Recently I wrote on the topic of “10 Things That Will Kill Your Corps“, and it went viral and was shared over 500 times on various social media sites. I think there might be something here to explore further. Perhaps one might ask, “Then how can we revive a dying corps?” Of course the answer to reviving a dying corps is not always so cut and dry. Reviving a dying corps can be a very complicated thing indeed, and each location has its own specific difficulties. I will not make the claim that I know the ins and outs of corps growth and its furtherance in mission, but I have witnessed what works from time to time. I also know that much of this depends upon hard work, prayer and cultivating a strong core group of leaders within your team. There are no “easy fixes”, so if you have come today to read this and find the fast method of fixing your corps, I am sorry to disappoint.
But here’s what I know…
10 Things To Revive A Dying Corps
- Organic Fellowship
There is something deeply meaningful to corps members who linger after the Holiness Meeting. This is organic fellowship, it is not just friendship but more like connecting with family. Are there members within your corps that connects at other times throughout the week away from the corps building? This is organic fellowship too. These are the ties that bind us together in unity and love. When organic fellowship takes place, corps members are more apt to fight for one another, to encourage one another and to live life with one another…it doesn’t just end at the benediction and the exit signs.
- Outward Mission
The corps is a part of a much larger movement, and we are not simply a building in which our programs take place. We ought to have a collective mission in our communities. We should never be satisfied with simply meeting the needs of our attendees, but constantly engage our community for Christ! How this outward mission looks from corps to corps will be vastly different because our communities all have differing issues and opportunities. Ensure your corps and its soldiers/adherents are committed to the same mission in your community. This evangelistic outreach is better fought with the collective body rather than solo missions by the Officer or Local Officer.
- Inward Discipleship
Within the corps body the opportunities for mentoring and discipling is/should be a very tangible thing. This isn’t some book course everyone takes, no this is much more than that! This is mature Christians shepherding and mentoring younger Christians. This is time and dedication to the purpose of developing deeper relationships rooted in Christ and emphasized in holy living. The best education for discipleship takes place when we journey side by side, holding one another accountable and deepening our faith and resistance to sin. We revive our dying corps through the deepening of our roots as soldiers. We revive and revitalize because we have something so tangible and practical that we would never surrender and walk away from it. Inward discipleship takes hard work and dedication, but if done right, a corps will be so much stronger because of it.
- Lead With, Not Over
Officers and/or Local Officers cannot micromanage and operate from a place of absolute power. If there are power hungry officers and soldiers, then perhaps it is time to step aside and let someone else lead for a while. Yes, there are times when our corps need strong leaders to paint the vision and guide the conversation into healthy models of Christian fellowship. When we share the roles of leadership (which a corps council should be doing), not only is the burden lightened and shared, but more innovation and vision can be collectively sought after. When we limit the “Lead” to just the officer (albeit sometimes that’s all you have to work with) we limit the growth your corps can experience through trial and error and through learning how to lead. Trust others. Invest in others. Don’t be afraid to fail a time or two.
- Flexibility To Change
The availability to take calculated risks in your corps is vital to successful ventures. So what happens when that risked attempt fails? Don’t give up, don’t stop trying…adjust, renegotiate, change. Our ministries will look differently from region to region, but we must have the flexibility to change. Sometimes this flexibility must happen at our divisional or territorial headquarters, and sometimes this flexibility is needed amongst our corps and its membership. I believe we can become so rigid and afraid to change. You know the definition of insanity right? It is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Be flexible in your goals and plans. Adjust when adjustment is needed. Take care to ask the hard questions and explore every possibility. Sometimes even programs that were once vital have become obsolete and need to be sacrificed for the sake of your corps’ future.
