Dear Salvation Army, Is Policy Killing Our Mission?

“There’s no limit to how complicated things can get, on account of one thing always leading to another.”
― E.B. White.

“Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.”
Confucius

Today I would like us to ponder policy and if we have become so policy heavy that as a movement, are we at risk of killing our forward momentum and even our mission?

Like any organization, church, or movement, as they grow they develop more investments to protect and preserve…is that where we as The Salvation Army are today?  Could it be possible that we are more concerned with the progress that we have already made as an Army?  Are we afraid to push ever forward because of past investments, government monies and grants that have tied our hands and now prevent us from serving God to the fullest?   Are we to the point that we must protect dying programs because they have always existed instead of risking it all and doing what the Lord is calling us to do?

And what of policies, regulations?  Have we internally bound our hands so tightly within rules and regulations that we can no longer effectively be “Saved to Serve”?  Now, before you write me a nasty note (again) and chastise me for this question, please know that I am in no way seeking anarchy within our ranks.  I know we have rules  and orders that we must abide by, but sometimes I wonder if we have made our organization SO complicated with regulations and rules that we have become like the ancient Greek Senate that could never make a rapid decision as their kingdom fell around them by outside forces.

I don’t believe we are there yet, but could this path that we are on currently be killing our movement?  Has policy become the passion killer in our Army…and just like a stringent weed-killer, has it killed the fruit-boothbearing plants along with the weeds?

There was a time that William Booth would pull up its corps/outposts because it wasn’t working in that closedcommunity…today it would take over a year (at least) to close a dying or dead corps and plant a new one elsewhere.  I understand that there are many variables to consider, I know we have so many more hoops to jump through, and the right forms must be submitted, and the right studies have to be done…and the list goes on…and it is far too complicated, perhaps more complicated than it ever should’ve been.  I wonder if this is why we aren’t growing anymore?  Because our hands are bound by massive amounts of red tape and far too many hands have to touch the paperwork as it passes over many desks at various levels of responsibility.   Is it no wonder that some just given up?  Is it no wonder that some grow frustrated at the snail’s pace?  Granted we ought never make rash, uninformed decisions, but are there times when the amount of red tape becomes utterly ridiculous?

newCould this be why younger evangelistic churches seem to be having more success in growing their church plants – because they have far fewer restraints and hoops to jump through?  The building process doesn’t take 3-5 years, instead they work a church plant that tithes and contributes to the building campaign?  I understand we are not just a church (we are so much more – we are a movement)…but are we a stalled movement in this regard?  Or is this the proverbial story of the tortoise and the hare, where wisdom and time win out?

Policy Keepers & Creative Challengers
balanceSometimes I feel that we as an Army have become so policy heavy that we strangle creativity and the potential for real, sustainable growth.  The problem is like this scale, too heavy a balance of policy keepers will lead to a diminished level of creative challengers.   On the other side of the scale, too many creative challengers will lead to a diminished level of policy keepers and lack of order and policy.
We need both!!  Without a healthy level (and balance) of both types of people in our Army, we face a lopsided army and a potentially failed mission.

I hope I am not painting a dismal picture within this pondering today, because that is never my intent.  I am simply curious if we will reach a turning point where we think smarter instead of working harder within our structure of this movement.  This Army of Salvation should be a powerful tool for Christ in this world, but I fear there is a tipping point of balance happening.  The kind of imbalance that places restraints we that prevent us from reaching our full potential.  Have we presently become an army too afraid of upsetting our investments and our previous accomplishments?   There must come a point in which we admire the past and our rich heritage, but also press forward as a movement and focus on generations still in need of help, hope and salvation!  A healthy balance of both the policy keepers and the creative challengers must be present.

refocusPerhaps we have taken our focus off of the mission and exchanged it for regulations and rules.
Perhaps, in some places, we have exchanged mission for overly creative risks that have created a polarizing mission and have completely missed the mark.
Could it be that we are not fully relaying on the Holy Spirit for our guidance?
Perhaps we must reevaluate why we do what we do within our mission and purpose.
I hope this makes sense to you.   I hope this finds its mark.

If we are not serving suffering humanity in the name of Christ through the things we do then we must shift our priorities and refocus it.  Perhaps it’s time to uncomplicate things.complicate

Tell us what YOU think?  Do you identify as  a Policy Keeper or a Creative Challenger…or Both?
How can we uncomplicate things?  In your opinion, does policy sometimes overrule and supersede  mission, or do you find that the opposite true?    Let us know what you think, we value your comments!

Something more for our Army to ponder today.

Disclaimer:  The opinions expressed here are not necessarily the opinions and views of The Salvation Army’s but the writer’s own opinions…reader discretion is advised.  

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4 Replies to “Dear Salvation Army, Is Policy Killing Our Mission?”

  1. Yes of course, when a commanding officer would want to bring his/her own policy into the Army is it not killing the Army? It is

  2. The Army is strong in its own ways in its mission, but the church is essentially weak, its congregational base is very small. The Army has developed its own brand name, its unique character, system, framework to implement its mission. But the church is still very weak. The Army has put in place the ‘non-negotiables’ and tons of rules and regulations to safeguard its character so much so it is suffocating the church. It is almost impossible to reinvent itself. The Army has to die in itself in order for the church to live and grow.

  3. The whole concept of denominations is irrelevant for society today. The Christian faith is (sometimes wilfully) misunderstood and many have no idea what the SA and other groups stand for. Instead of continuing to adopt a siege mentality and protecting traditions and distinctiveness, how about declaring peace with other churches focusing upon the common mission of sharing God’s love?
    How much current expenditure and activity would continue if that were the case?

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