By: Laura Poff
The Lawrenceville, Georgia, Corps has created a new approach to character-building programs to attract people who are unfamiliar with The Salvation Army. Since launching in September, Thrive has drawn in more than 15 non-Salvationist families. The strategy is part of the corps’ long-term mission to reach outward, bringing the wider north Atlanta community into the corps.
“The whole idea is that our church wanted to be more community-oriented,” said Lieutenant Jeremy Mockabee, Lawrenceville corps officer. “We felt that we could do so by providing what The Salvation Army already has in character building programs, but in a different form.”
Under Thrive, children eat dinner together, participate in an active praise and worship, listen to a short devotional and are then separated into small groups by age, rather than gender. In these groups, they discuss the lesson and complete a variation on traditional character-building badge work.
“We didn’t want to continue to only reach kids who are already here,” Lieutenant Mockabee said. “If we say, ‘Come join Sunbeams,’ people won’t know what we are talking about. It’s a lot easier to say ‘Come join Thrive, we have small groups and praise and worship.’ It’s just easier to sell that than what the Army is traditionally used to.”
Thrive is also easier on adult leaders, who share the responsibility of preparing one devotional and work in teams of three to lead 20-minute small group meetings as opposed to 45-minute badge lessons. The small group format also prepares kids to grow into the adult ministry programs.
“This is getting kids used to the idea of small groups so when they get older, they can go into small groups and feel comfortable with how they are and how they work,” Lieutenant Mockabee said.
Thrive is just one part of a new corps-wide mission statement to move outward, inward, upward and forward that was developed during a soldiers meeting earlier this year. More than 160 corps members provided input.
“It’s easier for us to try new things, to be more bold, when there is an emphasis coming from the corps itself that they want to be more community-oriented,” Lieutenant Mockabee said. “It’s easy to say that we should do that, but there’s corps buy-in to get out of these four walls. That’s something we will continue to do.”