Dear Salvation Army: 4 Mistakes New Officers Make

“Nowadays most people die of a sort of creeping common sense, and discover when it is too late that the only things one never regrets are one’s mistakes.”― Oscar Wilde

Dear Salvation Army, it has been a while since we last spoke.
Today let us explore the topic of mistakes in relation to Officership.
It is never a comfortable conversation, but in reality these conversation are here to encourage, challenge and push us to improve our ministries.

Question:  Are mistakes always bad?  No.
Mistakes help us, and sometimes in the process of making mistakes we discover a whole new world of opportunities and possibilities.  Mistakes are just opportunities to improve and learn as we grow in our ministries.

Before we haphazardly jump into this list of mistakes, I am well aware that this list is for anyone in ministry, regardless if you wear red trim or not.  These mistakes can be made by anyone including seasoned officers.  My primary purpose for writing these down is not to demean or discourage, but as I have already said,  to encourage and challenge!

Let’s dig in…
4 Mistakes New Officers Make:

1.  Go It Alone Cowboy…cowboy
If you want to do a few small things right, do them yourself. If you want to do great things and make a big impact, learn to delegate.” ― John C Maxwell

The art of delegation is vital in ministry.
Admittedly we who minister in The Salvation Army realize that sometimes those we minister to are not capable of taking on any leadership responsibility, but can we give some of our corps people small tasks to do?  Could it be that we are attempting to do everything on our own because we have this perfect image of what Sunday worship should look like, or how bible study/prayer meeting should run?   Perhaps in an attempt to have this perfect notion of “Corps” we pass over the chance to invite others who are in our corps into the small opportunities to serve.

New officers (as well as older officers) are tempted to become Cowboys/ Cowgirls in their ministries.   By this I mean they go it all alone.  They ride off into the Sunset onto the next task or mission…all alone.   Ministry cannot be done without including others into it.  We will only experience minimal success in our ministries if we continue the mistake of the
go it alone cowboy.

2.  The Overnight Express
trainI recall when I was a young officer (*shocked*  wait, I’m not anymore?  Am I really that old?)  I was ready to win the world for Jesus and I was going to conquer my new appointment and get all of these perceived improvements completed overnight.  So I set out to do just that.  The funny thing was all of my efforts were not always welcomed or liked.  Why?  Because I failed to include others (Soldiers, volunteers and adherents) into those plans.  Instead I attempted to do everything myself and all in one week of arriving at my new appointment.  *Mistake*

Change takes time.
Yes, make the vital improvements and necessary cleanings of your buildings right away, but take your time in implementing new ministries and vision casting.  Tell the story.  Explain the vision to those you ministry with.  If you fail to include people in the vision and try to change things in the “overnight express” you will face more trouble and opposition.  That isn’t to say that you shouldn’t make changes and cast a new vision, just get the “movers and shakers” in your corps on board first!  It’s easier when you have advocates and backers walking alongside you rather than just changing everything on your own and right away.  Remember – change is never easy for anyone.  Some of your corps members have lived through multiple officer changes and those adjustments are already hard of your corps people.  Love them.  Get to know them.  Learn from them.  Include them in your vision and mission for your corps…don’t leave them in your dust!

3.  Wide-Angle Lens world
There is such a thing as casting too big of a vision for your corps!
It’s the wide-angle lens that captures everything, but fails to include the details of small victories!  When we only cast the wide-angle lens vision, we lose out on celebrating the smaller victories of accomplished goals in the corps.  Don’t lose sight of these victories.  We lose the trees for the forest, and if our focus is too broad.  We can also frustrate our corps people with the high expectations of massive visions when they haven’t had the kind of recognition that they desperately need in what we perceive as the mundane things of Christian faith and practice.   This mistake has more to do with only seeing the big picture while neglecting the small processes and goals necessary to fully realize the broader goals.   While seeing the big picture is important, without the details, we will never see these become reality.  Slow down, take your time, and acknowledge the small “baby step” victories with your people!

4.  Set-Apart…But Not The Right Kind.



Lastly, there is such a thing as the wrong kind of “set-apart” in Officership.
Life as an officer is difficult and time consuming.  We may at times be tempted to become separated from our corps members.  We can sometimes perceive the people we minister to as a compartmentalize area of our lives – where we have our “home life” over here, and our “corps life” over there.  This can sometimes translate even in our work days where we are pulled in so many directions that all we want to do is stay away from people and hole ourselves up in our offices in order to avoid them.  This can translate into a perception that the corps officer isn’t accessible and shouldn’t be bothered.  As I say this, you must recognize that there will be times when you must get work done and things have to be accomplished in your office, but don’t make this the standard of your  ministry.  Be mindful of the people you are ministering to and with.  We must be intentional is getting out of the “Set-apart” mentality – and connect with people in our corps and our community.  This mistake will rob you of wonderful fellowship opportunities and limit the impact you could have on those you serve.  Carve up your “work” time and your “connection” time.  Make sure that neither are neglected, but be aware that the best laid plans will sometimes have to be altered.

There are more mistakes we can sometimes make along the way.
Pray for discernment and wisdom as you begin to minister to your people.  Love your people, and be the hope of Christ to those who will meet you.

Something more for The Salvation Army to ponder today.
To God be the glory!

5 thoughts on “Dear Salvation Army: 4 Mistakes New Officers Make

Add yours

  1. Sir,
    One of your better pondering’s
    Tell us what is your opinion on how a young Corps Officer can use several retired officers who soldier at the Corps

  2. Nobody minds Officers making mistakes. People do mind when the officer refuses to recognise those mistakes, to learn from them and to say sorry. Unfortunately too many officers, in my experience are like this. Is this super arrogance taught in the training colleges?

  3. It is much easier to take a church in you vision journey with your arms around them, rather than standing behind them pushing or standing in front pulling.

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