“Becoming a soldier means making a commitment first of all to God,” said Major Jolinda Shelbourn, Davenport, Iowa, corps officer. “It’s telling God that you believe in what we do and want to be an active part of the Church.”
During soldiership classes, the major emphasizes the quasi-military structure of The Salvation Army and likens becoming a soldier to entering active duty in the armed forces. “Soldiers don’t just stay in the barracks,” she said. “They go out and work hard to save lives. As Salvationists, we can’t stay in the barracks either. We go out and work to save souls.”
When enrolling new soldiers, Major Jolinda suggests three things to help them grow spiritually and connect to the corps in meaningful ways: find a mentor (since many are ARC graduates, they often choose their sponsors as mentors), commit to attending one activity other than Sunday worship per week, and meet with their prayer and accountability partner regularly.
All soldiers, whether longtime or brand-new, are encouraged to engage in service at the corps. With the strong emphasis on being a contributing member of their congregation, Davenport’s soldiers step up when they are needed. Whether it’s fixing things around the building or leading a Sunday school class or youth gospel arts session, they’re fully invested in the corps ministry.
Senior soldier Shirley Rhoads, who is a member of the corps council and teaches elementary Sunday school and junior church, sees soldiership as a commitment to Christ and a promise to live for Him.
“It is easy to get involved in what is comfortable for us, but we need to push that comfort zone and get involved in areas we are not comfortable with so we can grow in Christ,” she said. Shirley encourages others to stretch themselves in service as she leads by example on Sundays and throughout the week. “I feel it is a responsibility of a senior soldier to be a role model for the junior soldiers and other children of the corps,” she concluded.
The Davenport Corps, which averages 72 in attendance for Sunday worship, has increased its soldiership through new enrollments and soldier transfers from the adult rehabilitation center (ARC), adding five senior and three junior soldiers to their number in the past year.