Audio: Young Adult Retention Project - Salvation Army Canada

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    Audio: Young Adult Retention Project Podcast Episode #3 March 27, 2009 Interview with James Pedlar
    Over the past two decades, The Salvation Army in Canada and Bermuda has experienced a significant decline in membership, Sunday attendance and participation in church programs. Of those who have left the Salvation Army, many are young people. In an effort to try to understand this situation, the corps ministries department has undertaken the Territorial Young Adult Retention Project. James Pedlar is pursuing a doctorate in systematic theology at the University of Toronto, and has been tasked by The Salvation Army to oversee this project. speaks to James Pedlar about his initial research and discovers some of the reasons that young people continue to attend or leave The Salvation Army.


    On Monday, March 1, 2010, Patti Williams said:

    As a teen I LOVED The Army but left when I was 17 because I was in need of a deeper spiritual journey with other like-minded young people than was available in my Corps. It was a time in my life when I devoured scripture and could spend hours talking theology (wish I was so passionate at 40!) I went to the Nazarene Church and this led me to attending a Nazarene College. The funny thing is, by my sophmore year in college I started attending The Army again- in retrospect, I think I was able to have my own spiritual needs met on campus and I was ready to do what The Army did best, serve.

    In considering this question, the sad thing is that I did go on to be an officer but left because again, my spiritual needs were greatly lacking.

    If only we could combine the service part and a deep level of spiritual intensity.


    On Monday, August 31, 2009, Adrian Dinsmore said:

    As an ex salvationist here in the UK, it is encouraging to see a debate going on. Now in my mid forties, I would not at present take my two children to the SA, for a number of reasons. I love the music, but time is taken away then from Christian grounding. The false guilt that goes with failing to live up to the SA's expectations on smoking, alcohol etc are unnecessary, and need to be considered. The rules themselves may be reasonable, but the interpretation and sanctions can be severe. On a more scriptural side, the SA needs to review its position on conditional security. Yes we have free rule to accept or reject Christ, but having accepted him, we trust in his FINISHED work on the cross....anything else can lead to faith + (works, morality etc. Take all this into account, I feel the SA has to understand why so many leave. That said, address these issues, and the SA could be at the forefront for the future. I would welcome any constructive comments on these matters. PS What is the level of membership in Canada?

    On Tuesday, May 12, 2009, Nathan Swartz said:

    I would like to suggest that other then camping ministries there is little to keep youth engaged, especially in the Sunday service. If you ask our youth they will flat out tell you they are embarrassed to invite friends to church. Keep in mind that it is the Church they are embarrassed by not the Gospel. If the older generations could practice what they preach and support youth where they are it would take us a long way in the right direction. From my own experience as a brand new Christian coming to a corps I was thinking what a boring service but wow there are some people who really love me here. That's how I was retained. In regards to Dave's comment on shallow faith understandings, I agree 100%. Our youth need to be taught Critical Thinking and if we did this we could offer something public education does not, we could teach our kids how to think instead of what to think. They will come to the truth more often if they know how to recognize it.
    Nathan in New Liskeard

    On Tuesday, May 12, 2009, David Stam said:

    Fred, you make an interesting point....

    I would be interested to hear about your wife's take on the differences between Christian youth and Salvationist Christian youth. I perceive that our Army young people are less grounded in the faith, in scripture and indeed the Christian life style than are other Christian youth. I thank God that I came under excellent Christian professors at a large secular University, who really gave me what perhaps I should have been given growing up in a relatively large corps.

    I always perceived that Salvationist youth, even in "my day", could hide behind involvement, generally in the form of Band or Songsters, or the uniform ( or both). Those things are not available to other Christian youth. In addition, a lot of time that Salvationist youth spent and still spend in learning the musical skills we teach may be spent by other Christian youth actually learning more about the faith all profess to hold.

    I could be wrong, and this is not a slight on the Army's musical expressions. I was a bandsman for years, and still adore our musical heritage. I also know I am generalizing. Yet it is no secret we are having an extremely difficult time retaining our young people. Whilte this problem is not unqiue to the Army its effects are magnified as we are, as a denomination, extremely unique and very small.

    Even in my youth (now years ago) I used to question just how seemingly shallow many of our young people were (myself included) in regards to the "basics" of our faith. They may have been tremendous instrumentalists or vocalists, but did they know even the rudiments of the teachings of Jesus? I spent many more hours behind a mouthpiece than I did my Bible. I always think it is tragic that I largely had to look outside the Army to really learn what Christianity was all about.

    What do you think? What do others think?

    Dave in Edmonton

    On Monday, May 11, 2009, Fred Preston said:

    I am convinced that our secular education system has something to do with this trend.

    Consider this quote from Charles Potter, one of the writers of the Humanist Manifesto.

    "Education is thus a most power ally of humanism, and every public school is a school of humanism. What can the theistic Sunday school, meeting for an hour once a week, and teaching only a fraction of the children, do to stem the tide of a five-day program of humanistic teachings?"
    Charles F. Potter, Humanist

    Furthermore I can tell you my wife teaches at an independent Christian school here in Windsor, Ontario. She has told me that the Christian youth at her school have a very different worldview than christian youth at the Army she has dealth with in variuos roles.

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