Dear Salvation Army Officer: I Need Rest!

With six more days (if it’s still Monday when you read this) until the craziness of the Christmas season screeches to a halt, the life of an officer never seems to end.  There are still kettle goals to be met, Christmas distributions to clean up after, and countless logistical issues to oversee.

Officers don’t of course do this alone, teams of wonderful employees and volunteers help (we really couldn’t do this without you!!) I don’t wish to ever minimize anyone’s efforts during this time of Christmas – everyone works so hard.

batteryAs an officer I know how often I have climbed into bed bone tired and sore with many things yet to accomplish and left for the following day.  It is exhausting work and I pray we never miss the point of it all. I pray that we never forget the real reason that we celebrate Christmas – because all of this busyness can certainly consume the Christ-mas if we allow it to.  Have we begun to dread this holiday, this advent season?  Have we become workaholics and have we placed this about our worship of the Almighty?  Most likely not, but there is certainly the danger here.  We want to succeed in our goals, we want to work hard and accomplish much…but is God present in all of these goals and in our striving for success?

tiredA song recently pulled me up short, and caught my attention.
The refrain that struck a chord in my heart was this:

 

I need rest, I need rest
Lost inside a forest of a million trees
Trying to find my way back to me
I need rest”
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w60V7lLY2bs

These lyrics are from a song by Jason Gray entitled “Rest (the song of the innkeeper)”
It describes the busyness of life, getting caught up and seeking the rest amidst all of the chaos .

Dear Officer – You need rest…do you find it?  Are you seeking it?
Has the work become your god?
Do you dread Christmas and everything it brings?
How can we avoid the dread and the misaligned religion of work instead of relationship with God?

I pray you find it even as you finish this Kettle season, or hectic social service season!
I pray that as December 25th arrives you can embrace the birth of Christ once more with fresh abandon and awe.  Merry Christmas to you all!

God bless you!

Christmas Chaos Calmed By 4 Words…

In the early six am hour, I stumble from my bed.  And my very first priority is to, with eyes half open – and long drawn out yawn, stand before the coffeepot with cup impatiently in hand.

Yesterday still reverberates and echos loudly in my ears, but I must be prepared for the onslaught that is this new day.  What can I expect from this new one?  Perhaps more hectic phone calls of fires I must put out?  Most likely more kettle money to count, as well as a host of other public appearances…the day will eventually join all other days, which slowly blends and bleeds together becoming a cacophony of noise, fast driving, and not enough hours to complete every. single. task.  It (my day) can become quite frustrating.
20161208_191225000_ios
At the end of the day…

It is in the late night hour, when the lights have been extinguished, and the sounds of exhausted snores begin again, that I wonder if THIS is what I have signed up for?  The restlessness, the anxiety, the stress, the responsibilities, the burden that they (whoever “they” are) has called the “mantle of leadership”.  Is it worth it?
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For I am drawn to the unfinished homework down the hall that my child needed my help on.  That growing stack of dirty dishes, now elbow-high in the sink.  The Mount Everest sized heap of laundry, a mix of colors and whites all blending together in some stained and stinky gym-socked odors that still remain downstairs- largely ignored.  “T’is” the season” we say (laughing it off), as we run out the door having not eaten as much as we should and hoping we can spend more time with our children today than we did yesterday…or the day before that.

These are the things that guilt my slumber…but still I sleep (and snore), only to repeat the same maddening schedule all over again the next day, “Dear Lord, please either return today or make Christmas Eve speed up in my direction” I breathlessly, and continuously pray.  This has become my mantra, my hope to cling to, my “light at the end of the tunnel” (which happens to sound a lot like the ringing of bells and the clanging of loose change from a crimson bucket).

I keep telling myself that this makes a difference, that what we do in these restless weeks matters, but it offers little comfort when fielding that phone call from an irate store manager, or a raging parent unsatisfied with the toys that we have to offer them (while we always put our best foot forward)…The mantra “We make a difference” is even a cold comfort when having to terminate another ringer for having sticky fingers and blatantly lying about it even when managers and customers have witnessed it a time or two.

Are we making a difference?
Am I making a difference?
Did I sign up for this?
Is this what God has asked us to do?
Better yet, am I really giving my all to God in the places and spaces that matter most?

And that’s when it hits me…
I have been going about this all wrong…
What is “this” you ask?

My attitude…
My motivation…
My determination…
My gifts and abilities…
ALL “MY”s….

But there are days when I must get away and recharge…
there are days when I must reconnect with the family…
there are days when priorities and responsibilities of ‘self’ wins out.

But here…
In this moment-
I feel the Holy Spirit breathe into me four simple words that strike the cord of truth deep within me.  It lays to waste all of my hesitations, temptations, guilt and fears.  It puts everything back together again.  It restores my faith in humanity even after getting burned SO. MANY. TIMES…

He whispers those words into my busy day.
He whispers them into my chaotic heart and mind.
He whispers them and though the bell ringing continues, and the change from crimson buckets still falls, I find some clarity and solitude.  (How ironic is that?!)

What are the four words you ask?
Perhaps it is something for all of us and all of our furious paced lives right now…

The words?

