31 August 2023

Membership survey: Speak up!

Lieut-Colonel Drew McCombe

A graphic shows a speech bubble with an off-centre red background and the words 'Speak up!' written in white, chunky text.

Lieut-Colonel Drew McCombe explains why your voice is needed in the territory’s conversation about membership.

‘Come, follow me’ (Matthew 4:19). That is the primary calling upon humanity from Jesus and there is so much contained in those three words. There is an invitation, there is continual obedience and there is relationship – for knowing Jesus is the foundation of our faith.

You may recall an interview with me in the 15 April issue of Salvationist in which I introduced the thinking and scope behind a new membership working group. The group’s aim is to have an open, frank, mature conversation about Salvation Army membership in this territory.

I commend to you its members, who are a mix of officers, pioneer leaders, soldiers, adherents and people who are not formal members of the Army but are committed disciples of Jesus. They cover a range of views on the subject and span different ages, genders and ethnicities.

In the months since April, we have met to look at scriptural foundations of what it means to follow and enter the Kingdom of God, as well as the idea of covenant and the radical welcome of Jesus. More recently we have prayed about, thought through and debated what questions to ask the territory, so that we can hear ideas of how to shape a radical vision of belonging, discipleship and membership.

Our questions build on last year’s Welcome and Belonging survey by the Racial Inclusion Working Group, the questions that were asked to Divisional Design Groups as part of the Structure, Co-ordination and Design Project, and the territory’s annual membership data. We have partnered the Territorial Advisory Council (TAC) and were supported by the Research and Development (R&D) team within Mission Service, in shaping the questions. We are grateful for the wisdom and counsel of the TAC and R&D.

Now, we are ready to reach out to the territory with these questions and listen to people’s answers. We want to listen as widely and deeply as possible. We are doing this in a couple of ways.

First, each division has been asked to facilitate conversations in groups around these questions with children, young people and adults. They may do this in several different ways, such as divisional or area gatherings. Some corps leaders may opt to have facilitated conversations within their own corps or children’s groups. Corps leaders can contact their DHQ for a copy of the questions, including specially worded questions for children’s groups.

Second, a questionnaire is available for individuals to fill in online. The questions in the survey are the same as those used in the facilitated group conversations. You can also pull out the middle pages in the 2 September issue of Salvationist to fill in your answers and return them by post. A large-print version is available online or by emailing belonging@salvationarmy.org.uk.

However you take part, we want you to speak up! We want to understand how people in this territory feel about belonging and membership in the Army – and we want to hear from everyone.

If you’ve ever felt like you’ve not been welcome in the Army, for whatever reason – whether that’s at a local or organisational level – this is your opportunity to give voice to that and have it be heard. Equally, if you have felt embraced by our Movement, we want to hear about that too. No one else has lived your life or had your experience, so no one else can speak fully on your behalf. In this conversation, everyone has a seat at the table – please take yours.

Thank you for taking the time to read this. This important subject impacts us all and our future – I encourage you to participate and speak into it.

What’s next?

This listening phase will run until the end of November. After the listening there will be an analysis phase of the responses, which will then speak into a gathering that will take place on 1–3 March 2024. This was originally planned for October, so please save the new date.

The title of the gathering will be Belonging and Believing: The Big Conversation. More details on the event and venue will be released shortly but it is hoped this will be inclusive and accessible, providing a safe space to explore belonging, discipleship and membership within the Kingdom of God and The Salvation Army.

Following that weekend, a report will go to leadership early next summer, seeking prayerful discernment. It will then be shared with the wider territory and with leadership at IHQ.

Written by

A photo of Drew McCombe.

Lieut-Colonel Drew McCombe

Secretary for Mission, THQ

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