Saturday, November 25, 2006


I was talking with a couple of friends today about needs and direction. Some of you know that, along with our local ministry, I’m also charged with the duty of equipping, training, supporting, (what have you) other Salvation Army youth work in the London area. Each year that I’ve been here, I’ve had to tweak the previous year’s strategy to meet the current needs of our churches and, by “tweak”, sometimes I mean “radical change in my approach”. I find that weird. In fact, it feels unprofessional. Now maybe that’s wrong. Maybe I’ve been raised in a culture that believes strong leadership means unwavering and inflexible leadership. And maybe I’m dragging that baggage into this ministry with me. But I can’t help but feel like I ought to be able to lay out a basic strategy and be able to stick with that strategy for at least three years. Yet, year after year, I find myself having to change strategy to meet the current needs of our churches.

We had a long discussion about it today, trying to narrow down the problem. One year it seems that we need more divisional programming, the next we need less, the year after that we need more. From year to year it seems that our local churches want less, more, or less responsibility in discipling their own young people. Finally, one of my friends pointed out that it’s an issue of vision. There’s a lack of vision. The amazing thing is that, shortly after this meeting, I spoke with one of our local pastors who shared with me that their strategy was just to take whatever youth ministry opportunities came along. This seems to support this idea of “lack of vision”.

But here’s my question. And I ask it as a sincere question, even though I’ve previously posted my own thoughts on the matter. Is it possible to have long term vision when you have every reason to believe that you’re not going to be there long enough to carry it out or raise up somebody else who can carry it out? By moving our Officers around so much, have we trained them and our congregations to think in short term bursts? And, furthermore, have we contributed to the cynicism that says things like, “yeah, we’ve heard this before.”?

Today I find myself wondering if it’s possible to get people in TSA to think about vision beyond the next year?

Comments on "vision"


Blogger tobiwan said ... (12:15 PM) : 

I'm not a one for posting comments like this but here goes.

I think we do have a culture whereby leadership is not supposed to change their views or admit they've been wrong or indeed have weaknesses.

Just look at what happened with Tony Blair admitting that Iraq was "pretty much a disaster".

And tweaking strategy to meet current needs sounds more professional to me than fixing a strategy and dogmatically adhering to it whilst losing all the people you're serving.

Is the reason you don't see yourself being there because you will be moved on or because you feel you will want to move on? I don't really know how TSA works.


Blogger Tim said ... (1:47 PM) : 

Thanks tobiwan. Fortunately (no offense to others) I'm not an officer, so I won't be moved on and, at this time, don't feel like God is moving me on. I was referring to the local Officers who I work with who may be here another five years or another five months. They just don't know. I'm wondering how it's possible to have long term vision when you're not likely to have a long term appointment.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (8:20 PM) : 

It makes more sense to me for the local church to have and forge the vision, and for the officer to help the church to bring that about. Otherwise the vision exists in perpetual uncertainty.

Warmest blessings
Eleanor n/TSSF


Blogger tobiwan said ... (10:08 PM) : 


I would find it very hard to work within that kind of structure, but God uses a lot of different ways I guess. I agree with Eleanor, I think you'd have to work with a sense of the bigger picture and work out with God and practically what your part is in that longer term vision and how it would work.

But as I say, I would find that a very hard structure to work within.


Blogger shaun said ... (10:44 PM) : 

I'm no ministry super-genius, but in my circles, we are often taught that it takes 3-5 years for a congregation to know and trust a pastor well enough to really begin any drastic "tinkering". From the pastor's side, I can't imagine knowing a congregation well enough in a short amount of time to really be able to know what the actual needs of a congregation are. (some needs are obvious enough but if you're talking the stuff of "vision" than I'd want some long term roots on the part of a leader) Maybe the Army is different from a "traditional" church setting (I don't know), but I suspect constant turnover is more of a liability than it is an asset.


Blogger Sean said ... (5:54 PM) : 

I do not know concrete facts about the number of corps that have grown beyond 100 ( not that numbers are anything more than small guage of health and growth). I would suggest that there is never sustained growth.

The fact is the church ( body ) has parts, one of which is leadership, and in order for a smaller body within the body to go anywhere, someone must be recognized as the leader, the one with the vision of where to go.

Have been raised in 5 seperate corps and seeing each one we walked into have huge issues with the change, and likewise hearing about problems when we left, there is a 0 for 5 ratio of a leader's vision lasting through the change.(we'll say one in a million)b ( and my parents stayed a long time in places by comparision)

THis is perhaps my second biggest problem with the SA. Should officer's provide a long-term vision for the church? Absolutely, if they are called by GOd to lead his church, they must know where they are going.

Will it fail miserably and feel like it was vain, because they get moved? Absolutely, unless they are one in a million.

I could go off on the problem of the moving officers so much, but it would be boring for everyone except me.

so, In short, they need to develope a vision. my opinion


Blogger Larry said ... (6:30 PM) : 

I wonder about the overall vision. Did not William and Catherine cast that for us years ago?

I believe that vision comes from God not slogans or brands or for that matter Generals. Within that overarching vision of ministry to the poor and disenfranchised, I think localities have responsibility to be fluid in the implementation of the overall vision and mission. As fast as our culture changes, what is good now, may not be good for 5 years from now.

I agree with you Tim about long stays. They are necessary. Sean brought up the issue of trust. I think he may be right. I think we have the vision, maybe the better question is how do we play it out in the local context and stay true to it?


Blogger wendy said ... (7:10 PM) : 

Ok this reply is coming in a bit late but as I was reading it I really felt necessary to react on this. First I want to say that this blog really got me thinking.

But first of all I want to say YES to the question. I believe you can have a long time vision even though you are not there long enough to carry it or raise up somebody else who can carry it.
I think this is going back to the basics….. God has already a long term vision for this world, for His church and His children. Ok maybe this doesn’t sound really practical because when you are talking about vision for program’s and things like that you have to go further then just talking, reading and knowing about it. And you have to go over into action.

I think we people have a huge weakness. Maybe it is not for everyone but it is for me! When I don’t know which way to go I am desperate to let God take over and let Him control because He knows what the longer term vision is. Because that is what we want to do I think, we want to follow Gods longer term vision. But how often do I see it that when things are working out well I think I can do it on my own again and forget about the fact that God is the best leader.

And then coming back to the long term vision that you are maybe not able to carry because you are there not long enough. I think Gods vision is there already for years and years we will never be able to carry that because we are not on this world long enough. But I believe that God wants us all to fill in some part of this vision. Every little stone will build to God’s vision as long as we do it together with Him.

I think that one of the things we have to keep in mind is that we all try to follow God’s vision for our life’s, for His church and for the world. He guides us and He will bring everything that we need. Of course it is pray and work…… but work together with God!


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