Code Blue

10 ways to revive a dying corps.

Opinion & Critical Thought
When I wrote a post called “10 Things That Will Kill Your Corps,” it seemed to strike a nerve—it was shared more than 500 times on social media. Perhaps the next question is, “How can we revive a dying corps?” Every corps has its own particular challenges, and I don't claim to know everything about corps growth, but I have observed a few things that work. Much of this depends on prayer, hard work and cultivating a strong team. There are no shortcuts or easy answers, but here's what I've learned:

    1. Organic Fellowship 
      When corps members linger after the holiness meeting, when they connect with each other throughout the week, when fellowship doesn't end with the benediction and the exit sign—these are the ties that bind us together in unity and love. When this organic fellowship takes place, corps members are more likely to support and encourage one another, to live life together.

    1. Outward Mission 
      The corps is not simply a building in which programs take place; we should never be satisfied with just meeting the needs of those who attend. We are part of God's mission and should be constantly engaging our community for Christ. What this looks like from corps to corps will vary, because every community has different needs. This outward mission needs the whole corps, not just the officers.

    1. Inward Discipleship 
      We revive a dying corps by deepening our roots as soldiers. We need mature Christians to shepherd and mentor younger Christians. The best discipleship takes place when we journey side by side in holy living, holding one another accountable in resistance to sin.

    1. Lead With, Not Over
      There are times when our corps need strong leaders to communicate the vision and guide the conversation for healthy Christian fellowship, but if those leaders are power hungry, it's time to step aside and let someone else lead. When leadership is shared (the purpose of a corps council or ministry board), not only is the burden lightened, it enables innovation. When we limit leadership to officers, we limit growth. Develop leaders by letting them learn through trial and error. Trust others. Invest in others. Don't be afraid to fail.

    1. Flexibility
      Taking calculated risks is vital to success. What happens when the attempt fails? Don't give up, don't stop trying—adjust and renegotiate. Our ministries will look different from region to region, but we must be willing to change. Sometimes this flexibility must happen at the divisional or territorial level, and sometimes this flexibility is needed by our corps and its membership. Too often, we are afraid to change. But remember the tongue-in-cheek definition of insanity—doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results. Be flexible in your goals and plans.  Ask the hard questions and explore every possibility. Even once-vital programs can sometimes become obsolete and need to be sacrificed for the sake of your corps' future. 

    1. Longer Officer Appointments
      Church—or ministry—growth can take seven years or more. How can soldiers and adherents invest in their leaders' vision if they will be gone in three years? When they leave, another officer moves in and the vision can often change. Longer appointments can provide stability and a sustainable way forward. Of course, this requires approval and support from the divisional and territorial level, and there are many variables at work—such as, are the officers a good fit? Can this corps afford their family? Do we need their skills elsewhere? Today, many divisions and territories are seeing the benefit of longer appointments. We need corps officers to see the benefit, too, and stay focused where they are, not peer over the fence at a potential appointment.

    1. Shared Vision and Mission
      I can't emphasize enough that growth depends on investing in soldiers and adherents. As previously mentioned, shared vision is necessary to weather transitions. When a corps officer changes appointment, you need a strong group that knows what needs to be done to provide stability and structure. Talk about your vision. Keep it at the forefront of everything you do. 

    1. Dependence on God, Not Dollar Signs
      There is a temptation to worry more about where the next source of funding will come from to pay the bills, than how God is going to provide. Yes, we work hard to secure funding, but be careful that finances don't become your measure of success. Financially-secure corps can become spiritual graveyards, too. There are different ways a corps can die, and worshipping wealth can be one of them. Don't focus solely on what you have or need. Remember the One who sustains us and will provide what we need, when we need it. Yes, pray about tithing. Yes, pray about grants and funding sources, but don't let them hamstring what you can and can't do for the Lord in your community. Even those with limited financial resources can do wonders for the kingdom. 

    1. Learn and Understand Your Community
      How many times have you heard, “Oh, I didn't know The Salvation Army had worship services!” Could it be that we don't get out of our buildings enough? Are we so insulated that we don't see our community with the right lenses anymore? If we are to meet human needs in Jesus' name, we have to understand what those needs are. Get out of your building. Study your neighbourhood. Find out what the issues are. Talk to the people you serve. It's not about being seen, but as we do these things, we will be seen. To revive our dying corps, we have to continually explore the shifting needs and wounds of our community. Remember—what may have worked in one corps might not be what your corps needs. As a team—local officers, soldiers, adherents, friends—study your community, look for needs that aren't being met, and then meet them.

