An Army of the walking dead? Mentoring…How do we get out of the ‘Dry Bones’ valley?

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I admit it, the photo is for shock value only…but I want to convey a point with it, so bare with me and please don’t be offended.

Have you ever been burned out, running low, on empty fumes and feel all support has ebbed away from you?  If you haven’t yet experienced that in ministry then perhaps you’re a better person than I or you haven’t truly been in ministry yet.

Let me pick a scab for a moment when I say this: what is the Army doing for mentoring and encouraging its Officers?  All too often I feel (perhaps it’s my fault, but perhaps not) as if I’m crawling to Officers’ Councils on an empty tank.  This is most certainly not an accusation by any means on my divisional leaders, truth be told I love my divisional leaders…but I’m not a hybrid car that can run for hundreds of miles without a refuel…and going to officer’s councils to recharge just doesn’t cut it for me.   One of the biggest problems I see is that as a top down organization we simply do not take the time to encourage our officers on the field as we should.  It goes beyond a card, phone call, or e-mail…it’s personal contact we want.  It’s trust we want, it’s knowing that what we’re doing makes a difference, that we aren’t just another statistical number on the field of officers.  My biggest issue is that we are devoid of mentors, challengers, encouragers and supporters in the Army.  It’s not that people aren’t trying to do this but we’ve become so busy with stuff, so busy with deadlines, so busy with meetings that we forget to find the time for our Officers.

I know I’m not the only one who feels this way…I’m just probably stupid enough to voice this concern.  I don’t mean to pick scabs but we can’t just salute and go when where we’re going we find we don’t have divisional or territorial support or encouragement.  Not to say that it isn’t unspoken, and I don’t want some sort of pat on the back accompanied by a handshake and an ‘atta boy’.  We have lost the discipleship component in our Army…this isn’t divisionally this is nationally from what I see.  I understand there’s a pastoral care department at territorial headquarters but it’s insufficient for the total forces we have on the field.

I was told a long time ago, if you have any kind of criticism you better have some sort of solution or suggestions don’t just be a negative but reinforce the positive.

Here’s a list of the positives: 

1) We care about people

2) We love God and wish to serve and save those people

3) We are nationally and internationally recognized as one of the most trusted organizations.

4) We have sound doctrine and sound ministries

5) We provide and care for financially for our officers and families

These are vital to our ministries and to our families and I will never begrudge the good we do in Jesus’ name.

My desire for the Army is this:

That we stop being an Army of the living dead.  By that I mean we have expectations, regulations, procedures in place for everything under the Sun which is a great thing!  But what we don’t have in place is Leader to Officer mentoring/discipleship in place.  We have phone numbers to call when we’re discouraged, we have a team of “outside” counselors we can talk to but unlike other churches or denominations we do not have a spiritual support system in place by which we can be challenged, encouraged and mentored on a weekly even daily basis.

Some might argue that one needs to find outside mentors to talk with and outside disciplers to challenge us…but who on the outside knows the life of an Officer on the field?   Who knows the challenges we face daily and the criticisms we face from corps members or from the public?  Sometimes, if we’re honest with ourselves, we feel more like the dry bones in the valley with Ezekiel than we’d care to admit.  There has to be something that can be done when we get to this point.  Some of us have privately mentioned feelings of unfulfillment or lack of challenge.  Some would never say this on the record but some don’t feel connected to leadership because we aren’t challenged positively by them.

A wise officer once suggested a type of supporting ministry idea in which Officers were assigned/appointed together for accountability and for growth of each other.  Why not?

Another suggestion was to work within the system to create mentor groups that actually would meet, pray together, share with one another and challenge each other.  But the danger at times can be that it would be viewed as just another program or mundane task that is “assigned” to certain Officers.

So what is the solution to this ‘walking dead’ syndrome?  I know that I am not the only one who has felt this way…there are many who do.  And solutions have to go beyond just assigning prayer groups at Officer’s Councils…these are wonderful but we’re all so busy to keep it up.  Solutions also have to go beyond the minimalist’s suggestions of “just pray about it” or “maybe you need to read/study more of God’s word”.  Let me just say that this last answer is an insult to all who serve as Officers.  Because honestly even the Apostle Paul had supporters and encouragers who remained faithful to him in his ministry.

I don’t believe this is something that we have to ‘grin and bare’.  This isn’t certainly isolated nor is it healthy.  But I do believe there to be worthy solutions out there that the Army could implement in order to “water the bones” so to speak.  As I mentioned before we need too, as individuals must be committed to sharing and being challenged as Officers as well.  None of us, hopefully, signed our Officer’s Covenant form wishing for a mundane “cushy” lifestyle without challenge both physically/Mentally and Spiritually.  If we are to grow as an army and to water the ‘dry bones’ then we have to make our Officers a priority and not assume that they learned it all at training college and they don’t need help, encouragement and support.

Again there has to be more than just ‘yearly reviews’ and other such program offers.  I know our leadership cares for us, but we as Officers need mentors, disciplers and those who will challenge us to continue to grow instead of drying out and become an ‘army of the walking dead’.  If feel that if we were to explore some of the reasons for attrition in the Army, we would find this concern to be rather high on the list.

-Just a thought…but let’s keep this conversation going.

Some mentoring sources:

http://www.mennoniteusa.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/MentoringProgramForBeginningPastors.pdf

http://www.ctsfw.edu/document.doc?id=62

http://dunamisinstitute.org/academics/faculty/detail/5-ec4-advanced-and-specialized-ministry/13-mentoring-program-for-pastors-

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One Reply to “An Army of the walking dead? Mentoring…How do we get out of the ‘Dry Bones’ valley?”

  1. I am not an officer but I am a Soldier and very involved at my Corps. I couldn’t agree more with this posting. over the years of being a Soldier I have seen many changes of officers in my Corps and I can see where this is a very important and can be much needed by officers at times.

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