by Captain Heidi Reed
Do you struggle as a character-building leader? Does your group need a little life breathed into it? So did mine! Here are four suggestions on how to jumpstart character-building at your corps.
- You may be thinking, “Of course, I pray!” But ask God specifically for what you need. Ask Him to supply in abundance—supplies, leaders and even more children to participate. Ask God to use you to represent Jesus to your troops. I was very discouraged in one appointment when I only had four sunbeams (and two were my children). I prayed fervently for growth, and God supplied abundantly within the next year. So pray and then pray some more!
- It’s difficult for everyone if character-building time is a free-for-all. I like to plan three months at a time and type it up for parents to see. I always have a general idea of what to do, but I also allow for flexibility. If you need help planning, there are resources. Check the character-building Facebook group (www.facebook.com/groups/38795346997/), and if you need more, ask your divisional youth department for a divisional Facebook group as well. There are great Salvation Army character-building emblem ideas on Pinterest—check out boards for moonbeams, explorers, rangers, girl guards and sunbeams, which are linked through the territorial youth department’s website: www.centralyouthnetwork.com/character-building/ (scroll to the bottom of the page). You can download emblems at tsamtk.com.
- You’ve got to let folks know what you’re doing! Many schools send out email notices to parents. Ask if they can send a flyer about your programs. Visit nearby apartment complexes, and hold an activity in their community room. This allows you to build rapport with the children in a place they know before inviting them to activities. Get to know your corps’ caseworker and ask her to introduce you to families with children coming in for assistance. Encourage your kids to wear their sashes when you have an activity outside of the corps—they’ll be a walking advertisement.
- Party! I know it’s not possible to have a party every week, but you need to make character-building activities fun. Be creative with emblems, and make it so the children don’t even realize they’re learning and can’t wait to come back.
As you implement changes, no matter what, don’t be discouraged. Even if one child knows he or she is loved and hears about Jesus because of your efforts, you have succeeded!