Our fellowship has but one requisite to entitle one to membership. Members must have at some point in their life answered God’s call and served as an officer in the Salvation Army, and then, departed that unique vocation.
Resignation from pastorates run at about 50%, and they typically occur within 10 years of ordination. The SA attrition rate is no different from other denominations with the highest losses of active officers taking place in Australia, Canada, the UK, USA and Scandinavia. Our May 2012 articles highlight the key reason for officer’s leaving the ranks.
In the book, Pastors in Transition: Why Clergy Leave Local Church Ministry, Dean Hoge and Jacqueline Wenger Eerdmans explore the question, ‘Why do pastors leave the ministry?’ Several common issues emerge from the research mirroring those enunciated by former officers: preference for another form of ministry, the need to care for children or family, conflict in the congregation, conflict with denominational leaders, burnout or discouragement, sexual misconduct, and divorce or marital problems.
The authors conducted extensive interviews with clergy who have left parish ministry, voluntarily or involuntarily, and with denominational leaders from five church bodies -- the Assemblies of God, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Lutheran Church -- Missouri Synod, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and the United Methodist Church..
Hoge and Wenger learned, first of all, that polity matters. This finding is most clearly illustrated by the high degree of dissatisfaction expressed by United Methodist clergy in relation to their denomination’s deployment systems and the level of support they received from judicatory officials. Among the denominations included in the study, "the United Methodist Church stands out for the level of centralization, supervision, and commitment to its clergy."
The denomination sets up a standard of dependence between clergy and denominational leadership that is hard to live up to. The authors conclude that "the more a pastor’s career is determined by his or her denomination, the more conflict that pastor will potentially feel with denominational leaders."
In all five denominational groups, the top motivating factors for leaving were the same. Pastors reported: "I felt lonely and isolated. I did not feel supported by denominational officials..."
Former officers too speak of a sense of abandonment and indifference exhibited by DHQ officers: too much autocracy and too little gentleness. And when requests are made to mid-management (DHQ) to contact and include THQ for assistance or clarification on issues or policy such requests “are ignored. It’s as though my DC is afraid to let THQ in on what’s happening. Seems he fears that our leaving will be a black mark on his performance; his step up the ladder.”
In speaking with officers from various territories it was confirmed that pastoral visits by DHQ leadership are at best, ‘very infrequent’. In my experience, having served in 4 countries and 7 divisions/commands I can recall only two leaders who made such visits; 5 in total (Sweden and USA, Ohio) And here in the UK, my wife had her first pastoral visit yesterday by an officer after serving in her DHQ appointment for almost 20 months. And, the visit was made by an officer from another division.
|FSAOF USA EAST MEET WITH TERRITORIAL LEADERSHIP|
Leaving ministry is difficult, and ex-pastors/officers share; "there are at least parts of ministry" that they miss. "Their accounts were remarkably consistent: they most missed leading worship and being a meaningful part of people’s lives." … "several interviews were interrupted when pastors cried." “and the shared experiences at the USA East Camp Ladore meeting also brought many tear-filled moments … It’s often the recollection and the sense of loss that says something important about the good that is intrinsic to the work of officership/ministry and about how this work shapes a way of life that is not easily transferable to other non-SA vocational contexts .
In his book Hoge claimed that one of the most important findings of his research was that pastors/priests left the ministry because they "felt lonely and unappreciated." … The indication of loneliness and isolation becomes increasing acute as the separation from active service looms ever closer, And the angst experienced in the 90 days subsequent to separation from officership “is the worst I’ve ever felt in my life. We suffered physical discomfort, economic hardships, family turmoil and even spiritual depression… we weren’t prepared for any of that, and we blame the army!”
Sadly, our exclusive membership count recently grew to more than 600, adding 40 new members world-wide members in a 30 day period, a record for a one month period. In an attempt to analyze this unusual activity one questions immediately comes to mind: Why are so many former officers turning to the FSAOF for Christian fellowship and spiritual, support? Here’s a response from Australia East: “Headquarter officers are taught to do administration on our departure but not how to minister at a time we need it most.“
The above comments are representative of more than 1.200 on file with the FSAOF. More than 50% of former officers, thousands of former officers around the world, speak of the lack of care and concern exhibited by TSA once the officership is terminated, regardless of the circumstances. And a great many wonder if indeed THQ is fully aware of the circumstances leading up to the resignation and the autocratic process on the part of DHQ.
SA officers in middle management positions (DHQ) often assume their appointments without the requisite management skills, and in particular; interpersonal, conceptual, diagnostic, political and counseling skills. Interpersonal skill involves human relations, or the DC’s ability to interact effectively with those under his command. And here communication is a critical. Leaders with poor interpersonal skill are unlikely to succeed in communicating effectively with those struggling with issues moving them toward resigning and abandoning their ‘call’.
In our recent meeting with territorial leaders in the USA East there was too much shared in the hours we spent together to list here. However, the words that spoke the most to me were; ‘There is repentance that we need to do as an army’; the army broke its covenant with you’. This was the much-needed step one!
The statement was somewhat expected, yet when it was said, years of pain, angst and bitterness appeared to dissipate among the twenty or so ‘formers’ gathered there. But sadly the words couldn’t be boomed to the thousands of formers who’d been denied the opportunity to present their case or given time for recusal or a cooling off period. They were however, shared with the global FSAOF members.
Paul says that it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.
1 Corinthians 4:1-21 (The Message)
Paul speaks on behalf of Commissioners and tells DCs what their role is…
1 Don't imagine us (The Commissioner/ Chief Secretary) leaders to be something we aren't. We are servants of Christ, not his masters. We are guides into God's most sublime secrets, not security guards posted to protect them. 2 The requirements for a good guide are reliability and accurate knowledge. 3 It matters very little to me what you think of me, even less where I rank in popular opinion. I don't even rank myself. Comparisons in these matters are pointless. 4 I'm not aware of anything that would disqualify me from being a good guide for you, but that doesn't mean much. The Master makes that judgment. 5 So don't get ahead of the Master and jump to conclusions with your judgments before all the evidence is in. When he comes, he will bring out in the open and place in evidence all kinds of things we never even dreamed of - inner motives and purposes and prayers. Only then will any one of us get to hear the "Well done!" of God. …14 I'm not writing all this as a neighborhood scold just to make you feel rotten. I'm writing as a father to you, my children. I love you and want you to grow up well, not spoiled.
15 There are a lot of people around, (‘DCs and their servants’), who can't wait to tell you what you've done wrong, but there aren't many fathers willing to take the time and effort to help you grow up. (Pastoral visits and counseling. It was as Jesus helped me proclaim God's Message to you that I became your father. 16 I'm not, you know, asking you to do anything I'm not already doing myself.
17 This is why I sent Timothy (a Divisional leader) to you earlier. He is also my dear son, and true to the Master. He will refresh your memory on the instructions I regularly give all the churches on the way of Christ. 18 I know there are some among you who are so full of themselves they never listen to anyone, let alone me. They don't think I'll ever show up in person. 19 But I'll be there sooner than you think, God willing, and then we'll see if they're full of anything but hot air. 20 God's Way is not a matter of mere talk; it's an empowered life. 21 So how should I prepare to come to you? As a severe disciplinarian who makes you toe the mark? Or as a good friend and counselor who wants to share heart-to-heart with you.
Dr. Sven Ljungholm
Dr. Sven Ljungholm
USA, Sweden, Russia, Ukraine, Moldova