Jan27WedIt starts with a new strategy to reimagine leadership. January 27, 2021 by Majors Rick and Deana Zelinsky
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Earlier this year, the Canada and Bermuda Territory announced the creation of two new appointments to invest in lay leaders and young adults. In the first of a six-part series, Majors Rick and Deana Zelinsky share how The Salvation Army is developing a strategy to reimagine leadership and reach the emerging generation.
The smell of a brand-new car; the anticipation that comes from seeing spring flowers break the soil; the return to school in September. Fresh starts and new beginnings orient us to the goodness of God. The start of a new year is no different as we anticipate and hope for God to do a new thing in our lives, in his church and in our world.
Although finding our way through a pandemic seems to require most of our attention, our territorial leaders have not lost sight of the challenges and concerns that negatively impact our congregations and mission effectiveness overall, referring specifically to the vacant leadership positions in our local ministries and the number of young adults leaving our corps.
In response, The Salvation Army in Canada and Bermuda is taking a “glass half full” approach, with creative and innovative new initiatives to address these concerns.
For some time, officer retirement in our territory has outpaced the number of new officers being commissioned. Praise God there are signs of this trend abating, however, our need for spiritual leadership in corps and ministries across our territory remains significant. At the same time, our territory has seen a recent resurgence of interest in lay ministry opportunities.
As we lament our shrinking officer force and recognize The Salvation Army’s need for spiritual leadership, we are being called to consider something new and to re-vision the way lay Salvationists can provide leadership within the organization.
Doing something new is part of our movement’s DNA. It is demonstrated in our ability to adapt to the changing world around us, something we have been doing in our territory specifically since 1882! For example, one does not need to look far to find evidence of new ways corps leaders are preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ, discipling God’s people and caring for the needs of their neighbours during the COVID-19 pandemic.
It is with this same dynamic spirit that the territory has embraced the new rank of auxiliary-lieutenant: a full-time, short-term, non-officer contract position for those considering spiritual leadership. It is designed especially for Salvationists desiring practical mission or ministry experience and those who want to consider and confirm a calling to officership.
Another area requiring our thought and attention is in relation to the emerging generation (ages 18-38). In the past 10 years, the Western church has experienced a 60-percent loss of adults from this demographic. This is compounded by a projected 30-percent loss in the church population post-pandemic. The Salvation Army has witnessed this decline in our churches, giving rise to a sense of urgency, and providing the impetus for creating a strategy to reach and retain young adults.
In collaboration with a Generation Z and Millennial working group from across Canada and Bermuda, we have just completed a survey with representative input from the 18-38-year-old age group. We asked them to cast a vision for their church that is relevant, missional and engaging. It is exciting to hear the voices of people who love the mission of The Salvation Army express hope for how we, as the body of Christ, can grow the church and influence our communities with Jesus’ love.
In February, our working group will embark on a virtual listening tour across the territory. We are taking an approach that is by us and for us as we host focus groups to seek input and from which to inform a strategy.
In subsequent articles, we will explore the opportunity before us to find new ways of developing leaders and engaging a lost generation in the mission and life of the church. Ours is the hope of prophets, apostles and Jesus for all of God’s children to have “ears to hear and eyes to see,” which are “gifts from the Lord” (Proverbs 20:12 NLT) and the encouragement of the writers of Scripture. John, in the Book of Revelation, gives us a glimpse into the future of the church and concludes with an encouragement to us as we begin 2021: “Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches” (Revelation 2:29).
Major Deana Zelinsky is the area commander, Ontario Division, and the territorial training and development officer. Major Rick Zelinsky is the Millennial project officer.