Thy Will Be Done…

Are you feeling the Christmas chaos yet?
Have you asked similar questions?
Do you feel the guilt of a crazy paced life right now?
You’re not alone!!

A Prayer We Can All Pray: 
Lord, I want to be your servant today.
You know that I feel betrayed at times by those around me.
You know that I feel cheated out of a calmer life sometimes.
You understand the chaotic mess that is my life right now.
I pray your silent strength and shielded hope would surround me.
I pray you would increase as I decrease in all of these efforts today.
Grant me your strength and discernment for the tasks at hand.
Lead me Lord into Thy will.
-Amen.

Something more to ponder today!
By the way….you got this!
God Bless you!

5 Ways To Combat Salvation Army Burnout…

With all of the news of mega church pastors leaving, taking sabbaticals and burning out, I thought it fitting to discuss helpful ways that The Salvationist can combat burnout as well.  Burnout is real, it is not something imagined or evidence of a weaker person simply giving up.  We all face exhaustion from time to time, and we also face critical, stressful situations that leave us looking for the exit sign…trust me, I’ve been there on numerous occasions.

But as an Officer and Salvationist, we have a mission to serve, but what if along the way we face difficulties, discouragements, and suffer depression and loss of passion?  What then?  I can assure you this is nothing new, and many have been to this point…many have also walked away because of it.  fire

I will also boldly say that The Salvation Army must recognize some of the lasting structural inconsistencies.  The quasi military approach that once thrived is not as appealing as it once was to a very individualistic thriving culture.  Sometimes old models of leadership need to be challenged in order for real change to take place and so that we can once again get back to mission instead of policy.  So, right off the bat, understand the Titanic turning of a large, global organization (movement) is daunting and sometimes frustrating to face.

Harvard Business Review had an article that identified six virtues of a dream company, which was compiled by hundreds of business executives.  For our purposes, imagine this “dream company” to be The Salvation Army…see if these virtues match:

1.  You can be yourself
2.  You’re told what’s really going on.
3.  Your strengths are magnified.
4.  The company stands for something meaningful.
5.  Your daily work is rewarding.
6. Stupid rules don’t exist.
(Source: HBR Article Link)

Apart from the organizational issues, what can individual salvationists do to combat burnout while serving within its ranks (soldier, officer, employee ect.)?  Here are just five ways to combat burnout in our Army.  Take them for what they are, a primer that allows us to face real life issues happening all around us.  This is just a “starter list”…there is much more that can be said within this topic.

5 Ways To Prevent Salvation Army Burnout: 

flame1. Have an Identity apart from the Army
Sometimes this goes against conformity doesn’t it?  We are told to dress alike, be of one army, one mind, yet we are also people who need to know who we are as God’s children who are called by Him.  We must find out who we are apart from the uniform, apart from the mission.  Sometimes this requires us to take a step back and reevaluate who we are and why we do the things we do.  Self identity is vital to combating burnout because without knowing who we are we can become washed away by the powerful tides of stress that are rampant in any organization.  When you go home, when you spend recreational time away – be yourself!

2. Find Hobbies To Enjoy smoke
Not everything is about mission sometimes (gasp!), in order to combat burnout is a fast paced thriving movement such as the Army, we must be able to relax from time to time.  Some are excellent wood workers and carpenters and they relax by doing what they love.  If you paint – then paint.  If you enjoy geocaching, then get out and do that!  Find things to enjoy, to look forward to on your next unscheduled day.  Plan for these hobbies.  Be intentional in taking the time to enjoy them.  This will enable you to disconnect from the everyday stress of “work”.

3. Leave Your Work At The Office!! work
Seriously, we have a lot of work-a-holics in our Army.  That’s not all bad.  Hard work is wonderful!  But when it jeopardizes your families, when they don’t know who you are anymore because you constantly work, there is something wrong with that!  I would even go out on a limb and tell you overworking yourself is a sin.  STOP IT!  When you can, leave the work at the office.  This will not always happen, I know that, but when you can leave it! Combating burnout requires us to take drastic steps, and for some of us, leaving unfinished work at the office is very, very drastic!

4. Switch Things Up!  change
We all get stuck in ruts sometimes.  So change up your schedule.  Go for a walk, spend more time talking to people instead of staring at your computer screen.  Flip your schedule so that some of your work gets done at the end of the day.  Do something different so that the ruts are broken, and in so doing, you might experience a little bit of perspective within your day.  When you do this, take time to breathe.  I own an apple watch and I laughed at first at the new update on it.  It’s a new app called “Breathe”…what it does is remind me to take a full minute and focus on my breathing.  It was dumb at first, but then I started doing it, I switched up my schedule in the process…but now I look forward to that moment where I just breathe and relax.  Combating burnout in your life takes an effort to switch some things up.  So don’t just talk about it…do it!!

5.  Take Your Sabbath Seriously!
restThis, I consider to be one of the biggest sins in our Army.
Far too few of us really take a Sabbath.  Yes, it’s our day off, but we’re still “catching up” on work.  If God rested on the seventh day, don’t you think we should too?  Or are we essentially saying, “I’m better than God” in our actions?  When you plan your Sabbath days – TAKE THEM!  Don’t bring work or ministry into your Sabbath!  This is the time that you need personally to recharge your “batteries”.  You need to plug yourself back into the Power source which is God Himself!  Whatever that reconnection looks like to you, don’t take it for granted!  Get alone with God, find the time, stop sinning in overwork and do it!  If we really want to combat burnout, we must begin to realize just how important that Sabbath is for us.  It’s not just another day off, it is a day (or a matter of hours) to recharge and rest.

