I managed to get to the Salvation Army today, the first time in a couple of months.
I came away disheartened and discouraged. I really think that, in rural places like this, and perhaps particularly in Cornwall, the Salvation Army will die unless it makes some changes and soon.
In this particular corps, there are no young people, no families, no children. Only 3 uniformed members, including the corps officer. 13 attendees in total including myself and the corps officer. The only midweek meetings / outreach a monthly Bible study.
Off the top of my head, there are a bunch of things that could be done to build up ailing corps.
1. Committed, experienced uniformed salvationists should be encouraged to retire to Devon and Cornwall and their families should be encouraged to visit.
2. Young salvationist families should be encouraged to come during the summer holidays to Devon and Cornwall on mission to bring young families into the corps. Look for example at United Beach Missions http://www.ubm.org.uk/
3. Young salvationists should be invited to spend a gap mission year, unpaid (or perhaps supported by their sending corps) but with free board and lodging, to work with the corps. The only limit to the number and length (number of years) of these mission places is the number of people willing to feed and house them.
4. Regular marching, with the Salvation Army banner, around the town on the way to the meeting on a Sunday, handing out leaflets inviting people to join the meeting.
5. Don’t limit yourselves to what you can achieve now. Do some research to find out what local needs are, pray about them and take a step of faith to start meeting those needs. Make prayer a priority.
6. Don’t assume that it’s enough to be a friendly and welcoming bunch. You need to be investing in real relationships. Superficial friendships aren’t much use to anybody.
7. Don’t abandon the hymns, don’t replace them with choruses and modern songs, but do make sure that you choose hymns that are well-known, catchy and joyful, especially for the final hymn.
8. Other corps within striking distance should be willing to ‘loan out’ bandsmen and songsters to stand in and teach until resident corps members are able to form a band themselves.
There’s more I could say but this will do for now.
I’m torn between enthusiasm and frustration. I stopped going regularly because my request to become a soldier was ignored and not pursued despite many months of faithful attendance.
But I love the Army and I hope they will do something about their dwindling numbers before it’s too late.