It is a common scenario: An Officer family moves into an inner-city or even rural appointment and finds little to no adult role models that they can trust to instruct their children. In a similar situation a married couple joins the Army corps to serve and to help but also finds little by way of adult, spiritually mature, role models to guide their children while at the corps.
Yes, it is a parent’s job to train their children up (Prov 22:6) but are we lacking strong, spiritually mature leaders within our corps today to assist in this? Is it detrimental to children of Officers as well as families coming into corps who encounter this problem? Where have all of the godly Local Officers and Saintly Sunday School/Corps Cadet teachers gone? Admittedly many of them have been promoted to glory after decades of faithful service…but the question remains why aren’t others stepping up to lead? Where have all the saints gone in our corps?
I have heard from a number of faithful local officers as well as Corps & Divisional Officers who share this sentiment. What are doing wrong? Why are we losing so many pillars only to have no one to take their place?
Edification of our Youth:
We mustn’t neglect this portion of our ministry! As an Army, we are losing young people in droves as they become young adults because there is little keeping them at our corps. This is one of the biggest threats facing our modern Army world. Who will step up to lead them? Who will hold them to godly standards? How can we stave off such a tremendous loss?
We need strong local officers! We need discipled leaders! We cannot settle for warm bodies in Sunday School classes solely because they “show up”. This is an epic crisis. It might not be felt currently in some of the larger metro corps where leadership is in abundance, but drive a few miles away to one of the younger supporting corps or further out into some of the rural communities and this crisis will become more and more evident.
An extension of this crisis begins to reveal itself in local officers, who are spiritually mature, who are there to help serve, who have children at the corps and are beginning to question if, perhaps, it is time to find another ministry to belong to because the edification of the youth (and specifically their children) is sadly vacant due to the lack of leaders.
Are we doing something wrong?
Have we lost a step?
Can we recover from this?
It is certainly not my intention to criticize or direct any blame without attempting to offer some kind of solution or corrective steps. I will be the first to admit that I do not have all of the answers here, but I do want to begin asking these very important questions. What I do know is that if something isn’t done to help local officer families and Officer families, a large portion of the next generation will be lost to the Army…and it has already begun.
We have territorial and even divisional events to send our children to, but coming home to a corps that lacks the kind of leaders our children are seeing at the divisional or territorial level can be debilitating and discouraging. It is rather telling of the quality of leaders we may have when we have to employ our teenagers to teach a class because none of the adults are equipped or mature enough to handle this responsibility.
Solution #1 Discipleship, Discipleship, Discipleship!
For years we have done our corps a disservice by not adequately discipling our adults and youth properly. Jesus instructed and lived out model discipleship to His followers. Officers and currently leaders need to continually think of who will replace them when they are gone…who will follow in their footsteps? Who will carry on the legacy? Who can WE train up? We must invest our time in those who need to grow and have the potential to become leaders so that future generations will have someone to look up to and emulate within the corps setting.
Solution #2 Divisional and Territorial Support
A few years ago the Eastern Michigan Division created a program called “The Ambassadors Program”. What this program did was take young adults and send them out into corps that needed young leaders and role models within their youth programs. They helped conduct lessons, tutored young people during after school, played sports with them in gymnasiums, in essence they became mobile young adult disciples and role models. We need more mobile young adult discipleship programs that are sent out into these frontline ministries and rural corps to help with the mission! We need to consider such opportunities as a two-fold solution. (1) The young people being sent (Ambassador or Disciple what ever you call it) are learning how to become strong(er) leaders of our Army by actively participating in ministry as a divisional missionary! They learn through hands-on training and it is a trial by fire. (2) The youth that these Ambassadors/Disciples are instructing and taking under their wing begin to see active and loving leaders who are committed to the Lord and have a passion for what they do! This is the kinds of role models our young people in problematic corps (where leadership is vacant) need.
There are probably many more solutions out there to help with this crisis. My hope is that in writing this and sharing my frustration and fear others will begin to offer ideas and share further solutions. We are losing our youth in the Army. We can probably all share in the blame. Beyond the “blame game”, however, we need to get up, we need to mobilize and begin developing leadership networks to help properly instruct our youth once again so that we do not lose another generation and their parents who are currently testing the waters of other ministries.
Something else for the Army world to ponder today.