I know that there are other ways that will help combat burnout, what are some tools that you have used in your ministry?  What has helped you?  Why not share them here and help all of us as we ponder this together!  As always, thanks for reading!  Something more for our Army to ponder today!

God Bless you!

5 Qualities Of A Great Officer

I must say right off the bat these are qualities that I have seen in Officers that I look up to, and I know that there are other fine qualities that we should all aspire to.  With that in mind, I also know that every Officer is fallible and not always perfect.

5 Qualities of a Great Officer:
Here they are –

5.  Others
“...do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.”  Philippians 2:4
The marks of a good officer must include the deep desire to help others see Christ, to be like Christ, but it takes intentionality and passion to do this!   Officers, and anyone in leadership for that matter, must take the time to actually care for others.  This is why we exist as an Army: Christ and Others!!  Without these two things we are just another social services agency.   It can be tempting to think of an appointment as a stepping stone, but if we ever entertain those notions we will forget about others and in turn we will lose our personal mission as an officer.  others

This doesn’t mean that we do not do self-care from time to time, but it does mean that a good officer is not self-indulgent, prideful and aloof from the people we are supposed to care for.  Great officers stay connected to others, they engage others and they prompt others challenge themselves and to grow.

4.   Quality, Intentional Family Time

Family Time - Clock

Another mark of a great officer, is the ability to carve out intentional quality time with the family.  We have all heard of horror stories of that Officer Brat or rebellious child who just left or made poor choices in life.  I’m not saying that a great officer can always prevent this, because children will grow up, become adults and make their own decisions.  What I am saying is that when parents take the time to be parents, and spend quality time (I know it can’t always be quantity time), we will have children who are healthier, better connected and well rounded.  There are no absolutes to parenting, I know this, but I also know how important it is for officers to be parents to their children!  I’ve heard it said, and I’m sure you have too that an officer’s first ministry is to their children/families.

A great officer is intentional about spending quality time with the family.  Christmas time is difficult in many places in the Army, but perhaps it’s that hour you spend reading a book to your small children, or it’s the going out to get that hot chocolate.

Note: Married Officer- this includes spending quality time with each other, no matter how hard or insane your schedule is – make room!!  

3.  Decisiveness Even When Others Disagree

A wise man makes his own decisions, an ignorant man follows the public opinion.” -A Chinese Proverb

“A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.” —  John C. Maxwell

decisiveness
The marks of a great Officer might also include listening to others and taking good counsel, but when the rubber meets the road, a good officer must be decisive in decisions and in the direction the ministry should go.  So what if it fails?  So what it we make mistakes?  If we are prayerful, and we allow good counsel in, we fail knowing we did what was right.  Great officers don’t just lead by consensus, but they keep to the mission, and if the mission could get lost because of consensus, they steer decisions with mission in mind.

It is much easier to lead when everyone agrees with you, but when there are dissenters and you must still make the right conscious decision, it becomes hard.  Great Officers will lead sometimes despite those who will disagree.  Leadership with conviction and the doing right thing, amidst conflict or opposing thought is true leadership!

*Disclaimer, if an Officer has wise counsel that is missional and good, and it is ignored, perhaps one should reconsider the above conclusion.  Great Officers don’t lead like dictators and push their own selfish agendas through – this would be the antithesis of “great leadership”.

2.  Compassionate and Gracious 

A leader is not an administrator who loves to run others, but someone who carries water for his people so that they can get on with their jobs.

— Robert Townsend

compassionateAnother mark of a great Officer is the capacity for compassion and grace.  This is closely related to the care of “Others”!  Compassion and grace can often be set aside of efficiency and “getting the job done”.  When officers run through their administrative duties as well as their pastoral duties, the first thing that seems to go is the capacity to slow down and care for people.  Being a great officer means that one will take the time to hear about other people’s problems, to show compassion and to be involved in the lives of their corps members or those they lead.  If an officer wants others to follow them, it won’t be conducted through declarations of power and asserting authority, it will be done by gentleness, kindness, compassion and genuine care.  The great officers that I have known possess this certain type of seemingly endless patience and grace, that kind that I can only hope to achieve.  Admittedly, I am often impatient, short with people, and sometimes my capacity for compassion is lacking…But I don’t want to remain here, no, not at all!                 I aspire (as I’m sure you do too) to be like those Officers that have displayed this remarkable characteristic to me (us).

