By Major Paul Seiler –
You may think I am daydreaming when I sit back in a meeting and look out the window. It may appear that I am in a daze when I don’t respond right away, but actually, while my eyes may be glazed or closed, I am not in any way “blanking out.”
I prefer to think of it as “germinating,” letting an idea that jumps into my head from something I’ve heard or seen develop into something we could do differently in the Army. “Change germination”–my phrase for the work of thinking through what it means to be different from now. Some days it seems that everyone is on a “change” bandwagon, but the reality is that “change” is not easy. So when we meet and there is some fuss about why change hasn’t happened already, we need to be fair enough to say that we are all impacted by our habits, bias, traditions and comfort level in doing things and, for many, seeking stability seems to be the healthy priority in their lives! I certainly hear in my job that the Army “changes” too fast, and that changes have a tremendous impact on the officer’s ability to function!
So “change germination” in my mind is a way of thinking through the steps that would be necessary to move to where I want to be. I have often used the illustration from CMA newsletter that I picked up years ago. It’s apparently ancient tribal wisdom of the Dakota Indians that says when you discover you’re riding a dead horse, the best strategy is to dismount. The little article goes on to say that some organizations do the following: buy stronger whips; change riders; ask other organizations how they ride dead horses; hire consultants to ride the dead horse; harness several dead horses together to increase speed; provide added funding to increase dead horse’s performance; experiment to see if lighter riders would improve productivity; and last but not least promote dead horse to supervisory position. Ok–ouch.
But this Salvation Army Western Territory is no dead horse. Although our process of visioning and planning to move to change may sometimes appear to be taking us through the humorous strategies noted above–and it’s easy to target them when we’re the “changee” rather than being the “changer”–I believe the process of change is important–necessary for life–and requires us to act. Maybe we’ve all been guilty of doing too much “germination” (notice how much easier it is to “germinate” someone else’s need to change?).
Like most people, there are some areas where I can see more clearly the opportunities that change would bring. For example, how exciting it would be to capture a corps or social service program’s imagination and global vision by linking them directly to a third world corps or social service program. Would it make a tremendous difference if people could feel that their efforts truly put food on the table for others? We have seen some tests of that already, and we are assured that IHQ is moving to more “partnering in mission,” but is it vibrant enough? What if the corps vision statement included a commitment to the “ABC Boy’s Home” in Nairobi, Africa, and a service corps team from that corps could visit and do a service/evangelist project much like the short-term missions teams?
I’d love to see the kind of change that moves us into taking this facility-rich, program resource-rich organization and opens our buildings up every day to people of all ages. I know some places do that now, and I know that youth are a priority, but it would be wonderful to be changed into an interactive setting in every community (not just some Red Shields) that touches all the lives and communities around us. Don’t forget seniors, that ever-growing population that is not going out of “fashion” but is a group with longer and longer abilities to contribute vibrantly to the mission of the Army. Imagine multiplying the energy of just 50 active seniors in Army buildings each week who buy into our mission.
What if we really looked at our partnership role with other local churches in the community? So many of our social services are the “hands” element of the Christian community–how can we capitalize on that? Can we see ourselves in the bigger “body of Christ” picture without losing our sense of uniqueness? Can we be responsive to the community needs whether it’s like McDonalds (with a standard of quality) or “mom and pop” (different products in each community)…how could we multiply the impact that God has for us in faith partnerships?
Should we stop “change germination”? No, but let’s not get stuck on the daydreaming portion. Let’s put the great ideas that people have and give them a try as we move forward. Let’s take root (plant analogy continuing) and put our faces to the sun (son) and see what happens. I believe God wants to continue to bless The Salvation Army’s considerable gifts and resources, not the least of which are our wonderfully mission-compassionate people. Let’s take charge of today and the future, and let’s not stop growing. (And that would be change also, right?)