Where did the idea for a soldiership campaign originate?
KS: This campaign is directly connected to discipleship, one of our territory's strategic priorities under the Mobilize banner. As the champion for this priority, I know that one of our desired outcomes is to increase the number of soldiers who are enrolled, growing spiritually and engaged in mission in Canada and Bermuda. To see that our leaders are on board with this campaign is encouraging.
DB: In May, the corps ministries department made a presentation to territorial and divisional leaders on the state of soldiership in Canada and Bermuda. In the past year, we enrolled 582 soldiers, 348 of which were senior soldiers. In that same time period, 380 senior soldiers died. We are losing ground, simply based on attrition, and that doesn't take into account the soldiers we are required to remove because of indifference or those changing denominations. Over the past five years, our soldiership roll has decreased from more than 20,000 to 18,886, and while we have nearly 33,000 adherents (people who make a declaration of faith, but choose not to sign the Soldier's Covenant), five years ago that number was 38,000. Our leaders are committed to turning those statistics around. That's where Calling the Courageous comes in.
What are the goals for the Calling the Courageous campaign?
DB: We are targeting a 10-percent net increase in the territorial soldiers' roll by 2020. That means enrolling 1,900 junior and senior soldiers over the next three to four years, taking our total membership roll to more than 20,000. It's a huge challenge. It's not that we aren't enrolling soldiers, but we aren't enrolling them in sufficient quantity to offset the number we are losing. We're counting on everyone from divisional leaders to corps and local officers to keep each other accountable as we work collaboratively to realize our territorial goal.
KS: Calling the Courageous is about more than the numbers. Yes, we are encouraging enrolments, but we want to encourage spiritual growth and mission engagement in the existing soldiery as well.
DB: We want to re-engage soldiers who are sitting on the sidelines, to get them actively involved in mission, evangelism and discipleship as positive examples for new members.
How are you preparing and equipping soldiers?
KS: The release of three new preparation courses for senior soldiers—Mobilized for Mission, Call to Arms and Battle Ready—as well as an Adherent Training Manual is the first foray into the campaign (see below).This interview is the second, so people can become aware of what's happening. Then beginning in January 2017, a new resource will be provided each month for one year—for example, materials for a soldier's day of renewal. The various resources will enhance soldiership, encourage enrolments and promote spiritual growth.
We need soldiers who are willing to enter into this kind of covenant, to be the backbone of our organization.
DB: We will get the word out each month in a variety of ways, using Facebook, the Lotus Notes notice board, e-mails, saministryresources.ca and articles in Salvationist. The territorial commander, chief secretary and Cabinet secretaries will be talking about this campaign throughout the year as they travel, do retreats and correspond with the field. We're hoping this campaign will keep soldiership on everybody's radar. Calling the Courageous will support soldiers as they live out the covenant they have made and encourage corps leadership to embrace soldier-making as a priority.
How can the materials be accessed?
DB: Every corps will receive one free hard copy of all four curriculums. Materials are also available at saministryresources.ca.
CS: As a corps officer, it's exciting to have something in our hands. To see these resources come across your desk makes it a bit more real. Admittedly there are so many things that corps are already trying to focus on, but soldier-making should be at the top of the list. I'm excited about it because there are great choices here.
Why is making soldiers so important for The Salvation Army?
DB: We are a covenanted Army made up of covenanted people. The promises made in the Soldier's Covenant create a sense of mission that keeps us growing as a faith-based movement. We need soldiers who are willing to enter into this kind of covenant, to be the backbone of our organization. The old adage that you can't have an army if you don't have soldiers holds true, but it's more than that. Our covenant relationship with God brings our soldiery to a place of action, where they're ready to serve.
KS: Soldiership is not just about individualistic faith but about being a part of a people who live and express their faith in a particular way. The Soldier's Covenant is at the heart of who we are as people, together, in the body of Christ.
CS: Wearing the soldier's uniform is a visible expression of an inward change. Making soldiers is indicative of the fact that God continues to transform lives today. It is important to celebrate that fact.
What are the challenges to soldiership?
CS: We live in a grey world in terms of moral and ethical values. There are some in our churches whose lifestyles do not yet line up with the promises we make as soldiers. We must be able to carry out the promises in the Soldier's Covenant and say, “I'm committed to this.” It's also imperative that our current soldiers exhibit the fruit of the Spirit and live lives reflective of their covenants. This will encourage potential soldiers as they see it is possible to make and keep these promises.
KS: The Soldier's Covenant holds people to a high standard. That's part of the reason why we named the campaign Calling the Courageous. Soldiership is not for the faint of heart. The challenge lies in helping people understand what the covenant means so they can faithfully live out the promises they make.
DB: Another challenge is that we don't have denominational loyalty the way we once did. In decades gone by, if my parents were Salvationists, then I grew up as a Salvationist. If my parents were soldiers, then I very likely would become a soldier. That doesn't happen anymore.
KS: And yet soldiership still gives a sense of common identity and a feeling of belonging. Over the past year at Mississauga Temple Community Church Ont., my home corps, a number of young people were enrolled as senior soldiers. A vast majority of them took that sense of common identity a step further by choosing to wear a uniform. It wasn't so much about getting into uniform to be in a particular group as about them saying, “If I'm going to do this, I need to do it completely.” Soldiership sets a standard that asks, “Are you full in?”
How does soldiership embrace the diversity of our territory?
DB: We're excited about the new Canadians who are becoming soldiers. Enrolment pictures in Salvationist show more ethnicities, particularly from our urban centres. The enrolment at commissioning weekend this past June, in London, Ont., was a beautiful picture of multiculturalism. We had people from so many different countries, all declaring their faith and commitment to God and the Army.
How do people get started?
KS: Talk to your corps officers, check out the new training materials, share your own positive experiences of soldiership. Don't be afraid to challenge and encourage someone who may be feeling the Spirit's prompting to take that next step.
CS: Making soldiers is contagious. The more adherents and soldiers you make that can share their testimony and show that transformation is possible, that God is still calling people to be set apart for him, the more people will want to jump on board and do the same.
DB: If you were in London and witnessed that soldier enrolment I just spoke about, you could not help but be energized. I pray that next year at the commissioning events in St. John's, N.L., we will enrol an even larger contingent of soldiers. And General André Cox will be there, so it'll be even more exciting.
Mobilized for Mission—Written by Major Brian Slous, Mobilized for Mission is an 11-lesson in-depth study of Salvationist doctrine and practice. This senior soldier preparation course contains five lessons on doctrine, three on Christian lifestyle and three on Salvationism. It is an updated and revised version of Preparing for Battle, which has been widely used and well received, both territorially and internationally.
Call to Arms—Produced by the Australia Southern Territory, Call to Arms is a six-session senior soldier preparation course that includes student workbooks and a leader's guide. This user-friendly resource can be used one-on-one or in a small-group setting. Filled with solid, biblical teaching, it also works well as a refresher course.
Battle Ready—This 14-session senior soldier preparation course is designed as a small-group Bible study for teens aged 14-18. Produced in partnership with the U.S.A. Eastern Territory, Battle Ready utilizes active learning and engages teen culture to help young people understand the Soldier's Covenant and how the promises they make will apply to their lives.
Adherent Training Manual—This interactive four-lesson manual was produced by the Canada and Bermuda Territory's corps ministries department. It explains the commitments of membership, what belonging to the Army means and that adherency can be seen as an on-ramp to soldiership. The manual explains Army history, culture, local mission and ministry, and works as a course for newcomers.