1.  Great Officers Admit When They Are Wrong
Here is the “pride-swallowing” conclusion to this very short list.
Great Officers admit when they are wrong.  There, I’ve said…the end.  (Just kidding)   If they make mistakes, a good officer will own up to it.  If they say something to offend, a good officer will go to that person.  Great Officers, from those that I have observed, are able to humble themselves and admit to missteps.  This confession allows for vulnerability and makes leadership more human and accessible.  wrong

There are, of course, underlying currents and themes here within this list:
Things like: Mission, Humility, Love, Holiness, Faith, and Wisdom.
The Characteristics are necessary for the development of Great Officer.  I know that I’m not there yet, but I do strive to be the very best follower of Christ that I can be – and admittedly I fail many times.  Do you?  I guess it is in how we learn and grow from those failures that define us.  We ought not strive to be a mediocre anything!  Do not settle for mediocrity in life!
great
Dare I say, mediocre officers can be a dime a dozen…but Great Officers – they can be a real rarity in our Army…Dear Officers, let’s strive to be Great Officers.  Not in some sort of prideful, power-mongering way, but through these qualities list above.  Let Christ be seen in you every day.  I must decrease, and He must increase!  (John 3:30)
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Something more for the Army world to ponder today!

Further Readings on this topic:
Colonel Allen Satterlee’s latest Article
Commissioner Jim Knaggs
Commissioner Harry Read’s Heart Talks Selection
and Kinda -sorta off topic, but not really:
From Good To Great by Jim Collins 

Dear Salvationist, 3 Things Your CO Doesn’t Tell You

Every corps has its challenges.
Each community that we, Corps Officers have the pleasure of serving in is also uniquely different.  Sometimes the life of an Officer can be a lonely place, while other times COs are surrounded by love and support…it certainly comes in seasons.

today, my Dear Salvationists, I would like to share with you
3 Things Your Corps Officer Doesn’t Tell You (But maybe should).
Officers, correct me if I’m wrong…I’m not opening a can of worms I haven’t already confronted within my own life, and perhaps this is all relative to our own uniquenesses (I just made up a word).

here goes…

struggle1) Sometimes CO’s struggle spiritually too…
I hope this doesn’t come as a complete shock to any of you.  Sarcasm aside, the truth is, just because your corps officer is a pastor/preacher/social worker/counselor/janitor/chef…and more, doesn’t mean that they have perfected holiness by any means.  We. Still. Struggle.  We may not always have the answers to all of your spiritual questions, but we will sure try to find out those answer for you and with you.  There are days when we feel beat up, kicked around and we just want to pack it in.  There are days when our prayers seem to fall on deaf ears and, yes we also experience those dry and thirsty places.  Your Corps Officer is, and will never be perfect in your eyes or everyone’s eyes for that matter.  We are not perfect, we are still human and we are also prone to making mistakes.  These spiritual struggles aren’t crisis points, no, instead, this is life – and we live it just like you do, and anyone who says otherwise isn’t telling you the truth.

budget2) Many Times We Are Stressed Out About Finances
Running a corps and connecting in the community takes a lot of effort and work.
There are times when your CO might not admit it, but they could be deeply stressed about finances – especially during major fund raising events like Christmas!   The reality is, if the money isn’t there employees and services could get cut, and this truly hurts us.  We pray a lot about these things.  Yes, we understand that money doesn’t solve everything and we must chase after God not money, but we also recognize the reality of serving suffering humanity.  It takes resources.  It takes finances.  It takes gifted, talented staff members to aide in the many things that we do.  We worry about it – and some of us sometimes worry more than we really should.  We recognize that, unlike Churches, we cannot simply operate on the tithes of our corps members.  We must beat the drum and rally the community to come and help us…and we have our doubts sometimes too.  We need your encouragement, prayers, love and support too.

3) Friendships Are Hard To Maintain, We Might Be Lonely. friends
This isn’t a pity party by any means, and I simply want you to know that your CO(s) is human too.  They crave friendships, laughter, tangible fellowship, and leisure.   Depending on the appointment, these moments can be few and far between.  It is hard to minister in a corps and be friends too.  That shepherd, sheep element is hard to balance.  As a younger officer, (I’m not that old yet) we were sent to our first appointment 5 hours from DHQ…we craved friendship all the time and we had to find it in our community.  It is not always easy to have close friends when your appointments could be the span of a year or three.  We as officers can become aloof at times because if we invest all of us into friendships we know it will be even harder when we leave.  I don’t mean to say that we don’t still invest all of us regardless, but if you feel as if you corps officer is a little stand-offish, give them time, be patient with them and make attempts to invite, befriend and care for them anyway.

These are only three things that your CO doesn’t tell you, but perhaps should.
Remember that trust is a two-way street, and that confidence and vulnerability takes time.

So how about you…what are your thoughts, comments and impressions on this topic?
Share and join the conversation!

Something more for our Army world to ponder today.

Dear Salvationist – Arrogance Beware!

Luke 18:9-14(NLT)

Parable of the Pharisee and Tax Collector

Then Jesus told this story to some who had great confidence in their own righteousness and scorned everyone else: 10 “Two men went to the Temple to pray. One was a Pharisee, and the other was a despised tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed this prayer[a]: ‘I thank you, God, that I am not like other people—cheaters, sinners, adulterers. I’m certainly not like that tax collector! 12 I fast twice a week, and I give you a tenth of my income.’ 13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance and dared not even lift his eyes to heaven as he prayed. Instead, he beat his chest in sorrow, saying, ‘O God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner.’ 14 I tell you, this sinner, not the Pharisee, returned home justified before God. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

Beware dear Soldier of the trappings of arrogance, for it can creep into that uniform of yours and corrupt your heart and attitude!  We do not wear this uniform and associate ourselves with this army because we are better than other people, instead we should wear it as as sign of utter humility, servitude to Christ and as a constant reminder of our mission in this world.

selfCould our corps halls feel like an exclusive club to outsiders?  -This should never be the case!  We might become tempted, at times, to puff ourselves up with all of our corps’ accomplishments and fortunes, instead run from such thoughts and temptations!  Do not become like the Pharisee in the parable Jesus told – who was so enamored by his own pride and arrogance that those earnestly seeking were criticized and despised.

