The Salvation Army corps (church) plant in Des Plaines, Ill., has passed its 20-year mark with flying colors!
Des Plaines had been home to the Army’s Central Territory Headquarters since it moved from downtown Chicago in 1991. The nearest corps to it, however, was more than 10 miles way. In May 1994 Captains Andrew and Cheryl Miller, corps officers (pastors) in Chicago at the time, were asked by the Metropolitan Division to look at property in Des Plaines and assess if a plant might be feasible. A month later, the Millers were appointed to start it!
The Des Plaines Corps officially opened in late June even though the recently purchased church building wasn’t quite ready for occupancy. That summer the Millers began reaching out into the neighborhood. Three Salvationist families already living in Des Plaines offered their assistance and eventually transferred their soldiership (membership) to the new corps. This answered the Millers’ God-planted goal to have a “core” group of people support future newcomers.
A plan was devised to go door to door in the neighborhoods surrounding the corps with a simple seven-question survey to assess spiritual and community needs. This proved to be an amazing contact point for the corps’ start, particularly through the last question on the survey: “We are going to be meeting with others performing this survey to pray. Is there anything we can pray about for you?”
Every Sunday morning until the end of September, the captains would drive out to Des Plaines from Chicago with their four children, hold a family worship time, then hit the streets to see what neighborhood people were up to on Sunday mornings. Although many claimed to belong to a church, the vast majority of people were at home, providing ideal invitation opportunities for worship at the corps!
With their developing “core” of people and increasing community interest, the Millers held the official first public Sunday worship meeting near the end of September. After much prayer and consideration it was decided the initial format would be music followed by a time of prayer, then a Bible study through the book of Romans, a sermon based on the scripture being studied and a benediction. The hope for that first Sunday was 30 people; 34 came, and as the weeks went by more and more people from the neighborhood began attending.
It quickly became obvious more opportunities for involvement needed to be made. Based on survey results and sensed needs, the corps launched Army programs for youth and adults within the first two months. The start of kettle season and Christmas social services also served to attract and cement new people into the corps family.
Over the years the introduction of ministries to Spanish and Russian speakers, the construction of a substantial building addition, the expansion of programming and social services, plus outreach events that have become community staples, the corps’ current Sunday-morning attendance exceeds 250. Now on its fourth set of corps officers, Captains David and Shannon Martinez, and supported by an ever-growing “core” of people who provide crucial stability for the congregation, the Des Plaines Corps foresees many more decades of growth.