This week marks a milestone for Arvilla and me — five years since retiring from active service as Salvation Army officers. We had one five-year appointment (New Kensington PA) so that means we are entering uncharted waters by staying in the same house for more than five years. We love it here and have no plans to move!
Milestones are often occasions to reminisce. We had the privilege on Sunday to represent DHQ by installing the incoming officers, Lts. Joshua and Amber Smith, of the Georgetown Corps; on the way home, Arvilla asked me if I miss “ministry.” The question prompted pleasant memories.
This month featured lots of reminiscences as Friends posted pictures from their wedding or commissioning decades ago. It was good to remember what we looked like as young people. It is also sobering to realize that folk we remember as “young people” are now grandparents posting pictures of their grandkids.
I’d like to share three “flashbacks” involving my own youth that encourage me to think about contemporary ministry and its effect on the future.
I was too young to join the Senior Band. On Sunday mornings, I was upstairs in the Youth Hall with the kids while the Holiness Meeting went on in the Chapel. One Sunday the Bandmaster sent a message upstairs to send down the cornet player he heard; they needed help in the band. And thus began a musical adventure that included Music Camps, travel, and leadership that has enriched my life in ways beyond measure. That Bandmaster — and other Local Officers of the Corps — encouraged youth in so many ways that grounded us in our faith and kept us connected to The Army we love.
Sometime later I was pressed into duty as a teenager to serve as the Y.P. Bandmaster in the Corps. Imagine my joy when I joined the New York Staff Band and one of my former Y.P. Bandsmen was sitting ahead of me in the cornet section! And at least four members of that Y.P. Band became Salvation Army officers.
When I was a Cadet on Summer Assignment, my Corps Officer (Major Frank Payton) pointed to a young teenager and said, “He’s going to be an officer some day.” And he was right! I learned that 14 year-olds, like Samuel of old, can give evidence of God’s calling — sometimes even before they are aware of it themselves.
I share these anecdotes for two reasons. First, there is good reason to emphasize youth programming. It is not just about meeting the needs of youth in your community — it is about providing an opportunity for the next generation of Salvationists to develop leadership skills (Corps Cadets, anyone?) and be exposed to God’s calling to serve as a local officer or an officer.
Second, the development of leaders for the Corps and Candidates for officership is not a passive endeavor. If we ask for volunteers to step forward, we may wait a terribly long time. But if we prayerfully choose those among our number, like the apostles in Acts 6, who are “of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom,” and come alongside to train and develop them, we have enlarged our ministry.
I have heard a principle espoused that needs to be challenged: ‘don’t start a program until you have a leader in place for it.’ This is wrong! Some endeavors like Junior Soldiers and Corps Cadets are too important to be put off until a leader is recruited to run the program. In my sixteen years of Corps Officership, I found that recruiting leaders for an existing program was far easier than asking someone to start something new. And part of the recruiting pitch was the need to free me or my wife from doing that which others were fully capable of doing!
I believe the model which we employed still works: 1) Watch me as I do it; 2) I’ll watch you as you do it; 3)now you do it on your own.
Thanks to all of you on the front lines of ministry who prioritize ministry to youth. Who knows but what that young person you are nurturing may become the General some day!