There's no question that William Booth, General and Founder of The Salvation Army, was a man on a mission. He and his wife, Catherine Booth, were pivotal in starting something powerful in the world. Yet I have to wonder what he traded to fulfil his passion. We know some of his famous speeches, such as “I'll fight to the very end,” and the phrase “do something” in speaking to Bramwell about the homeless. There is no doubt both William and Catherine Booth were visionaries and innovators within a mission that ignited the foundation of this Army. They are both revered and loved.

But there is a danger in being a visionary. There are trade-offs and sacrifices to be made while blazing a trail. We know Booth was a great General, but was he a good father? Most historical accounts reveal a startling contrast between Founder and father.

The Salvation Army - - Family Ties - volunteers of americaBooth's son, Ballington, resigned from the Army, and went on to start the Volunteers of America. Why did Ballington leave the Army? He and his father did not see eye to eye. Disagreements happen in families, but William Booth labeled his own family member a deserter to the cause, essentially excommunicating his own kin. I certainly don't think this is “father of the year” material. However, I can understand regrettable comments said in the heat of the moment and the damage being done.

But family is our first ministry, our first priority. I am not blaming our Founder, but I do see the warning signs of overwork and sacrificing family for the sake of a cause. When we overwork, two things can take place:

1) Loss of perspective
Have you ever worked on a project so hard that you had to step back from it to gain better perspective? It's like staring at the bark of a tree. It's only when you take a few steps back that you realize how big the tree is. In our success-driven culture, everyone is guilty of tunnel vision from time to time. Jesus had to get away and be alone with the Father, and so do we.

2) Misalignment of Priorities
We can lose sight of our true priorities when we are overworked. Suddenly the mission becomes the only important thing, and we begin to lose sight of our family. God, family and then mission … if we get our priorities out of order we run the risk of losing everything.

These are two lessons we can take from William Booth's life. Yes, he was a great man. Yes, his wife, Catherine, was the true driving force. Yes, an Army grew and lives were changed … but could they have handled family matters better in the process?

Let's remember that Booth was human, with imperfections like the rest of us, and stop putting him on a pedestal. I'm not saying we shouldn't admire what he and Catherine accomplished, but be careful how much you revere him. Hard work does pay off, but be careful not to sacrifice your children or family in the process.

Live a disciplined life, but give yourself the grace to rest.

Captain Scott Strissel lives in Brainerd, Minnesota. He is an active blogger and contributor for the purpose of encouraging and challenging the Salvation Army world. Read his blog at


On Tuesday, August 19, 2014, Rob Jeffery said:

I wonder if William Booth might echo the words of another great man of our times, Nelson Mandela, when he said, " seems to be the destiny of freedom fighters to have unstable personal lives. When your life is the struggle, as mine was, there is little room left for family. That has always been my greatest regret, and the most painful aspect of the choice I made." - (Nelson Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom)

On Thursday, August 14, 2014, BobK. said:

I think indeed it was so in that particular time and situation that Booth even as Jesus said, if you want to follow me, follow me and not anything else.

On Tuesday, August 12, 2014, Ira Barrow said:

Whatever faults William and Catherine had (and remember the times in which they lived) there are thousands of children around right now who would do well to be able to call them Mom and Dad.

Only today I was reading, on a hand written document, where the Founder (in his hand writing) was refuting the comment that he would not to meet with his daughter, La Marachelle. Lets not confuse fact and fiction. It is like trying to mix oil and water.

Interesting though, in comparison to William Booth, George Scott Railton encouraged his boys to leave the Army if they thought it was failing to live up to the reason God brought it into existence.

On Tuesday, August 12, 2014, Concerned said:

I think we need to be careful that we do not judge Willam Booth's parenting and then relationships with his children by the standards of our day. He was very much a product of his time, as John Comfort would suggest. It is no secret that some of his children did indeed "leave the Army", which I think Booth thought was effectively a rejection of him. Accordingly, we should not be too hard on him regarding his attitudes towards Ballington and Herbert.

On Tuesday, August 12, 2014, John Comfort, Ann Arbor, Michigan said:

The way I read SA history is that William Booth had made a conscious decision to put the Army above everything else in his life, including family. Ballington was not the only child he called "deserter",he acted the same towards daughter Catharine, and son Herbert when they left the SA. I doubt that any SA officer in the 21st century would prioritize his own life in that way, and I don't think he should. Our children are truly the people God gives us to take care of, and the parent-child bond is the holiest committment we can make. I think many, many other men of Booth's generation had priorities similar to his, and put their careers ahead of their family responsibilities.
It was accepted, and even praised in those days.

On Monday, August 11, 2014, Joe Garofalo said:

Really thanks for posting this article. Nice thoughts "Live a disciplined life, but give yourself the grace to rest."

On Monday, August 11, 2014, Malcolm Beeson said:


I would like to get in touch with Gilbert Ellis to obtain a copy of the publication. Canb someone pass on my email address -

Blessings - Malcolm

On Sunday, August 10, 2014, BobK. said:

In Dutch in June, 1934 a book titled ' William Booth' by dr. J.H. Gunning J.Hzn.
Perfect to get an idea of the Founder, his wife Catherine, and the organisation, the worldwide social Church The Salvation Army.

On Saturday, August 9, 2014, Joël Batenburg said:

THanks for this article. An interesting opinion that I 've shared with Army friends at facebook: Leger des Heils museum.

On Saturday, August 9, 2014, Gilbert Ellis said:

It is not for us to judge whether William Booth was a good father, but I would draw your attention to the following:
King Saul was a good father, his children adored him, and Jonathan was willing to die for him. Yet as a king he was a failure.
King David was a bad father, his conduct sowed seeds of discord in his family and his children rebelled against him, but he was a great success as a King, and when Jesus lived on this earth one of his titles was not Son of Saul, but Son of David.
By the way I am in possession of a number of copies of a private publication which records the history of the Booth family until the present day with all the descendants listed that still have a connection with the Army. Copies available on request.

On Saturday, August 9, 2014, patricia wilson said:

It was great. thank you

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