Dear Salvation Army Officers, How To Find The Time For Ministry In 4 Steps

Dear Officer,
what does your normal day look like?
Are there reports to submit, bills to sign, checks to deposit, phone calls to be made, budgets to be crafted (or re-crafted for the 10th time), personnel fires to put out….?  Does that sound about right?  I probably forgot to add, routine maintenance to schedule, board meeting details, corps council action steps to follow through on, people in visit in the hospital, statistics to enter, important community meetings to attend and perhaps a club meeting to participate in…and THAT sometimes is just the tip of the iceberg.

Commissioner George Scott Railton once said, “God requires the duty. If its performance brings no return, that is God’s affair not yours. The soldier who has obeyed every order comes back from defeat, as from victory, with honour.”

I often mistake business for duty, don’t you?
It seems we as Officers and even Soldiers are so good at busy-work that perhaps at times we miss the ministry altogether.  We are very good at being soldiers and obeying orders yet miss the mark on pastoral ministries…and each one of us are pastors and ministry ought to be at the forefront of what we do in and out of uniform.  If we work hard and climb whatever ladder we aspire to, yet lose the “Salvation” in our Army, then we will have lost everything and all of our hard work (duty) will be for naught.

Here are 4 steps to help each of us find the time for ministry again.
I hope and pray this will be beneficial to you as you read these.  Most will seem quite obvious, yet actually following through on them intentionally will certainly be harder.
I also acknowledge that these suggested steps could include many more, yet for the sake of time a succinct list has been compiled here for us to consider.  Also note that it is quite difficult to quantify these and wrap them up in a nice red bow, so as you read, perhaps you will discover other steps that I would ask you to share with us if you would be so kind.


  1.  Recognize Everything As Ministry
    ministryAs someone once pointed out everything is spiritual, there should be no compartmentalizing of our various tasks and that of holistic ministry.  I know a financial planner in our community who makes a point of praying for every client that comes to visit him.  He has even prayed with me there in his office.  These prayers that he offers are not pithy cliche prayers either, but one can feel the presence of God while he prays for you and the present circumstances that you are facing.  He considers his office not only the place he draws his paycheck from, but a chapel in which he ministers.  Perhaps we have not made our officers our chapels of ministry.  Perhaps we get so bogged down by what is required of us that we forget to include God in those spaces in order to make them sacred.  Everything we do from the most mundane of things to the most important things ought to be considered ministry – not some laborious task to get accomplished.

    Martin Luther King Jr is quoted as saying, ““If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as a Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, ‘Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.

    Consider each task ministry – from the least to the most important!

  2. Intentionally Pray And Plan
    We undoubtedly do our ministry a great disservice when we do not first intently pray for it and for those we will meet along its path.  Prayer should never be the last resort, but the first weapon in our spiritual arsenal.  If we aren’t burdened for the needs of others through prayer on our knees then we ought reach deeper into ourselves and explore our hearts and motivation. pray When we pray for each segment of our officership and appointment, we will find that our hearts are attuned to the moving of the Holy Spirit.  If everything we do is spiritual, then why do not pray in such a way?  When we intentionally pray and make this a spiritual discipline we will be better equipped to make the necessary plans that our ministries so desperately need. plan Don’t stumble into your day or week having now idea what you wish to accomplish.  Don’t wait until the last minute to pray for our congregation and those you minister to.  Keep them in the forefront of what you are doing, after all, the paperwork and reports are all because they are vitally important to you and to God.  Do not make haphazard plans at the last minute, throwing things together and hoping they all pan out…do yourself a favor and your soldiers a favor and make intentional, prayerful plans that will form and shape lives for Christ.
  3. Intentionally Show Up – Practice Presence
    cellI catch myself doing this, and I recognize my own conviction here:
    Put down the cell phones, put away the distractions…close the laptop and look your people in the eye.  Show up to your appointment ready to serve the Lord and those He has placed on your path.  Practice the presence of availability.  It almost seems contradictory, but forget those reports and the paperwork and spend time talking to your staff, your volunteers, your corps members…they are all members of your flock.  They will know if you are not actually available to them just by your presentemphasis on the “important stuff” that consumes all of your time.  I would imagine nearly 99% of us officers are guilty of this at one time or another.  Show up and be present.  Ask God to give you His eyes to see the needs around you.  Spend time drinking coffee (or tea or water) with those who frequent your soup kitchen.  Invest yourselves in the lives of people and do not stop with those who wear our uniform and within whom we already know.  Step out of your comfort zone and be available to listen, serve and love.

