Dear Salvation Army – 5 Things They Don’t Prepare You For In Officer’s Training

Let’s face it, not everything can be taught in a class room.
Would it shock you, dear soldier, to know that they can’t teach you everything you need to know about becoming an Officer while at training college?  Probably not.  But when the rubber does meet the road, and when an officer is finally commissioned and takes their first appointment, they will still have to learn A LOT!  Somethings just can’t be taught without first experiencing them first hand.
Today I have listed only 5 things that they don’t prepare Officers for while at the college for Officer’s training.
It’s not that they didn’t want to teach these things, but as I’ve already said, somethings must be learned while on the field.
There are many more categories of experiences that Officers can’t learn while in training, these are just a few:

1.  The Realities Of Non-Profit Finances
Budgeting class is still a far cry from ACTUALLY crunching the numbers in your community and ensuring you have enough funds to cover payroll, bills, and other incidentals that frequently pop up.  Unlike the class room setting, in real life certain sections of this budget has human identities associated with the numbers you come up with.  Become too conservative with a figure in the employees section of the budget could mean you have to eventually cut a person from your staff…that’s not fun at all!
Secondly, often you will find that there just isn’t a lot of money to work with.
You might be blessed to be sent to a community that supports your efforts and the finances are sound, but more than likely you will find that every dollar is difficult to raise and equally harder to hold onto.  We all know it’s not strictly about the money is it?  It’s about providing opportunities and resources for people that we can help.  Without those quickly evaporating funds, you will find it a struggle to meet human needs in His name!

2.  The Need For Personal Mentors And Encouragers
I remember many Cadets in my session who were about to be commission groan about the arduous lifestyle while at training college.  How constricting it was.  How they couldn’t wait to finally get out of there.  I felt that way too sometimes, but in reality when we were finally sent out and appointed to specific locations, many quickly recognized how seemingly isolated appointments can truly be.  Even in metro appointments, the work schedules do not allot for much connection time with other officers.  A recently appointed officer can begin to feel alone and even abandoned.  Our first appointment was five hours from our Divisional Headquarters.  Sometimes that felt like a blessing, while other times it felt like it may as well have been 4000 miles away.
Officers need encouragers and mentors.
We cannot do this great work alone and without support.  Find a pastoral association to belong to.  Locate a pastor from a different denomination in your community to connect with.  Seek out friendship.  For those that are introverts this can be difficult to do (putting yourself out there) but it is necessary for your sanity and survival.  The question often becomes “who shepherds the shepherd?”  Certainly your divisional headquarters has a role to play in this, some are good at it and some not so much.  Honestly most divisional officers that I know make a concerted effort but they are just as busy as you are.
News Flash:  Don’t depend solely on your divisional staff to support you within the role of encouragers and mentors…it’s just not going to be immediate (most of the time).  Seek out friends, other pastors, sometimes mature members of your corps can help too.  You need this type of relationship to keep you going…trust me, it’s not necessarily spoken much of at training college but without it you will feel utterly alone, defeated, and potentially in your office drafting your resignation letter.

3.  The Brokenness Of Humanity And Counseling That Brokenness broken
Some of the stories that we hear as officers behind closed doors in an attempt to counsel people are heart breaking.  We all, more than likely, had a counseling class in training… but it fails in comparison to the time consuming sessions we will face in our officership.  Sometimes there aren’t easy answers and quick fixes to a lifetime of problems and hurts that will enter your office.  Sometimes all we can do is whisper prayers to the Lord for guidance in the midst of these horrifying tales of abuse, hurt and sadness.  We truly do have an opportunity to impact the broken in our communities.

Don’t assume you’re Dr. Phil or Dr Oz or whoever…this isn’t some sort of tv show.  These are lives.  They matter.  Be in earnest prayer for those that will walk into your office.  Gird yourselves before these sessions take place…sometimes they are spontaneous and without that preparation of prayer you will be caught off guard.  Be encouraged though, this is what you signed up to be and to do.  Also be encouraged because the Great Physician will provide you direction and guidance. Lastly, where possible, have contacts for professional counselors in your area who can help. Refer some cases if you can, but that doesn’t mean you stop caring or don’t communicate with that person again. Remember they came to you…they trust you! That’s a heavy burden to carry and quite a responsibility too!

