thirds of all the respondents (to the survey) believed that the biggest obstacle to their corps’ growth is that people in the community think they are a social agency and not a church.” Says Mr. Schmidt. Is it possible that many of the corps social service clients feel that same?
Why might that be? I wonder.