Community needs? – Look around you
The Territorial Social Justice Department is often approached by individuals and Corps asking which campaigns they can get on board with, or what issues they can champion. However this is not always the right question to be asking. Sure, we could recite a list of Campaigns of which we are aware of, or a list of issues on which we as a territory are working – “Human Trafficking, Asylum Seekers, Homelessness, Children in care…. “. Yet the most honest response to someone who asks us “what should I be caring about?” or “What should I be campaigning for” is “Go for a walk around your neighbourhood and see what God points out.”
The Salvation Army operates on a “Local Corps, Global Mission” basis. We place a Corps or Centre in an area so that it can respond to the needs of that area. The Corps Officers and Centre Managers become Missionaries in that community – responding to the needs that they see. If each community is varied and different from other communities, so too should each Corps be varied and different from other Corps. The needs in the community in which one person ministers are vastly different to the needs in the community which exists of another person, and sometimes these people might only live ten minutes apart. Therefore, the response of The Salvation Army in one community should be different to the response of The Salvation Army in the community ten minutes away. For this reason, it would be irresponsible of us to go into each Corps and recite a list of social justice issues that the Corps “should” care about. Beyond that, to do so would be to limit God and the possibilities He has in store for the community to a list of things which we happen to have learned about or come across in the past.
Similarly, God places individual Christians in an area so that they can respond to the needs of that area. God placed you where you are for a reason. He has given you the talents, abilities and experiences that you have in order for you to use them for Him by serving others. These abilities and experiences are different to everyone else around you, so there is no point in trying to copy exactly what someone else is doing. As a Christian who is ministering in a specific community, your role is to keep your eyes open for what God is trying to show you, and to respond to that to the best of your ability. William Booth did not set out to save the entire world. Rather he called his soldiers to respond to the needs that they saw in front of them – starting with his son Bramwell, who saw a group of homeless men living under a bridge near the area in which he lived. From this premise, a worldwide movement of local expressions grew.
It would be damaging for any leader to come into a Corps and expect to implement programs purely because they worked in another setting. Similarly, it would be wrong for the Army to tell Soldiers which issues they “should” be caring about without first identifying if those issues are actually present within the specific community.
Nobody can come into your Corps, or to you personally, and tell you what you should care about. That’s for you and God to work out.
Recently a Corps Officer’s posted on Facebook about an issue which he had identified in his local community. He described the need which he had seen, and then wrote “I’m thinking and praying about how our Corps might be able to help meet this need. I see a need. I’m pretty sure it’s one we can help fill in some way”.
Praise the Lord! If every soldier in every Corps had this mindset – identifying needs and attempting to fix them – how much greater and more effective The Salvation Army would be in communities all over the world!
The question is this – What is right in front of you? What need in your community is God desperately trying to point out to you?
If you would like support and help in identifying needs which are present in your local community and potential responses to them, The Social Justice Department is available to assist at both a Corps and individual level.