No, instead fight this war against pride and arrogance as a Soldier of this army!  We ought to fall to our knees and repent every time we become prideful of who we are instead of Whose we are.   We must recognize and repent every time we aspire to places of position and power out of personal gain and selfish ambition.  Pride and arrogance will poison our army if we are not careful; and although we do good in our communities lest we not forget Who our faith is in and for Whom all of these good works are accomplished.thumb

If we as soldiers exchange this true calling of sincere holiness in our lives for earthly recognition and these temporary places of authority the world bestows upon us, we will have lost it all – and our identity as an Army for God.

Jesus despised the hypocrite and the religious zealot who couldn’t see past their own personal needs and desires.  Beware dear Soldier of the trappings of arrogance and pride.

Prayer:
Lord, make us humble.  May we be mindful of our fellow man – and the hurting world around us.  Give us Your heart and eyes – may we ever be on our knees earnestly seeking after you.  Holy Spirit, instill in us this servant-heart.  Break us of our pride and arrogance. Remove the dross, wipe away the old life.  If need be, remove us from places of prominence so that we may be yours and yours alone.  Lord, forgive us when we have had a divided heart – you want us all to yourself, and there have been times when we have strayed.  May Christ-likeness be our goal as we humbly serve.  Amen.
cs
So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.” (Galatians 6:9)

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
    And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
    and to walk humbly[a] with your God.” (Micah 6:8)

 

Dear Salvationist – 5 Things Leaders Shouldn’t Do

Dear Salvation Army Soldier, it would seem that we are at a turning point in our Army.
Perhaps some of you have seen this coming for years, perhaps some are seeing this for the first time.  Our organization, built on the fire of The Holy Spirit and the Mission to reach souls for Christ through “Soup, Soap, & Salvation”  is in need of a second and possibly third blessing from the Lord.

What do I mean by that?  I mean we are in need of a Pentecost type renewal once again among our ranks.  We need a deeper resolve within our prayer lives.  We must preach Holiness from the pulpit BUT more importantly live holiness in our lives and be an example of Christ-likeness to those around us!

This turning point is like the Israelites of old who renewed their covenant with God over and over again only to forget its meaning and stray from their faith and relationship to the Author and Sustainer of life.  Do we stray sometimes?  Have we lost our way upon this pathway of duty?  I don’t think this Salvationist thing is solely about duty…no, it’s so much more than that!  To me, the word “duty” implies something arduous and required of us.  Something that allows us to plod along as long as we are performing our required/expected responsibilities.  That word only goes so far…we as Salvationists need more the duty in our lives and in our ministries, we need passion, faith and perseverance too!

That being said, allow me for a moment to delve into a very important topic of leadership.
This topic is not exclusively for our divisional/territorial or International leaders, this is a broad brush stroke that transcends position and status within our Army.  I say this because I do not want anyone to assume I am directing this at anyone specifically…if I did that, I would have to seriously contend that my abilities within leadership is perfect…they most certainly are not.  I am still learning.  I have a lot of room for growth here.  I am no fool, I recognize this in myself.   I write this for me…and perhaps, in some way – you might also benefit and relate from it as well.

My Master’s Degree is Organizational Leadership…despite all of that, degree and all, I’m still a work in progress…how about you?

 5 Things Leaders Shouldn’t Do – leaders

STOP –

5) “Do as I say, not as I do!” 
We might find ourselves barking orders and giving commands that we seldom or have difficulty following ourselves.  Weren’t the Pharisees of old really good at that too?  They were the enforcers of laws that they themselves didn’t necessarily keep.  Allow me to just say…”those in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.”  This kind of behavior within leadership is tempting – We lead, we should expect people to follow us, but if we don’t first lead by example, chances are those that follow will either resent our leadership or stop following all together.  THIS is extremely detrimental to our Army.  Beware of this leadership trap!!  If you find yourself here, please, please stop – you’re hurting the army more than you are helping it!

DON’T

vision4) Cast An Unrealistic Vision
This too is easy to do!
We set the standard SO high that no one can reach it and many will find themselves disillusioned and discouraged.  We are an Army, but we are also an army of compassion and hope.  We can’t expect a new convert to the faith to become Brengle overnight (for example).  Set your vision – YES, but be mindful that you don’t lose your people in the process.  Make your vision and your goals attainable, whatever they may entail.   Don’t lose sight of the sheep you shepherd and get so far ahead of them that they aren’t able to keep up or follow you.  Thankfully Jesus never His disciples in the dust, He helped them along, even explaining certain parables to them when they were confused or off base.

