What Do You Do For A Living?, Or, A Psychological Thriller in Four Minutes

I’ve worked for The Salvation Army for over five years now. I recently asked our marketing department to print me new business cards…for the 5th time. This is not because I drop my business cards like leaflets from an airplane, but because I recently got a new title. I’m officially the “Theater Manager” at The Kroc Center. How that all happened is for a different blog post though.

What I want to talk about today is a terrible, frightening, invert-cold-sweat-inspiring question that I get asked a lot:

“What do you do for a living?”

I can already hear you saying, “Can’t you just say ‘I’m the Theater Manager at The Kroc Center’? you cold-sweaty fool?” Yes. Yes I can say that. But that’s not good enough for you people. You all want to know what that means. What kinds of things do you do for a living? Walk us through your routine. Tell us about your schedule of activities. Ok, no. No one really asks me that. It is sort of hard though to explain what all I do with my time at work.

So I’ll show you.

One of my favorite things to do at work is to make videos. I am responsible for producing all the video content for the Coeur d’Alene Kroc Center. I’ve had that responsibility since around the end of 2010. I inherited that role from the amazingly talented Jordan Halland. He left us to be famous and I had to figure out this video stuff by myself. I’m still learning, but it’s really fun and I enjoy doing it very much.

You can check out The Kroc Center’s youtube channel here to see some of my work. I do a lot of development stuff and life change/testimonial-type stuff. One of my favorite projects though comes every summer at Film Camp. We host a junior high film production camp for a couple of weeks every summer. I work with acclaimed actress Jillian Kramer and we teach kids to script, storyboard, act, film, edit, composite, score…basically to make a short film. It’s so much fun and one of the only times every year I get to create something dramatic in nature.

This year however, Jillian’s connections with The Arts & Humanities Council in McCall, Idaho led us to teach a similar camp in that fine city. We finished that project last week. The film we made, called X, can be found here.

We have one more camp to teach at The Kroc at the end of July. I’m excited to see what the kids come up with.


What Do You Do For A Living?, Or, A Psychological Thriller in Four Minutes

Customer Service @ The Kroc, or, Do You Think We Can Get Bill To Take His Shirt Off?

My coworkers and I made a customer service video for our annual employee meeting last week. It was fun.

[youtube_sc url=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gubbkijC3do&list=UUSkjVeSI97kF0j7hGlwA9Tg&index=1&feature=plcp”%5D

Customer Service @ The Kroc, or, Do You Think We Can Get Bill To Take His Shirt Off?

Statistics, or, You're Pregnant? I'll Count You Twice

I grew up in a non-denominational hippie church. Actually, it was a church plant that came out of a hippie non-denomination. What is a non-denomination? That’s for another post. Anyway, my pastor’s mantra was “teach the Bible.” He was good at it too. He still is. I learned a ton and my faith was really formed through the years I spent there. Because of its ties to the hippie non-denomination though, record keeping, and specifically statistics were never really a big deal. In fact, I walked away with the perspective (whether it was taught or not) that focusing on “nickels and noses” was a bad practice to be in. I’ve come to realize that it definitely can be, but how many people you have and what they do with their money can also be a valuable metric for evaluating the health of a church.

Then we have The Salvation Army. 124 countries (last time I checked), 4 US territories, 10 western divisions, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. Statistics are important. Why? Because if you work at territorial headquarters in Long Beach, California and I work at the Kroc Center in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, there is no reliable way for you to judge how well I am stewarding the Army’s resources in my local context without some kind of standardized measurement system that we both understand and agree on. Sure, the leaders at the territorial and divisional levels come check on us from time to time, but it’s hard to get a good picture of what’s going on from a visit.

So statistics. I find statistics challenging in two ways. Funny thing is, one way is due to my humility and the other way is due to my pride. First off, I find it hard to quantify the work we do. Not because we don’t do quantifiable work, but because we do it all the time. For instance, one of the general categories of statistic that the territory wants is “people assisted.” Well, we do that all day long, every day. The couple hundred of us that work at the Kroc Center are all about assisting people. It’s who we are and it’s the culture we have created. That makes it hard to quantify.

