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Jul9Thu10 tips for new officers (and the rest of us). July 9, 2015 by Captain Scott Strissel
In June, we celebrated the commissioning of cadets to join the fight against sin, poverty and injustice. As a new officer, it is a tremendous responsibility to live up to the covenant you have just signed. You probably can't wait to get to your first appointment and start changing the world—I know that's how I felt! Many of you will indeed do just that, but it will also be a hard road, with numerous heartaches. Please let me share a few lessons I've learned along the way.
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- Opinion & Critical Thought
1. Don't Change Everything Right Away
Once out of training college, we are all gung-ho, ready to go. Don't ever lose that fervour, but temper it with patience and wisdom as you embark on new ministries. Don't rush to change everything immediately, because you will most likely scare people off. If you share the vision and implement new changes slowly, you will have better success in bringing corps members along, instead of driving a wedge between you and the corps family.
2. Listen to Your Corps Members
As you arrive in your new appointment, remember that some of the corps members have been there longer than you will ever be and have great insight to offer. Listen to these faithful few and discern if what you hear is wisdom or fear of change. If we, as officers, plod along without actively listening to those among whom we minister, we will lose some along the way, “because this officer just doesn't hear us.”
3. Love Those You Serve
You cannot minister to your flock properly if you don't first pray and ask the Lord to give you a love for them. Loving your flock is vital. When you love them, their wounds, struggles and concerns become yours to minister to. As their pastor, you have the tremendous blessing and responsibility to be there for them and guide them. We cannot adequately minister to our corps members without first loving them. Learn to love those you serve.
4. Don't Criticize the Previous Officer
Be aware of the criticism trap. It's not helpful. It may make you feel better about yourself in the short-term, but it will not build the body of Christ, no matter what the perceived infraction might be. Keep these concerns to yourself; don't share them with your corps people. If they bring these kinds of “gripes” to you, take them with a grain of salt and don't get sucked into destructive conversations. If you weren't there, then you likely don't know the whole story.
5. Get to Know Your Community
Another helpful tip is to get into your community, wearing your uniform. Learn peoples' names, both influential people as well as the “regular Joes.” The Army uniform is recognizable and you can use it to better your corps and ministry—so wear it until it wears out. Let people see you—not in some puffed up way, but in a way that lets the community know you are there to help serve suffering humanity, in Christ's name, without discrimination.
Remember, you aren't “Super Officer.” Don't try to do everything yourself—lean on your local officers. Helping people become involved in ministry and take responsibility is part of discipleship. Bring others along in your worship services and practical ministries. Assign responsibilities. Have a corps member lead a song or teach a Sunday school class. Rotate leaders so they don't get overwhelmed. Invest in people in practical ways. It will not only give them a sense of ownership of the ministry, but you will get to know them better as well.
7. Be Consistent
Set calendar dates and follow through. Be consistent not only with the things you say you will do, but also in how you do them. Be consistent in your personal life, at the corps and in an “official” capacity in your community. So lead consistently, honestly and prayerfully. It's not a competition or a celebrity function, it's a vital ministry. It's about changing lives for Christ. You are Christ's hands and feet and his appointed pastor to your flock. Be consistent in this to the best of your abilities.
8. Be a Good Steward
Finances are important to the mission. I know most of us get overwhelmed during the Christmas season and at other fundraising seasons, but without those funds, you will have to limit the services that you provide. Use what you've been given wisely—make every dollar count. Some of you will unfortunately enter appointments where finances may not be in abundance, or your appointment is in debt for whatever reason. Be patient. Be prayerful. The Lord always provides what we need when we are faithful. Don't get discouraged. Take each day at a time and ask, “Lord, what would you have me do today?” Use it as a ministry opportunity.
9. Love the People You Serve
Have I mentioned this already? Let me say it again—love the people you serve. You will have disagreements and you will probably butt heads with some people, but pray for those situations. Sometimes hard decisions will have to be made and sometimes grace has to be given. Learn over and over again to love those you serve. When we show Christlike love, we show our flock that they matter, that they are important, that this appointment isn't some sort of “stepping stone” to us. Love them because you are devoted first to Christ and he can and will make all things new.
10. Preach From What You Know
Be diligent in your devotional life. Pray. Study the Scriptures. Be honest about things you struggle with. Be relevant, be clear. Take the time to write your sermons during the week. Don't preach sermons that aren't connected to your life—preach from what you know. God will guide you and give you inspiration. Don't discount the work of the Holy Spirit to give you the appropriate words to speak, as well as move among your people (no matter how hard-living some may be). Step boldly into this ministry and let God lead you—you are capable and called.
I hope you find these 10 tips for new officers helpful. There are far wiser officers out there, and I would strongly recommend that you find a mentor to help and guide you. Please know that no matter where you are sent, you are not alone. You are loved. I want to encourage you that the Army needs you. The Army needs new direction. The Army needs your fresh perspective. The Army needs more people who are in pursuit of holiness and long to change the world for Christ.
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 pastorsponderings.org.