STOP
3) Discipline Without Compassion arnold
Stop this, please!
Jesus said this of the earthly model of leadership –
Among the heathen, kings are tyrants and each minor official lords it over those beneath him.But among you it is quite different. Anyone wanting to be a leader among you must be your servant. And if you want to be right at the top, you must serve like a slave. Your attitude must be like my own, for I, the Messiah,* did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give my life as a ransom for many.”(Matthew 20:25-28 TLB)

The Army doesn’t need more iron-fisted leaders, it needs leaders who lead with compassion as their strength!  Discipline?  Yes – but fairly and with the intention to correct and restore.  Don’t discipline out of anger or misaligned points of view.  Some of the best leaders that I know are those who have a servant’s heart and are concerned about helping those they lead to attain levels of personal growth in their lives!

DON’T

stubborn22) Lead In A Way That’s Always Been Done…”   
It’s an excuse to lead in this manner – “The Army has always led this way” – False, men and women have led this way, but we can lead in ways that improve upon what has already been built!  Don’t hang all of your experience upon the coat hook of tradition as your standard.  Instead glean what worked and what didn’t…Adapt!  I will take a prayer warrior leader over one who wishes to climb the ladder by stepping on people any day!  Don’t think for a minute that there haven’t been those consumed by the compulsion to lead or driven by personal ambition…it’s a human flaw, and we all have our own personal egos to contend with.

Gut check time – I think the words of Ezekial 34:4 could apply to all of us as a warning to leaders who are not fair or lead by “how it has ALWAYS been done” – “You have not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured. You have not brought back the strays or searched for the lost. You have ruled them harshly and brutally.

Let’s not lose sight of why we need leaders in our army, and why we exist in the first place!
1) Stop Blaming Loss of Membership Solely On Those You Lead!”    sheep
This is critical.
It goes hand in hand with the whole setting the vision too high thing…be mindful of casting blame.  Officers – stop blaming all of your corps people on the loss of members (you might be warranted sometimes – go to specific people!) Soldiers – stop blaming your corps officers or the officers before the current ones!  We all have a responsibility in the here and now to lead and to shepherd people to Christ.

If we lose a battle, claim it and move on to the next!  To use the euphemism again – This war is not over!  We have much ground to gain and we need to persevere and fight on!  Leadership – where ever you may be, if you take credit for the victories, take ownership for defeats as well!  You are the ones to set the vision and assist in seeing that vision to fruition.

You might agree or disagree with me, that’s fine.
At the end of the day I want all of us (myself especially) to examine our places of authority. Whether it’s in the corps or at headquarters.  We either do this together, or fall apart trying to do our own thing!

Something more for our army to ponder today!

Stay tuned to tomorrow’s pondering on 5 Things Leaders SHOULD do!  trim
***Disclaimer:  The opinions expressed in this pondering are the writers thoughts and opinions, and do not necessarily reflect the thoughts and opinions of The Salvation Army…read discretion advised. ***

Dear Salvation Army, If Only My Corps Had…

Photo Jul 08, 8 08 52 AM Photo Jul 08, 8 07 19 AM
Dear Salvation Army, there might be the instance (from time to time) where we might begin to compare ourselves with others.  Sometimes the comparisons we draw from are from outside our denominational walls, while other times we covetously peer over the “hedge” of our corps and into the properties of another corps which seems to have it all put together.   Thus we can be tempted to play the “If Only” game.

It goes like this: 
If only we had more financial contributions…
If only we had more people…
If only we had a better building…
If only we had more resources…
If only…
If only…
If only…

This is a game that I too have played.
It can be self-defeating and self-destructive.  The “If onlys” can lead to disillusionment and a surrendering to a false identity.  The body of Christ ought not compare itself to another part of the body.  It sounds rather silly when we think of it like that – A Hand of Christ looking at a Foot and wishing it too was a foot…but the reality is that this unfortunately happens all the time.  The “If Onlys” crosses cultural and international lines.  It doesn’t matter what location in the world that one resides in, this game is still played out.   Social media can be a boon as well as a bane.  We can peer through our tiny windows within our computers and see Salvationists from all walks of life.  We can envy the opportunities that they have and we can sometimes covet.  Salvationists this ought not be!

RX3 Prescriptions To Combat “If Only”: 
1) Be Confident That Christ Has Called You To Your Specific Place!
I believe in Divine Appointments.  I recognize that at times the Lord places people at just the right location for His might purposes.  Recognize that where you are right now, even if you serve in a tiny corps in the middle of nowhere, that you are serving the Almighty!  He longs for our faithfulness in the small things as well as the large things.  Accept this ministry in faith and know that God has appointed you there!

2) Claim This Mission Field That Christ Has Given You!
Look around your community, there are many souls who need YOU! Regardless if you have the financial resources or not, God is still on the throne and He will take care of you and this mission field!  Be faithful to God and to the mission field you have been placed in.  We are to be good stewards of what He has entrusted with.  Claim the streets around your corps.  Claim the ministries as opportunities for more people to come to Christ.  Walk those streets in uniform.  Get to know the people living there.  Do not be afraid to be the influence of change and hope in your community!

