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:


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


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!

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!

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