  4. Focus On Lives Not Numbers!
    statsThis step goes hand in hand with #3.
    Be mindful that our “end game” is not filling the statistics with numerical growth.
    If our sole focus is on building our Sunday stats with attendees then all that we will be focused on in church invitations and getting people through the doors of “Sunday Church”….have you stopped to consider that EVERYTHING we do is Church?  Have you considered that perhaps your biggest ministry isn’t on Sunday morning but during the week when you encounter broken people earnestly seeking help?  These are members of your flock that often get taken for granted.  They may never ever darken the doors of a traditional church, but 9 times out of 10 they call The Salvation Army their church home because we feed them on a regular basis and there are people who care for them.  Focus on individual lives of people, how to reach them, pray for them and with them.  Care about them…forget numbers, numbers will take care of itself if we are loving people and earnestly placing their needs at the foot of Christ.

    Evangeline Booth once said, “It is not how many years we live, but what we do with them.”  Allow me to adjust this quote to fit you the Officer today, and I do not think this loses any emphasis in doing so:    “It is not how many years of service you have, but what you do with them.”
    Something more for our Army and our Officers to consider today.

    Please tell us what you think and offer additional steps you might offer in addition to these.  Thank you!

    *Disclaimer:  The thoughts and opinions expressed in this blog are the writer’s thoughts and opinions and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and thoughts of The Salvation Army.  Reader discretion is advised.*

Dear Salvation Army, Expressions of an Officer at Christmas

The “Hope” for all the world!

Perhaps this will sound poetic and a little disjunct…perhaps you will relate.
Every year we gear up, dear Officer, staff, volunteers and friends.
Every year we spend countless hours planning, preparing and executing a plan for “others”.

I am tired.
I am weary.
I am a little banged up and bruised.
I am bruised physically,
but most of it is on the inside…the frequent personal encounters.
the connections with the cynical, the battered, the broken, the apathetic.
many have given up.
many have lost touch with compassion.
many are consumed with self-driven purpose.
sometimes all I can do is find one solitary moment and exhale.
sometimes I have laid tired bones upon a pew in a sanctuary that is far too often deserted.

at night, following the long burdensome day
I drive home and on my way I peer past windows and homes
illuminated by twinkling Christmas lights and trees carefully donned
with ornaments, keepsakes and aspirations.
lights1I cannot help but covet in these moments.
I cannot help but long for something that vaguely resembles idealic Christmas’
I have seen on the big screen.
I cannot help but pine for something out of reach to me.
It is selfish, I know.
It is a little melodramatic.
it is, at times, unrealistic…it is a dream, a blur in my rearview mirror.
I park the car in the driveway, hang up my coat, lounge for a time and slumber for a while
only to do it all again.

Expressions of Purpose:
In spite of these emotions.
in spite of these longings.
in spite of my covetous spirit…I plod on.
There is a reason.
There is a purpose to this.
Something beyond working tired bones to a daily grind.
Something past human personal needs.

eyesI have seen tired, hopeless eyes.
these eyes are not the ones staring back at me in the mirror.
I see them every day.
I see them in faces of parents desperately trying to make ends meet.
I see them in the eyes of single mothers who  work three jobs
and is weeping in front of me.
I see hopelessness in the dirty work clothes of an underpaid worker
coming in for a foodbox because this month’s rent is late.

We could all just pretend these needs are not real.
we could imagine they all deserve the circumstances they find themselves in
we could easily compartmentalize this
push it down
swallow the guilt and conscience…
but we are soldiers.
fightwe are fighters
we fight for more than food boxes and funding
we fight for the lives of these hopeless souls
we fight even in the midst of our covetous moments…
when in the rearview mirror we see a life that glitters and glimmers
beckoning to us…

sometimes we have to dig down deep to keep fighting.
sometimes we have to be pulled up short to be reminded.
sometimes we enter the fray with jaded hearts.
sometimes we would prefer to spectate, deliberate and end our day
by putting it all out of our minds.