3) Work Together, Not Against!
Stop peering over the hedge at other corps or other churches that seem to have all of the “if onlys”.  If we are truly the body of Christ then we ought to be working together not against one another through coveting and jealousy.  Share resources when we are able.  Ask for help.  Be mindful that we are all in this together and together we are a much stronger army for God!  Petty Jealousy has no place in our Army.  It is a tool the father of lies wishes to use in order to divide and conquer us.  Keep a clear head and may we fight the good fight with other fellow soldiers at our sides.

So What?
What am I trying to say today?
Don’t allow the “If Onlys” to penetrate and disturb your ministries.
Don’t play this destructive game.
Get on with loving your communities through the power of the Almighty!
He is faithful and He will always provide what you need, when you need it!
Get on with meeting human needs in His name!

Something more for this Army to ponder today, to God be the glory!

Dear Salvation Army, The Voice of Dissonance?

Is there such a thing within our ranks as a dissonant voice?
Is this even something considered?
Sometimes I wonder if individuality can be present within a quasi-militant organizational model such as ours.
Is there ever a place for such a voice?
Can iron sharpen iron without healthy friction?
Is punishment instantly doled out to those with a conflicting voice?

By dissonant I don’t mean a voice of extreme dissent or open rebellion, I mean one who has constructive things to say to the organization as a whole…is this possible?  Does that voice really matter?  Does the Army still need dissonant voices?   Will those voices really make a difference?  Or does it sort of resemble this:

200255304-001

I do not wish to throw gasoline onto a fire.
I do not wish to lick an open wound (I know, gross euphemism…sorry).
But I do wonder what sort of place these dissonant voices have in an army that often times spurns abnormal or divergent (sorry book/movie series) soldiers?

audioWorst Case Scenario of Dissonance:
Divergent, dissonant voices are expelled, sometimes publicly, sometimes quietly with little to no fanfare.
They are driven further and further away from sources of influence and squeezed until they either capitulate or comply to the common “group think”.   Hence the “my way or the highway” leadership model.  Decisions made by leadership within this scenario do not handle constructive criticism of any kind, and will lash out and punish anyone who raises pertinent questions that challenge the present leadership and its decision.

Best Case Scenario of Dissonance: mic
Divergent/dissonant voices are listened to, constructive criticism is welcomed in order to make the Army better.  Leaders still lead and make the decisions but welcome other voices to help make the organization better.  One can still agree to disagree but without the fear of retribution of faulty, insecure leadership.  The best case scenario is not the easiest for the organization, but would preserve its constituency while providing ownership to the “group”.   BUT…Pick Your Battles!
pickDissonant voices can become just like traffic noise if not careful on what battles are waged through constructive criticism.  Traffic noise is loud and indicate when someone is coming, but if you constantly live with the noise, it will eventually become tuned out and ignored.  If one constantly challenges authority and argues with every voice of reason and “unreason” that voice will eventually lose all power and credibility.   If you must challenge authority and leadership…pick your battles and make sure you look for traffic!

Organizational Questions to consider:
Are there times when the voice of dissonance is needed in our Army?
What can one do to ensure dissonant voices of concern are listened to?
How can we tell when we have become the one in need of listening instead of speaking?
Does this army have room to grow and to become better defined and equipped?
How does one know which battles to pick?
When does pride become our blinder and prohibit us from seeing the “big picture” or the “other side”?


Photo Mar 23, 5 21 28 PM
The Resonating Dissonance…

In the grand scheme of things, The Salvation Army was born from such a voice.
William and Catherine Booth began this mission because it seemed that no one else would.
They moved from the “accepted” group think into something new, and the transitional go between was this voice of dissonance.  Jesus was a dissonant voice in His day.  He, at times, upset the “group think”.  He challenged the “law”.  His way was obviously divine, life saving, deeply personal and yet salvation for the whole wide world.  How can we become a resonating voice of dissonance in our world?  How can we bring into the focus the need to become better aligned with Christ?  How can we align our harmony with the orchestra of God?  Can this army thrive within THAT voice again?  I believe that we can.  I believe that it isn’t too late for that.  May we strive to be an ever forward moving army!  May we guide the wounded hearts to Christ.  May we never stand in the way of His Holy Presence and His moving in this body of Christ!  May we use our voices both as individuals as well as an Army to make the name of Christ resound, so that hope is given, love is shared and joy, unspeakable joy is forever dispersed among His people.

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

Dear Salvation Army – 3 Questions To Ask Before Becoming An Officer

Dear Salvationists,
this is not 3 “magical beans” reminiscent of Jack and the bean stalk, this is simply an exploration into officership.

The Truth:
Officership is not for everyone.

The Lie:
In order to live out my calling as a Soldier I MUST become an Officer.

I do not say this to discourage anyone from becoming an officer, please do not misunderstand me.
I wish to dispel the myth that in order to be fulfilled in ministry within the army one must ALWAYS become an officer.
I do not wish to undermine anyone’s calling either.
If God has specifically called you into Officership, then by all means fulfill that calling!
There are, however, some within our army who feel that in order to do more and be more they must become officers only to discover that this was not the right choice for them.  I believe this certainly does contribute to the continued and troubling attrition rate amongst officers.  One way to address this issue (loss of officers) is to ask the hard questions prior to becoming an officer.  Sometimes, not always, individuals enter training with a pie in the sky, unrealistic concept of what Officership looks like, or should look like, and then when they are sent out to appointments reality hits and they begin to say to themselves “this isn’t what I signed up for”.  THQ and DHQ are very good at reminding officers of the covenant that they signed (sometimes too good) but in all honesty some consider this covenant as just another hurdle to become an officer and wear that red trim.