    1. Passionate Teaching and Holiness (Grow, then Go!)
      Some might not be the most elegant of preachers, but what's important is being willing to preach on the difficult topics, to understand our corps and help them grow spiritually. I fear that sometimes our members are still in the kiddie pool of faith. We will never wade deeper without being challenged. We have to continually live, speak and teach holiness. This is vital to sustaining our corps members from the inside out. Without holiness, we run the risk of becoming another social service club that does good work and hangs out on Sunday mornings. It has to go deeper than that! We have to keep each other accountable in spiritual growth. The Holy Spirit doesn't want us to remain static. When we do, corps death will surely follow. Get out of the kiddie pool. Don't be afraid to ask difficult questions. Seek Christ in all you do. Then—go!

These are just 10 ways to revitalize a dying corps—there are others. What would you add to the list? Let's continue this conversation together.

Captain Scott Strissel is the corps officer at Evansville Corps and Community Center in Indiana. He is an active blogger and contributor for the purpose of encouraging and challenging the Salvation Army world. Read his blog at


On Friday, December 2, 2016, Lt joseph mensah A Alousse - TOGO said:

I think God's word is still a sword with two edges who can touch the heart of every sinners soul to lead it to Jesus. Then if we the officers of The SA stop loving money and the world only for 30 days and hold firm the word of God in our many meetings we have such as the open air, joy hour,holiness meeting,prayer meetings etc, THE SA will be the most important church in winning soul for the kingdom of God.

On Tuesday, November 29, 2016, Concerned said:

Corps are in decline...or dying...for a myriad of reasons, only some of which are covered by the good Captain. While there are the internal "corps level" factors he identifies there are also an increasing number of external ones that the Army ( and indeed the Church itself) can do little if anything to remedy These include Sunday work, sporting activities and shopping, changing ethnic and other demographics in our urban areas, increased urbanization, a multi-faith society, high personal debt levels and ( in the Army ) our beloved but arcane military analogy, which to the outsider in today's world is genuinely and understandably "different", to say the least.

I applaud the Captain's comments and obvious sincerity. If only the solution to the slow but sadly inexorable decline of Army corps were as straight forward as he contemplates.....

On Sunday, November 27, 2016, Ira Barrow said:

The Captain has said what has been repeated over and over, in different ways possibly, through the past 50 years. If you can get your hands on old copies of The Officer Magazine you will see what I mean. It is not the how, so much as the why that is the problem as far as growth is concerned. Why do we not do those things the good Captain suggests? It is a spiritual matter, of course. Only God, not methods can remedy that problem.

Nevertheless, I commend the Captain in trying to encourage officers to build, or re-build, the corps for it is the "core" of our existence as a spiritual movement.

About longer stays for officers. That is a debate I'd like to have for William Booth built the Army on short stays, less than a year all the time. But these are different times; the Army was a pioneer movement in those days. But less we think long stays is a new thing let me give you an example to prove otherwise.

I got to know Major Peter Way of Lexington, KT, U.S.A. in the mid 1950s. Peter was appointed there out of training college and remained there for his whole officership. Despite Booth's proven method, Peter's long stay moved the Army from a little struggling corps on the corner to a whole city block of Army buildings and significance ministry activities still going on 50 years since his retirement.

Maybe, instead of talking about it, we would do well to go a corps, or Army centre, where significance growth is obvious. Watch the leaders and the workers more and chat with them.

Finally, I'd like to say that if the Army ceased to be God's Army, it should be left to die and be buried. But if we believe it is God's Army maybe we should talk to Him a little more about our corps and ask Him what we should do?

God bless you Captain Scott; I admire your desire to see the corps grow. So do I!

On Thursday, November 17, 2016, Steve Simms said:

11) Begin to meet according to 1 Corinthians 14:26 by letting people share testimonies, Scriptures, prayer requests, short teachings, prayers, gifts of the Spirit, exhortations, etc. as they are prompted by the Holy Spirit. Check out a book about how a corps in Nashville, Tennessee meets like this @ The USA War Cry called it a "groundbreaking" book in their September 2016 issue.

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