Expressions of Reason:
Yes, dear soldier,
we work this insanity at Christmas
yes, sometimes it seems unholy, improper
all in vain.
walking awayWe could walk away,
others will pick up the slack
others will finish what we started
others will lend a helping hand.
Does faith play into this?
Where does our walk with the Lord lead?
Have we left Him behind in OUR works?
Have we begun to do this great thing
for man’s glory instead of His glory?
Are our intentions pure?
Or are we just chasing the dollar signs?
Capturing notoriety….
Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me...”
(Luke 9:23)
Is this what discipleship looks like?
Do we get it wrong sometimes?
are we truly denying ourselves in this?
Is this “cross” worth carrying?
These questions arise in me during this time.
Sometimes His holy presence stills these thoughts
other times they get bantered about
tossed around, chewed on, bitten into
sometimes they get spit out…

Expressions of Compassioncompassion
But in the eyes of the hopeless
in the lives of the desperate
in the darkness of the forlorn
I have an opportunity to help.
I have a chance to mend brokenness
I have these hands that are able to pick up
the broken pieces and, with the holy spirit, help
to put the pieces back together again.
Can I attain and capture this compassion?
It isn’t in me…it never was, nor will it ever be…
homeless1It isn’t something I am born with
or some sort of innate empathy for complete strangers…
I am, at times,
the priest that walks on by in that parable of the Samaritan.
I am incapable of it…by my own strength, heart, and power.
Without Him, I can do nothing.
Without His strength, heart, and power
this compassion is far beyond my reach.
I want to help.
I want to serve.
I want to live this set-apartness
To experience this holiness
To shine His light…
help me to express
your restoration
your forgiveness
your deliverance
your love.

These are some expressions of an Officer at Christmas.
There’s nothing wrong or right about it, just expressions, inflections, conversations of the heart.
Often times these conversations become reality and represent us.
I understand weariness.
I understand frustrations.
I understand fighting this – for good and for ill.

In the end, at least for me, it boils down to where my heart is…whose heart is mine…what or who I serve…
this makes all the difference between pointless, mindless work and mission-filled service to the Almighty.

Something for the Army to ponder today.
To God Be The Glory!

Dear Salvation Army, Officer’s Kids…

I am an Officer’s kid.  For those who have no idea what I am talking about, let me explain.
No, my parents weren’t in the military.  My parents were/are Salvation Army Officers.
Being an Officer’s kid is a lot like being a Pastor’s kid.
Being an Officer’s kid is also nothing like being a Pastor’s kid.
Is that as clear as mud?  Good.

Backing up,
I am an Officer’s kid…
So was my father and mother.
So were my Grandparents.
My Great-grand parents were the first in our family to join the ranks of this fledgling army here in the United States.

Being an Officer’s kid is a unique thing.
People expect more from you.
People expect you to act a certain way.
People expect you to be more mature than the rest of the kids your age.
In short, the expectations for Officer’s kids are unfair and perhaps the bar is set too high.

There is also the running joke that if one marries into the army and also has family in the army that a blood test is required to ensure your soon to be bride is not related.  Seriously, sometimes the life of an Officer’s kid can become solely an “army” bubble…and that, in my opinion, is not always healthy.
blank sign
Back to Officer’s kids and expectations…
I recall meeting many officers kids while living with my parents growing up.  We moved to various locations including South Africa, St. Helena and places in the central states of the U.S.  I have met some very straight-laced Officer kids, who in turn grew up to also become Officers themselves, and I have met some rebel Officer kids who pushed back at every turn.

Are the expectations of Officer kids fair?  In short, I believe that the answer is a resounding “No“!
Do these expectations of Officer’s kids sometimes lead to them wanting nothing to do with the Army when they grow up?  In short, I believe that the answer is a resounding “Yes“!
Other times, and I have witnessed this, Officer’s kids have seen how the Army and its leadership has treated their parents and because of those seemingly unholy moments, they have walked away from this movement.
Could we use a little more compassion in our Army?  Yes.
More understanding?  Yes.
The ability to understand the hectic lives of Officers who have young children in their homes?  Yes, yes, yes!

One might contend that Officers know what they are getting into when they sign their covenant…but did their children sign it too?  Do they tag along during the kettle season?  Do they help out, sometimes as the best and only volunteer on Sunday mornings?  Do they go where their parents tell them to go?  Many these Officer kids have unknowingly signed the covenant of officership too.

