What are the needs and desires of young people in the Army today? The simplest way to find out is to ask them.

This year, Canada Bermuda Youth introduced the Youth Action Committee (YAC), a group of young adult representatives that will speak into topics and decisions at the territorial level regarding young people.

“We wanted young people to know that their voices are heard and valued, and for them to be able to see themselves in these leadership spaces,” says Captain Jason Dockeray, territorial children and youth secretary.

Thirteen representatives between the ages of 16 and 24 were nominated by their respective divisional youth secretaries based on their passion and leadership in faith, corps or camping ministry, or other local settings. Together, they share stories of The Salvation Army within their unique communities, bridging gaps and helping inform territorial decision-makers as they work to create a future Army that is innovative, creative and inclusive.

Seen and Heard

In 2021, through conversation with divisional youth secretaries, Captain Jason Dockeray and Captain Kristen Jackson-Dockeray, assistant territorial children and youth secretary and secretary for candidates, recognized a gap in how The Salvation Army’s children and youth department engages young people.

“Many of the young people in The Salvation Army see it as their parents’ or grandparents’ church. There’s a disconnect between the few hundred young leaders we have at Army camps who are engaged in the mission of The Salvation Army, and those who are involved in corps life back at home,” says Captain Jason. “We want to hear from young leaders across the territory—not just hearing them for the sake of checking a box, but to actually get them involved in mission and in shaping what’s coming next.” After prayer and discussion with divisional youth leaders, the YAC was introduced.

To Captains Dockeray, it was important to ensure that the committee not only has diverse geographic representation, including individuals from divisions across the territory, but also people from various backgrounds—BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and people of colour), at least one third male and one third female, senior soldiers, and first-generation Salvationists and Christians.

The YAC is a one-year commitment, meeting four times a year. Their first meeting took place virtually in May, the second in August, and a third virtual meeting is set to take place in October before they will come together in person early next year.

This year’s committee is guided by 1 Peter 1:13 (ESV): “Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

“This passage talks about personal holiness,” explains Captain Jason. “We want our youth to come together and make their holiness a benefit to the world—a lived-out, practical holiness. As we gather, we’re not just gathering to talk, but to actually move forward in action and to make this world a better place. This committee will help shape the young people in our department to move them closer to Jesus, not for their own benefit but for the benefit of the kingdom of God.”

Captain Jason also poses the question to those within The Salvation Army, congregants, soldiers, staff, officers and other mission partners: How are you ensuring that your Salvation Army is a place that is welcoming and inclusive to young people?

“We can talk about inclusivity at a territorial and divisional level, but where it gains traction is when our congregation members come alongside to support our young people in becoming leaders,” he says. “Are we creating a space that is ripe for these young people to act and to be active in The Salvation Army?”

The YAC is only 13 people, but there are more across this territory, in corps and working at camps, who want to be engaged in The Salvation Army. But first, they need a place where they can be heard, where they can grow and thrive.

Photo of Jenna Reid
Jenna Reid participates in the band at her home corps, St. John’s Temple, and often volunteers at the kettles at Christmas

Jenna Reid, Newfoundland and Labrador Division

I am 19 years old, from St. John’s, N.L. My parents are officers and I’ve been involved in The Salvation Army my whole life. My name was put forward for the YAC because I’m openly passionate about my faith. I have a blog called A Wholehearted Pursuit about navigating faith in young adulthood and wholeheartedly pursuing Jesus while dealing with life changes.

After our first committee meeting, my reaction was, “That was so refreshing.” I realized that other people in the Army who are around my age have thoughts similar to mine. They come from all across Canada and Bermuda, and I think this brings perspective. It’s easy to lose sight of what the Army is doing throughout the territory, especially in the small communities such as those in Atlantic Canada. Having members from these communities will help speak into a lot of change.

It’s a privilege to be part of the committee. I think the Army is at a point where change is coming. People are aware of that. I appreciate the fact that they are getting youth opinion. People always say, “Youth are the future,” but we’re also the present. If we want to keep youth in church, it’s important to listen to their voices.   

Photo of Carlos Cuellar
Carlos Cuellar has worked various positions at Salvation Army summer camps including dishwasher, cabin leader and program co-ordinator at Camp Sunrise in the B.C. Div

Carlos Cuellar, British Columbia Division

I am 22 years old, from British Columbia. I was born in New York, grew up in Richmond, B.C., and I currently attend the Anchor of Hope Community Church in Vancouver, where my parents are corps officers.

I was invited to the YAC by my divisional youth leaders, Captains Josh and Joyce Downer. I participate in youth groups and activities throughout the year, and I’ve worked at camp for the past seven summers. This has inspired me to become more involved with the youth in our territory.

It’s a great honour to be involved in the YAC. It shows that the opinions and views of our youth in The Salvation Army are valued by our leaders and the people who are going to make the tough decisions. They are really looking at what we can do better and what young people can do to get involved. That’s inspiring to see.

I think that the YAC provides a unique and valuable point of view. We have a lot of diversity in terms of age, gender and race, but also background. In one meeting, I was able to see what it is like to grow up in the Army in different parts of the country. Everyone’s experience with the Army is different.

I’m not from generations of Salvationists. My parents are the first people in my family to discover The Salvation Army through a small interaction. My father was still in the United States, and it was just my mom, my sister and me here in Canada. We were looking for a mattress and were dropped off at The Salvation Army in Richmond, B.C. Just that one interaction, that little moment of generosity and kindness to someone who had recently immigrated to Canada, planted a seed in my parents and now they are leading ministry. I am involved in that ministry now, too. It’s nice to see that someone like me, with my family background, can have a say and be a part of this community. It means a lot.

Young people want to see more people our age present in The Salvation Army. The YAC members are motivated, with issues and passions that we want the Army taking a bigger role in. Hopefully, we can be that little spark that starts a bigger flame.


On Sunday, October 2, 2022, John and Arlene Li said:

Proud of you Carlos. We will pray for you and your walk with Jesus.

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