Understandably, the screening process and testing done for prospective candidates has become more elaborate (depending on the territory, it will vary).   With these benchmarks in place it does help to process “qualified” candidates.  In saying this, I recognize some might take offense to this, perhaps because they did not “qualify”, or are currently in the process of becoming an accepted candidate.  To some this is frustrating.  The testing process, like many things in life, is not perfect.  Individuals have potentially made the screening process only to phase out in training or eventually leave the work for a multitude of reasons.

Putting that aside, please allow me to share three important questions one should ask themselves before committing to Officership.
DISCLAIMER: These three questions are merely primer or starter questions and are not meant to be all inclusive.  There are many more variables to consider before taking that important step, but here are three suggested questions to consider:

questions13 Questions To Ask Before Becoming An Officer:

#1 Why do I want to become an Officer?  
When we ask this personal question of ourselves we can hopefully draw some conclusions as to our purpose and intent for wanting to become an officer.  Be honest.  If you can’t be honest with yourself, then who can you be honest with?  Answering this fundamental question of officership can help to further clarify your personal goals in life.  If you feel as if God has specifically called you into this then that should be your answer.  uniIf you don’t know why you want to be an officer – that is your answer (as murky as that is)…and so you explore that possibility.  If you answer this question on the basis of relatives who are also serving in the army and you signed up because it is comfortable and familiar to you – there’s your answer.  I am not saying any, other than God calling you, are completely wrong reasons but they do become the catalyst for what kind of officer you do become.   Perhaps make a list of all the reasons that you want to be an officer, jot them down on a notepad so that you can better see them.  This might help you make a comprehensive decision and not one that you might regret if you enter into this decision half-hearted and unsure.

pray#2 Have I prayed about this?
Another honest question to ask yourself.  Not to scare you or anything but this decision is a big one!  It will impact everything that you do in life.  That doesn’t mean that you can’t change directions later, but it means that you can make the right choices at the onset by simply and prayerfully considering this decision.  Please note that I am not discouraging anyone from becoming an officer, in fact if anything I am pleading to anyone considering taking that step to do so with prayerful consideration which involves the Lord throughout the process in a daily walk with Him.

Start a prayer journal if you’re a writer or can better connect to God in this way.  For some of us articulating these emotions upon the page can help us sort through our spiritual decisions.  Have others pray for you as well.  This is probably obvious, but take the time to ask the Father for guidance.  Be specific.  Pray for support and the proper guidance of other people.  Pray and don’t hide any motives from God, because naturally He already knows our hearts.

#3 Can I Live This Life of Submission? jesus
This is the Officers Covenant that is signed while at College for Officers Training:

MY COVENANT

CALLED BY GOD
to proclaim the Gospel of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ
as an officer of The Salvation Army

I BIND MYSELF TO HIM IN THIS SOLEMN COVENANT

to love and serve him supremely all my days,

to live to win souls and make their salvation the first purpose of my life,

to care for the poor, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, love the unlovable, and befriend those who have no friends,

to maintain the doctrines and principles of The Salvation Army, and, by God’s grace to prove myself a worthy officer.

Done in the strength of my Lord and Savior, and in the presence of (the following wording to be adapted to local circumstances) the Territorial Commander, training college officers and fellow cadets.

This calling to become an officer is a sacred decision.
I do not wish to sugarcoat this.  covenant-signing
I also do not wish to paint an officer’s life as always glorious, or always rosy, or always joyful.
These things do happen,  there will be setbacks, heartaches, days of discouragement, stress and disappointment.
When we deal with people, even leaders can and will make mistakes.
We are not perfect people, but we are striving to live a life of humility and submission.
Is this easy?  ABSOLUTELY NOT!
For some of us, this is the hardest thing we could ever do.
Many do not like being told what to do, where to go, and sometimes how to do something.
Politics does happen.
Favoritism does happen too.
Living within a relationship of submission to the Lord in this capacity will not be easy.
We do trust that He knows what He is doing even when we feel others have made leadership mistakes.
We do trust that He will lead and direct even when sometimes the directions seem skewed and wrong.
Submission first to God allows us to live this life under the authority of the Army.
Can you live this way?
Are you prepared to submit to this kind of authority (even when you may not always agree)?

The life of an Officer is rewarding.
It can be fulfilling…but is this the right decision for you?
Only you and the Lord can answer that question.
There are many, many saints in this army.  Some wear red trim on their tunics and some wear blue trim on their tunics…these saints are equally needed and important in this army!!  If God has called you into Officership then get on with it and stop dragging your feet!  If He has not called you into Officership but into a place leadership and service as a soldier and/or employee of this army, then get on with it also – YOU ARE NEEDED regardless if you wear red or not.

Something more for this army world to ponder!
To God be the glory!

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