Sep14ThuFour pitfalls to avoid as a new officer. September 14, 2017 by Captain Scott Strissel
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- Opinion & Critical Thought
Nowadays most people die of a sort of creeping common sense, and discover when it is too late that the only things one never regrets are one’s mistakes.― Oscar Wilde
Let’s explore the topic of mistakes in relation to officership. Of course, this list could apply to anyone in ministry, whether or not you wear red trim. It’s not a comfortable conversation, but my purpose is to encourage and challenge us to improve our ministries. Are mistakes always bad? No. They are just opportunities to learn and grow. They can show us a whole new world of possibilities.
1. The Lone Ranger
If you want to do a few small things right, do them yourself. If you want to do great things and make a big impact, learn to delegate.―John C. Maxwell
The art of delegation is vital in ministry. New—and seasoned—officers are tempted to become lone rangers, riding off into the sunset on their next task or mission, alone. Could it be that we attempt to do everything on our own because we have an image of what Sunday worship, or a Bible study, or a prayer meeting, should look like? Does this perfect notion of “corps” make us pass over the chance to invite others to serve? Not everyone is capable of leadership responsibility, but could we find ways for everyone to contribute? Ministry cannot be done without including others. We will only experience minimal success if we continue the mistake of the “go it alone” cowboy.
2. The Overnight Express
As a young officer (wait—I’m not young anymore?), I was ready to win the world for Jesus. I was ready to conquer my new appointment and make improvements overnight. I set out to do just that. The funny thing is, not everyone welcomed or liked my efforts. Why? Because I failed to include others (soldiers, adherents, volunteers) in my plans. I tried to do everything myself—and all in the first week. Mistake.
Change takes time. Yes, make the vital improvements and necessary updates of your buildings right away, but take your time in casting vision and implementing new ministries. Tell the story. Explain your vision to those you minister with. If you fail to include people in the vision and try to change things by “overnight express” you will face trouble and opposition.
This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t make changes and cast a new vision—just get the “movers and shakers” in your corps on board first! It’s easier when you have advocates and backers walking alongside you. Remember—change is never easy for anyone. Some of your corps members have lived through multiple officer changes, which is hard on your people. Love them. Get to know them. Learn from them. Include them in your vision and mission for your corps. Don’t leave them in your dust!
3. Wide-Angle Lens
It is possible to cast too wide a vision for your corps. When we use a wide-angle lens, we lose sight of the smaller victories of accomplished goals, which are worth celebrating. If our focus is too broad, we lose the trees for the forest. A big vision and high expectations can frustrate our corps people if they feel they aren’t recognized for what we may perceive as the mundane things of Christian faith and practice. This mistake has more to do with only seeing the big picture and neglecting the small steps necessary to reach the broader goals. While seeing the big picture is important, without the details, it will never become reality. Slow down, take your time and acknowledge the small victories with your people.
4. Set Apart
Lastly, there is such a thing as the wrong kind of “set apart” in officership. Life as an officer is difficult and time consuming. At times, we may become tempted to compartmentalize our lives—“home life” here and “corps life” over there. This can even translate into our work day, when we are pulled in so many directions that all we want is to hole up in our office to avoid people, leading to a perception that the corps officer isn’t accessible and shouldn’t be bothered.
Of course, there are times when you must buckle down and get work done in your office, but don’t make this the standard of your ministry. We must be intentional in getting out of the “set apart” mentality and connecting with people in our corps and community. This mistake will rob you of wonderful fellowship opportunities and limit the impact you could have on those you serve. Carve up your “work” time and your “connection” time. Make sure that neither are neglected, but be aware that the best laid plans will sometimes have to be altered.
These are four common mistakes that leaders can make. Pray for wisdom and discernment as you engage in ministry. Love your people, and be the hope of Christ to those you meet.
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 pastorsponderings.org.