When Captains Rob and Heather Dolby were appointed corps officers in Anderson, South Carolina, they found a situation typical of Salvation Army units around the country: It once had a very strong traditional program, but over the years, the community around it – and the needs of its neighbors – had changed.
It was time to come up with a Battle Plan.
“It’s really essential to the Battle Plan to ask the question: Is what’s happening inside the building reflective of who is living outside the building?” Captain Rob said.
The Battle Plan idea was pioneered under Lt. Colonel Eddie Hobgood, territorial secretary for programming, when he was divisional commander in North and South Carolina; and presented last fall at a territorial leadership conference for divisional officers.
Soon, everyone in the Southern Territory will be familiar with it. On Oct. 1, all corps are to have Battle Plans completed and ready to launch. Templates can be downloaded from ussbattleplan.org or Ministry Toolkit.
“The Battle Plan is a system we developed to help all corps come up with a strategic plan, utilizing all stakeholders: officers, soldiers, employees and advisory board members,” Lt. Colonel Hobgood said. “It’s very simple, very concise. What I always say to people is, if you can’t read the whole thing in 10 minutes, it’s too long.”
A Battle Plan lists short-, mid- and long-term goals; and for each, a strategy to accomplish the goal. “It can be overwhelming, the dozens of things a corps has to deal with,” Lt. Colonel Hobgood said. Having a plan “is like the answer to the question, how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.”
Captains Dolby, now territorial mission specialists at Southern Territorial Headquarters in Atlanta, are charged with guiding local units to this new world. They debuted the plan at recent officers’ councils and created how-to-do-it online videos. They are now helping to walk each corps through the process.
“Beginning Oct. 1, every division and corps will not only complete their Mission Alignment Plan but engage and begin a Battle Plan,” Captain Rob said. Ultimately, he added, “it’s not just for corps, but for Boys & Girls Clubs, corps community centers, Kroc Centers and Adult Rehabilitation Centers.”
Captains Dolby speak from experience. To cite one goal achieved: The Anderson Corps operates the only shelter in its county for homeless residents. It desired to offer low-barrier access and access to families with children, with a promise no one would be turned away, if possible. How to achieve that?
“Access to a shelter begins with bed space,” Captain Rob said. “We made the commitment that we would increase bed space. That can be controversial. But we were big advocates of getting people off the street, which goes back to our ethos of ‘soup, soap and salvation.’ As our founder William Booth is credited with saying, ‘No one ever got saved with cold feet and an empty stomach.’”
By presenting a coherent vision, the Battle Plan convinced local donors – a combination of private and public givers – to provide the funds to build and operate a 50-bed expansion of the shelter.
“That was all enabled by our advisory board,” Captain Rob said. “We re-engaged existing members, and they recruited new members.”
“The Battle Plan is a living document, and we became accountable to it. And when we achieved our goals, that built trust. Today, the county and city have a significant level of trust with The Salvation Army.”