Lest I come across too holy and benign though, the second reason I have trouble with stats is that I want to look good. I am always tempted to find ways to make numbers appear greater than they are. Mr. Jones says he really liked the sermon on Sunday? What he probably meant was that he repented from his sins and decided to follow Jesus. A new salvation! That’s a stat.

In all honesty though, I’ve never done that. But I’ve thought about it. The sick, twisted, Jesus-is-killing-day-by-day part of me that is my flesh has thought about manipulating stories of the saving work of Christ for personal and organizational pride. I would be surprised if I couldn’t find others like me.

So when it is time to report stats, I try and ask myself two things:

  1. What are all the things we did? Who are all the people we served?
  2. Did we really do all those things? Did we really serve all those people?

Hopefully, by asking myself those questions, the statistics I keep are an accurate representation of the ministry that goes on at our corps and in our Kroc Center. I think we lean more towards the “I forget all the things that we do and our stats are a poor reflection of our ministry because we leave stuff out” rather than the “I inflate the ministry we do in order to look good,” but this year I want to redouble my effort to collect accurate stats. Not so we can feel good about ourselves, but so that brothers and sisters around the country can rejoice with us in the work that God is doing in Coeur d’Alene.

Statistics, or, You're Pregnant? I'll Count You Twice

This Is For Jamie B., or, I'm Running On A Double Pay For Lifeguards Platform

The Kroc Center is hiring a new business director. Our current business director is moving on to become an officer in The Salvation Army. (Congrats Elaine!)

The whole process is very formal and business-like, but I have been told that there are several candidates (all current employees in other positions) and that interviews with a crack team of interviewing professionals and directors will be held next week. That’s great. The office is all abuzz with who the candidates are and other miscellaneous gossip.

It got me thinking though, what if upper level positions at work were elected instead of appointed? What if the candidates for business director had to campaign, and the rest of the staff got to vote? A friend mentioned that this idea should be a blog post, so, the following list contains several possible circumstances that would occur:

  1. There are more employees in the Aquatics department than any other. They are a powerful voting block, yet most high level candidates are likely completely out of touch with the average lifeguard and their needs. I assume this is a perfect storm for pandering and hollow promises designed to get the votes of lifeguards.
  2. The marketing department is one of the smallest in the building, but the one who wins the favor of the marketing department automatically gets great signage. The marketing director also has veto power on anything that gets hung up throughout the building. I’m not sure she has power in the break room, but she could definitely prevent candidates that she didn’t support from having signage throughout the rest of the building.
  3. Our audio/video team, much like the marketing department controls much in the way of media. A candidate backed by both constituencies puts forward a powerful campaign.
  4. Politicians are all about kissing babies. That makes the Child Watch Department a good asset and worth pleasing.
  5. I work for the ministry department. We are about 20 strong, but we have easy access to 80 volunteers. For this reason, ministry is a heavy hitter. We are also arguably the most fun department. For an exercise that’s likely to degenerate into a High School popularity contest, fun is a huge benefit for your campaign.
  6. One positive effect of this would be the necessity to let the lower echelons into some of the more important policy decisions in our somewhat large organization. While it’s not reasonable to have everyone making important decisions, it would be necessary for candidates to explain business processes and policy decisions to their constituencies if they wanted to continue in their offices over time. I think this would be a good thing.

So, there it is. Likely outcomes from switching to a democratic hiring system. I’m guessing it’s too ahead of its time to be taken seriously. Oh well.

This Is For Jamie B., or, I'm Running On A Double Pay For Lifeguards Platform

Summer Membership Class, or, Doctrine Is More Fun Than Getting Rained On

I started a new session of the Kroc Church Membership class on Sunday. I typically set up the class to run for 6 weeks in 2-hour segments. Since it’s summer and no one wants to have 6 of their summer afternoons (or whatever passes for summer afternoons in North Idaho) taken up by doctrine and philosophy (except me of course) I am abbreviating the class to 3 weeks of 3-hour sessions.

