Western Territory hosts National Training Seminar at Crestmont

by Lisa Bingham – 

Every four years, staff from the four U.S. training colleges meet to tackle the challenges and share the excitement inherent in the making of “Blood and Fire” Salvation Army officers. This summer the Western Territory College for Officer Training (CFOT) staff welcomed 140 delegates from New York, Atlanta, and Chicago to the Crestmont campus.

Also participating were continuing education personnel and candidates’ secretaries, as well as representatives from both Winnipeg and St. John’s, Canada, and the Caribbean Territory.

“The National Training Seminar has incredible value for enhancement of the training program in each of the territories,” said Training Principal Major Donald Hostetler.

“Exchanging ‘best practices’ in a setting where hard questions can be dealt with at length serves to improve even the ‘best practice’ model that is presented. Each of the training schools faces similar challenges regarding campus life, family dynamics, curriculum design, field training rigor, using technology, etc. By meeting together…we develop broader support systems than those available within a single territory and expand the universe of available solutions to any challenge with which we wrestle.”

With passion and a vision for the future of Army leadership Dr. Paul Rader (General, Ret.) spoke to the theme of the week, “Equipping Leaders for Mission in the Emerging Age” in his keynote address based on Ephesians 4:11-12.

(See excerpts from keynote address following this article.)

Plenary speakers challenge hearts and minds

Plenary session speakers urged college personnel to sharpen their awareness of modern culture, to understand Army traditions in light of the history that created them, to consider various models of competency assessment and to prepare leaders for the complexities of 21st century ministry. Delegates were stretched to think outside of the box, to recognize and embrace new methods, while holding on to Army distinctives carefully and thoughtfully. Speakers included, Dr. Reggie McNeal of the South Carolina Baptist Convention’s Leadership Team; Canadian officer Major Barbara Robinson; International Training and Leadership Development Secretary Lt. Colonel Ian Southwell; and author/theologian Dr. Gilbert Bilezikian.

Fresh ideas from every territory were explored through 12 different workshops touching on vital issues for the training and education of officers such as: spiritual formation, preparing officers for urban mission, sacramental theology, homiletics, learning in the digital age, the use of emotion in teaching and the exercise of power in officer training.

Commissioner Kay F. Rader was introduced by Major Mark Tillsley, principal in the Eastern Territory, as one whose “prophetic voice has championed the role of women in the Army” throughout her career.

In her workshop, “Partnering in Mission,” Rader shared personal recollections of her own female role models, encouraging both men and women to continue in their footsteps: “We are the models, the people these younger women and men will want to be like. We must keep the trust, live the dream, pay the price!”

As to her own success in the Army, Rader explained: “I was sure of my calling and I was sure that the foundation of The Salvation Army could support me to the end. Standing in the gap is a particular calling for me… Sometimes there has been a price to be paid, but it has been worth it.”

Rader concluded with stirring words: “We can’t put people into boxes…Our gifts will overlap. We need to maintain our femininity and know that the son sets us free…I ask myself and I ask you, ‘Who are we?’

I am not in The Salvation Army. I AM The Salvation Army––and so are you.”

(See Comm. Rader’s article, “Status trumps gender” in the July issue of Caring magazine.)

Delegates find support from peers and gain fresh perspective

Enthusiastic about the importance of meeting with their counterparts from other territories, delegates offered their comments: “The best thing about NTS is getting the bigger picture. On a campus, you can get a bit inwardly focused,” an officer shared. “Meeting with other college staff members reminds us that we’re not in this alone.”

“Training officers is a real challenge. It’s exciting, but can be overwhelming,” shared a new staff member. “Hearing from others who have ‘been there and done that’ is a real encouragement.”

Keeping current
Captain Ted Horwood, adjunct instructor at Crestmont, noted the need for the event. “The complexity of training cadets is [a] great challenge… The social environment from which leaders of the future are being generated, crosses cultural and generational barriers like never before. Just in our territory, the gospel is preached in 21 languages to congregations made up of five generations. It was for these and many similar issues that the NTS was convened. Perhaps of greatest encouragement…was the acknowledgement that our training must be dynamic. It must change in order to communicate to vastly different cadets…[we must]…play the critical role that God has appointed for us.”

The next National Training Seminar will be held July 2009.

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