It is the nature of this organization.
There will be cause and effect.
A ripple here might become a wave on the other side…

How might we improve the lives of Officer’s Kids?
Does this responsibility fall squarely on the parents?
Does the corps, does DHQ, THQ, IHQ have a role in this as well?
What of the many who have left the army following reaching adulthood?  Is there something to learn from those experiences?

This isn’t some sort of “Woe is me” edition of Pastorsponderings, this is just me hoping to teach my kids the importance of being their own individual and walk their own spiritual path.  I’m not saying I didn’t or am not right now…because I have.  How can we improve this ever changing facet of Officer families for the better?  Are we making strides today?  Yes I believe we are.  Is there more work to be done in this sometimes forgotten aspect of “Army life”?  Yes I believe there is.

Honestly, I haven’t arrived at a conclusion on this today.
I am simply pondering the nature and nurture of Officer Kids.
I understand them.
I was one.
I sympathize.
I know that there are also perks, privileges and opportunities.

Honestly, I would like to hear from you.  What do you make of Officer Kids?
Were/Are you one?  Are you a Pastor’s kid…you can somewhat relate too.
How about a missionary kid?  You fit this mold to some extend too.
From the outside looking in – Soldiers and friends, how do you see Officer’s kids?

Something more to ponder in our Army world today.

Dear Salvation Army Officer…

I wanted to talk with my fellow Officers for a moment today.

Just a simple dialogue.

Spoken or unspoken there is, within our officership, this need to prove ourselves worthy of more responsibilities and ministries to the point of unholy ambitions in our Army.  I am not saying don’t work hard, don’t do your best but if our intention is to “outshine” other fellow officers…If our intention is to “look better” than everyone else…if our intention is aimed at solely pleasing our leaders regardless of how we do that…we will have aimed at the wrong goals.

crest3Outcome Based Success…
Much of the time, our success seems to be based upon “goal oriented” outcomes.  In a business world this is understandable because in the business world they deal with numbers and figures.  Our primary purpose as an Army and as officers is for people and helping those people with the physical and the spiritual needs.  We cannot simply use goal oriented outcomes.  There is a danger of seeking success solely through these means of outcomes.  The danger is that we can lose focus on the very people we are attempting to save and serve.  It is often a fine line to walk.

What if we feel Unsuccessful in an Appointment? wounded
What happens, dear officers, when all that we feel about the place that we have been appointed to is failure and defeat?  What occurs in our hearts?  Is our self-worth tied up completely in living and dying by some sort of “success” meter in Officership?  If we do not have 100+ people coming to Holiness meetings on Sunday mornings then we are utter failures as officers?  Is that how we are to view appointments?  More than likely, on average, your Sunday services are a lot less than 100 people.  But why do we play the numbers game and think this is our measure of self-worth?  Were we misled to think this way?

I do remember coming out of Training College sort of living and breathing the song “We’re gonna fill, fill fill the world with glory!  We’re gonna smile, smile smile and not frown…”  But then the real world hit me square in the face.  The world, where in order for some people to receive the glory, hard work and love needs to take place first.  We serve in a mighty army but many that we serve are hurting, broken, spiritually wounded and stunted.  Miracles do happen but we cannot expect this calling to be a cake walk either.

nevermindBut Be Encouraged…
Although we face a lot of difficulties as Officers and often times we take the burdens of others home with us, we are not alone in this fight!  We are soldiers and we serve, first and foremost, the Commander of this Army – Jesus Christ!  He has commissioned those Christ-followers to make disciples…and in our Army, perhaps this translates to one or two people in our corps right now.  Perhaps it’s not so much about absolute victory in our communities right now, but rather the healing and restoration of a few hurting souls that we already know.

Let earthly success worry about itself…take off that heavy burden that sometimes has been thrust upon us by misleading notions of heavenly success.  Let’s do our best, but don’t forget to keep the main thing the main thing in the process.  Losing sight of our principle relationship to the Lord can will cause us to lose sight of every other priority!

We are One Army…be encouraged dear Officer, we serve a mighty God who will provide us the means and direction for the future with and sometimes in spite of those who lead the way.
Something more to ponder today in our Army.
To God Be The Glory!

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