Sunday’s class went rather well, if I do say so myself. We got through the Our People documentary and the first 4 doctrines. I had to go quickly through some of the finer points, and gave a bit of scripture to take as homework instead of looking it up and discussing it in class, but I think it went pretty smoothly.

It’s a small class this time, only 8, but I think it will be a good one. Lots of interest in what we are doing and a desire to be involved. Truthfully, I’m not interested in making members and soldiers that simply want to get a certificate or say that they are connected to our church. I want people who are excited about the mission of God and want to get their hands dirty with the work of the ministry. I don’t think this class will disappoint. There are several staff represented, a couple from my Community Group, and a few others that have been in the process of checking us out for awhile. It’s a good group.

It’s interesting, but I think there is something to be said for having membership classes more often during the year. The last class I taught was in the late winter, February/March. Since it’s July, any momentum and excitement for membership that we could have generated from the Spring enrollment is gone. We will enroll new members and soldiers from this class some time in August, and then the next class will be in September. I am planning on doing 2 classes this fall, almost back to back, to further capitalize on our congregation seeing the new recruits and the enrollment prompting others to sign up. It’s quite a bit of work teaching two sessions in a semester (back to the six week per session format as well) but I think there will be considerable fruit from it. Whether people become Salvationists or not, the knowledge of who we are and what we believe in invaluable if someone wants to be connected to our ministry. All I have to do now is raise up someone else to teach the classes so that I don’t have too all the time!

Summer Membership Class, or, Doctrine Is More Fun Than Getting Rained On

First Sermon, or, Remember Me? I'm Your New Pastor

I was reminded both by Territorial Commander Commissioner Jim Knaggs and by Major Ben Markham (at service yesterday) that yesterday was the day, that all around the territory (maybe the world?) Salvation Army officers preached at their new appointments. The Salvation Army is fairly unique in that its head pastors, “officers,” are itinerant. They move from church to church, appointment to appointment, throughout their careers, typically every 3-5 years.

In what I consider great news, Major Ben, who with his wife Joann have been our associate officers at Kroc Church for the last three years, announced that yesterday they officially began their new appointment as our Corps officers and executive directors at the Kroc Center. Ben told me that they even got an official letter that said they were supposed to depart their old appointment last week as associate corps officers in Coeur d’Alene and they had 4 days to report in at their new appointment as corps officers in Coeur d’Alene. It’s a long trip.

There is a lot that can be said about the pros and cons of moving pastors around. That’s for another post though. Today I am grateful that my senior leaders are a couple that have been with us since the beginning, understand our culture, the unique role that we play in this massive organization and are prepared to fight for the gospel, the people under their care and the city that they are called to ministry in for many more years to come.

First Sermon, or, Remember Me? I'm Your New Pastor

Soldier Up, or, Don't.

There are a lot of things I love about being part of The Salvation Army. There are also things that totally drive me crazy. That being said, I want to approach an issue with as much grace and an attempt at understanding a different opinion as possible.

The New Frontier magazine (available at a Kroc Center receptionist’s desk near you), Volume 30, Number 09, featured a front page story by Karen Gleason and Amy Jorgens entitled “Soldier Numbers Rise In The West.” It seems that soldiers (Salvation Army church members) are on the rise in the Western Territory of the United States.

First off, that’s great. I’m a soldier. I teach soldiership classes. The commitment to being a soldier is one of the things, in my opinion, that is great about The Salvation Army. What bothers me about this article is a quote by Reno, Nevada Corps officer Major Janene Zielinski. The article says:

Offering adherency as a viable and attainable church membership option is also helping to grow the corps. “People (young families) are responding by the boatload,” she said. “They are thrilled to be accepted, valued and not judged for where they are in their spiritual walk at the moment.”

To be fair, I don’t know Major Zielinski, and have no idea what the context of this quote was outside of where I read it in the article. However, all I have to go on is this quote and there are several things that rub me the wrong way.

