In the tiny Minnesota town of Brainerd, where poverty is prevalent and resources few, The Salvation Army is a beacon of light where children and teens thrive as they learn about the love of God, develop their social skills and participate in character-building programs and singing company.
“We use our social service programs as opportunities to invite kids to youth nights,” said Lt. Jaclyn Holloway, who along with her husband, Grant, leads the Brainerd, Minn., Corps.
Each week leaders pick up 40 children for Thursday evening programs. There’s a whirlwind of activity as Lt. Grant leads a combined devotional time for everyone before dinner is served. Then they split up into character-building classes, with sunbeams and explorers working together on completing complementary emblems, girl guards engrossed in study for their discovering emblems, and boy scouts occupied with service projects and emblems. Throughout the evening, leaders help children focus on listening and social skills to reinforce positive behaviors.
“It’s really a great group of kids, and we’re blessed to have them,” said Lt. Jaclyn, reflecting on how the boy scouts in particular enthusiastically help any way they can, whether clearing tables after dinner or cleaning up after crafts.
The lieutenants also have formed a singing company and held fundraising challenges for World Services/Self-Denial, both of which have been wildly popular.
Intentionally integrating ministry into every aspect of youth night, Lt. Grant teaches praise and worship songs kids might hear on a Sunday morning as part of singing company.
The lieutenants and leaders create and seize every opportunity to reach out to parents, scheduling singing company performances, a yearly Court of Awards for character-building and, in 2017, a Christmas program held on Christmas Eve.
“It was the perfect opportunity to get the kids to church and invite their parents,” Lt. Jaclyn concluded. “We weren’t going to pass it up.”