Army tries to strengthen its ties with young adults
By: Brad Rowland
Prior to venturing out into the world on their own, young people often thrive in the structure afforded in school and corps programming, with carefully constructed character building opportunities to aid in that development. However, additional freedoms arise when students begin college and/or full-time work life and, even with the caveat that many return stronger, The Salvation Army is investing in programming across the Southern Territory with the mission to build intentional relationships through discipleship.
The Bridge program was created last year, transitioning from a previous initiative titled Mind The Gap to offer programming geared toward young adults and college students such as campus outreach, fun, youth-driven outings and general fellowship in a comfortable space.
The program conversion focuses on accountability for both sides, with the field obligated to report specifics on targeting strategies and the use of funds, while THQ provides focused oversight. Two divisions and several corps already operate under its umbrella, with an application process that ensures local operations are set up in the best way possible to reach individuals in the targeted age range.
“We want this program to build intentional relationships through small groups, educational opportunities, mentorship and ministry,” said Jovanie Smith, young adult and mission deployment coordinator. “We have a desire to empower our young adults and college students by coming alongside them, discovering who they are and embracing their relationship with Christ.”
The Bridge has been implemented in locations like Cleveland, Tennessee, and Atlanta (Temple), Georgia, with great success. The Cleveland Corps hosted Kevin Max of DC Talk through an opportunity opened by The Bridge, allowing the reach of the corps to grow substantially, particularly on the local college campus.
“The Bridge has helped us recruit and develop young adults far more rapidly than we had the resources to,” said Joel Rogers, Cleveland corps assistant. “We have been able to recruit and develop an incredible team of young adults, with seven assuming leadership positions in the corps, three interested in officership, and one of those three on track to attend the Evangeline Booth College beginning in Fall 2019.”
Atlanta Temple has experienced similar success, albeit in different forms. Caleb Louden, Salvation Army mission specialist in Atlanta, indicated that The Bridge has “enabled the corps to dramatically enhance its ministry to young adults” and that experience arrives in a variety of elements.
“With the opportunity provided by territorial headquarters, Temple has implemented an umbrella of ministries aimed at young adults,” Louden said. “From an annual formation retreat to our monthly small group to fun outings like our recent trip to Lake Lanier, each element of this umbrella of ministries functions together to produce a holistic vision for communal and personal growth.”
In the end, the program simply exists to target and welcome a particular group that may be unnoticed under varying circumstances.
“I think young adults and college students kind of get overlooked,” Smith said. “They get shuffled into this place where they are asked to come alongside and help in leadership, but we never intentionally invest in them or disciple them. Go to the university and build relationships and partnerships. Have things that are specifically for them.”