It was an adherent member of our church that pointed this article out to me. Jeff is a member of our music team (he leads about 25% of the time these days), he’s a member of our Corps Council (sort of a TSA deacon’s board), he serves on the Social Services committee, his wife (also an adherent) is an employee of the Corps and oversees our children’s ministry and their whole family are models of faithful service to Jesus. Jeff was totally appalled by the above quote. The way he took it (and the way I read it) is that those that choose to become soldiers are somewhere ahead in their spiritual walk of those that choose to become adherents. It seems like Major Zielinski is trying to communicate that adherents are accepted while at the same time labeling them as spiritually inferior. It’s totally possible that I am taking the statement “not judged for where they are in their spiritual walk at the moment” the wrong way. I would like to know how I should take it if so.

I think there are two extremes when it comes to this issue. One is that soldiers are clearly superior and adherents (which I have on good authority is a word we shouldn’t be using anymore – they are members) are just dodging their responsibility as Salvationists. Soldiers do commit to a pretty strict way of living life. The Soldier’s Covenant (aka, The Articles of War) contains lines like:

I will be responsive to the Holy Spirit’s work and obedient to His leading in my life…

I will uphold Christian integrity in every area of my life, allowing nothing in thought, word or deed that is unworthy, unclean, untrue, profane, dishonest or immoral…

I will abstain from alcoholic drink…

…giving as large a proportion of my income as possible to support its ministries and the worldwide work of the Army…

Those are just a few of the commitments that soldiers make. The entire member’s covenant says that they:

Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and seek to follow Him

Participate through worship, fellowship and service at a local Salvation Army corps

Identify with the mission of The Salvation Army

So, if a soldier is the real deal and the member is being “valued and not judged for where they are in their spiritual walk at the moment,” why do we even have members in the first place? If the call to join our army is soldiership, why would we lower the bar just to get more people on our rolls? If soldiership is where it’s at, it totally seems to me that members are cop-outs and the army that created that “adherent member” was just trying to pad its statistics by making it easier to get signatures. Again, that’s a harsh accusation, and I am fully prepared to be corrected, but that’s just what it seems like to me.

The other extreme is that soldiers and members are the same. I think this is both true and false. The big question is,are we disciples of Jesus? That’s the club that the Bible forms: the church. Members, adherents, soldiers, officers, those are all things that we have made up since. I don’t have a problem with that, but we can’t forget the categories that God’s Word puts us in in favor of categories that we make up for ourselves. So it one sense, the sense that my good friend and TSA member Jeff is operating from, soldiers and members are the same: disciples of Jesus Christ who seek to live out the mission of His church with The Salvation Army.

However, soldiers are also different, and I hope that’s what Major Zielinski was getting at. Soldiers are called not only to identify with Jesus and His mission in specific ways, we are called to identify with The Salvation Army in specific ways. If I am taking my soldier’s covenant seriously, I am limiting my personal freedoms, sacrificially giving of my resources, and seeing myself as an ambassador of Christ through The Salvation Army. Can members do all those things? Yes they can, but they don’t have to commit to doing them, and they aren’t committing to do them while taking into account the values and needs of The Salvation Army.

In our church, there are certain things that only members can do, like lead a Community Group. Why? Because I want to know that they have taken a class (where they learn all about our church), that they really are Christians (as much as we can tell), and that they can represent both the Gospel of Jesus Christ and Kroc Church whenever they are asked. The members of our church love Jesus, are generous givers, volunteer their time in service and believe in what we are doing.

Soldiers are a little different. We always have fewer soldiers to enroll than members, but if you become a soldier, you are telling me that you aren’t just committed to the Gospel, but you are committed to the leadership of our church and our philosophy of ministry. You are a soldier in the army and you are willing to do what it takes to get the job done. If you are soldier, it might take me a while, but I’m gonna find you a job to do, and in a perfect world, I’m not going to have to make a lot of accommodation for you to do it.

So, where does that leave me and the quote from the New Frontier? Frustrated. Frustrated that we sometimes see officers as more committed to Jesus than soldiers. Frustrated that we see soldiers as more committed to Jesus than members. If you are part of Kroc Church, do I want you to become a soldier? Yes. If you prayerfully consider it and decide to become a member instead, do I look at you as less than me? No. The Salvation Army soldier is not given a higher calling than any other Christian, just a different one. And depending on your views on alcohol, it’s not even a radically different one.


Soldier Up, or, Don't.