- Longer Officer Appointments
Church growth (I know we aren’t a church, but bear with me) takes 7 years. The same can be said for our movement, its corps and its many ministries. How can soldiers and adherents invest in the vision that various leaderships roll out if corps officers will be gone in three+ years? When they leave, another officer(s) moves in and the vision is likely to become different. Investing in the long-term can provide a sustainable path for your corps. Riving that which is on the fringes of death is not easy. This component relies on leadership both from the divisional level as well as the territorial level to see the benefits of longer appointments. Of course there are multiple variables within officers length of appointments. Questions like- are they are good fit? Will this corps be able to afford their family? Do we need their skills elsewhere? The wonderful thing is, many divisions and territories now see the benefit of investing in longer appointment terms. The CO must also see this benefit. It should be a cautionary tale to mentioned that COs need to remain focused on the present appointment and not peering over the fence at potential future appointments.
- Shared Vision & Mission
I cannot emphasize how much growth is dependent upon investment in the corps soldiers and adherents. Without this shared vision, as mentioned before, when the current CO leaves, the vision either dies or is shifted. A strong core group within the mainframe of the corps can provide stability and structure even if the corps officer leaves or is gone. With a shared vision and mission, which is agreed upon by local officers and constituents, EVERYONE knows that needs to be done. Talk about your vision. Keep it at the forefront of everything you do. Emphasize it, and keep talking about it from the pulpit to the visitation of soldiers and friends.
- Dependence on God, Not $ Signs
This might sound offensive to some of you. Some might say, “that’s not fair, we are dependent on God.” I am too. But there is a temptation to worry more about finances and where the next funding source will come from to pay for the bills of the corps, than how God is going to provide. Yes, we work hard to secure funding, but be careful that the funding doesn’t become your measure of success in the corps. Financially secure corps can become spiritual graveyards too. There are different types of corps death, and a corps worshiping their wealth can be one of them. It sounds ridiculous, but it can happen. Don’t allow your focus to become solely on what you have or need. Remember the One who sustains us and will provide what we need when we need it. Yes, pray about tithing. Yes, pray about grants and funding sources, but don’t let them hamstring what you can and can’t do for the Lord in your community. Even those with limited financial resources can do wonders for the Kingdom!
- Learn and Understand Your Community
“Oh, I never knew The Salvation Army had worship services!” How many times have you heard that? Could it be that we just don’t get out of our buildings enough? Could it be that we have become so insulated within what we do that we don’t see our community with the right lenses anymore? If we are to meet human needs in His name, we have to understand what those needs are in our communities. Study your neighborhoods. Find out what the issues are. Ask important questions to those you serve. Get out of your buildings and talk to people. It’s really not about being seen, but as we do these things we will be seen. In order to revive our dying corps, we have to continually explore the shifting needs and wounds of our community! Each community is different, as are their needs. What may have worked in a previous appointment might not be what this present appointment needs. So Corps Officers, even though you may have an awesome blueprint for things that were successful in your last corps, it doesn’t necessarily mean it will be automatically successful here. As a team – local officers, soldiers, adherents, friends – study, ask, explore and then meet the needs currently not being met in your community.
- Passionate Teachings & Holiness (Grow Then Go!)
We might not be the most elegant of preachers.
We might also worry about this. We do not have to be the best preachers, but being willing to preach on the difficult topics, by understanding your corps family, we can then be passionate about growing our spiritual levels. What do I mean? I fear that sometimes our corps are still in the kiddie pool of spiritual growth and without challenge they will never wade deeper into this faith. We have to continually challenge, speak, live and teach holiness. This is spiritual development and growth. This is vital to sustaining our corps members from the inside out. Without holiness, we run the risk of becoming another social service club that hangs out on Sunday mornings and just does good works for people. It has to go deeper than that. We have to keep each other accountable and emphasize the desire to encounter a continuance of salvation. The Holy Spirit doesn’t want us to remain static, and when we are, I fear corps death will surely follow. He will raise up others if the we remain in the kiddie pool. Wade out there, don’t be afraid to ask difficult questions, seek Christ’s image in all aspect of your living. Then…go!
These are just 10 things that can revitalize dying corps or corps who have lost their traction. I know there are other ways to revitalize…what do you think? What are those other ways? Let’s continue this conversation together!
Something more for our Army world to ponder today!