4.  Love Over Knowledge
love1I was a gungho cadet, full of ideas and passion…that passion hasn’t left it’s only been re-tooled.
I remember, as many cadets do, walking across that platform to take that commission and appointment and thinking now everyone will finally see what I can do.  Pride?  Yes.  Naive?  You bet.  But don’t lose that passion to serve and to save souls!  Don’t back down from defeat and discouragements…they will happen.  Difficult days will come.

Note to self: Stop trying to be “Super Officer!!!”

Here’s a clue for all you cadets still in training, and some of the best advice I’ve ever received from another officer and mentor: Beyond knowledge, love your corps members!   Don’t look at this appointment as a stepping stone to a better appointment.  Don’t overlook the needs of the few who come through your doors every Sunday and midweek.  Love them.  Cherish them.  Show them Christ’s love.  It will sometimes take great effort to show that kind of love.  Sometimes you will become impatient and want to give up on some…but don’t.  Don’t be led by all the head knowledge but have nothing in your heart for the ones you lead.  It becomes obvious.  People WILL know when you don’t love them.  People WILL see beyond your grand schemes and plans and knowledge.  Love first…and last.

defeat5.  Not Every Battle Will Be Victorious
The world for God! The world for God!
I give my heart! I’ll do my part!
The world for God! The world for God!
I give my heart! I’ll do my part!” -Evangeline Booth

Not every battle will be victorious, dear soldier.  Some battles will be lost.  Some soldiers, some corps members, some recent converts will walk away.  Some will reject the love we offer, but we must do our part regardless of the losses in battle along the way.  If we are faithful and true to our First Love, we will overcome.  It will be far easier for us to give up.  It will be much, much easier to walk away.  To also throw up our hands, retreat and never press forward again…but resist that temptation.  In training we were surrounded by other cadets and officers who would spur us on.  In the class room ideologies are shaped and formed.  Ideas are born inside of us, but when we walk out to take appointments, we come face to face with battles we are far too ill-equipped to win on our own.   We must rely on His power and might to not only sustain us but provide the victories in these un-winnable battles.  When we exchange our power for His, all things become possible.  When we exchange our feeble, temporal knowledge for His everlasting eternal knowledge – all things become possible.  When we stop attempting to win the battle on our own and are driven to our knees in complete submission to Him – all things become possible…but it only happen when we die to self and become selfless like Him in every way.
Dear Cadets, Soldiers, Prospective Cadets (and even Officers) – You will NOT be fully prepared to go to those appointments.  College for Officers training can never fully prepare you for all of the possibilities that the field will bring your way…but know this:    The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, The God of David goes with you.  You are never alone.  Lean on His direction.  Seek Him out daily…even moment by moment.  Be encouraged!

Something more for our Army world to ponder today!
To God be the glory!


11 thoughts on “Dear Salvation Army – 5 Things They Don’t Prepare You For In Officer’s Training

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  1. Scott, another issue is the lack of preparation in the ever-changing landscape of human resources. We live in a highly litigious society where one incomplete step in a termination or reprimand can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees and settlements. The fact is that on top of the issues you mentioned the modern Salvation Army Officer needs to be prepared to answer complex questions in HR and business. It’s totally different than the world of “Preaching & Praying” my parents signed on for. The training college should make any future cadets take business classes, and human resources training before setting foot on the Training College Campus.

    1. sure bruce. we meet environment that need an officer to have such a sound knowledge on HR and business. Jesus was a preacher a teacher an hr and a good business professional. officers meet a lot of non biblical matters in various culture they happen to be. a well prepared officer on these areas will have a somehow smooth task to deal with the community.

  2. A brilliant reminder to me, a CSM, of some ways that I can be available and be sensitive to possible needs of current and future corps officers in my corps in rural Massachusetts

  3. “Yes Minister/Yes Prime Minister” should be compulsory viewing in College to prepare Cadets for the sad fact that specialist offices will hold their own agendas in precedence to the actual work of ministry in Corps and services. Finance, Property, Legal (often with employees in senior roles once held by officers) will find ways to delay, defer, derail projects for reasons that have nothing to do with the ministry opportunities at hand.

  4. (1) The death of an infant in your first appointment (and your first funeral preparation/counseling) whose mother was a Corps Cadet and the grandmother a Home League Member.

  5. If only I could have read this article fifteen years ago when I was getting excited as we were approaching commissioning!
    Perhaps things would have been different.

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