Positive changes one life at a time
Positive changes one life at a time
8 June 2017
Seeing countless lives positively changed is a Christian’s dream. Lauren Martin reports on a Salvation Army program that enables trained facilitators to journey with a participant through life change.
The day regional QLD Doorways coordinator Ben Brewer threw out a question to those at a the Caloundra Salvos Connect centre, asking if was anyone interested in doing The Salvation Army’s Positive Lifestyle Program (PLP) -- was the day Joanne says her life began to significantly turn around. In many ways, Joanne’s life up to that point was one of chaos and crisis. But, the mother of nine says, she didn’t realise the reasons; or what the problems were, until she put her hand up to begin working through the PLP.
She explains: “It was a slow start and Ben gave me time to work through the first few books as it was bringing stuff up. He never judged me – no matter what came out of my mouth.
For Joanne, the Positive Lifestyle Program was finally, after a lifetime of pain, the chance she needed to address the issues of grief and loss as well as self-awareness, self-esteem, relationships and more.
Originating in Canada The Salvation Army’s Positive Lifestyle Program has been in use in Australia since the 1990s. It was originally used by chaplains in courts and prisons, but as its reputation as a life-changing ministry tool grew, it became more widespread. Today, hundreds of Chaplains, Salvation Army officers, staff, volunteers and corps members - as well as people from other churches - are trained as PLP facilitators.
The program takes participants through an eight-week self-awareness-raising process, focussing on personal difficulties they may be unable to identify and address. “PLP gives people a range of prudent strategies … to assist in managing life’s challenges and events,” says long-time PLP facilitator and now AUE Territorial Positive Lifestyle Program Training Coordinator, Ken Harvey. “It enables people to learn how to change their mindset and to think and act positively in response to life’s challenges.”
And it’s a program that any Christian, with a heart for others, can deliver. To become a facilitator, the person must simply be recommended by their corps officer, pastor or Salvation Army manager. They then attend a PLP facilitator’s training course, during which they undertake the course themselves and learn the basics of facilitation - guiding participants through the course material in a non-judgmental, supportive way. Ken Harvey says being a facilitator is hugely rewarding.
“It’s about giving people hope,” he says. “Giving people the opportunity of discovering themselves, walking that journey with them is a great privilege.”
Joanne attributes the non-judgmental support of her PLP facilitator, Ben, as one of the reasons she got so much out of the it. “I got a complete life change out of that program. It’s a different environment in my home. I care more for others; I stand tall now – I always looked down. I take pride in the fact that I have come so far; because I hadn’t even realised it, but I had lost myself a long, long time ago!
“If you’re serious about changing you have to take the [PLP] book and questions and really evaluate your life and if you can’t give an answer, you have to keep searching yourself to find an answer -- which I did,” she explains. “I completed all the books; and in fact, Ben jokes that I’m the only one he’s seen who ‘ate the whole books, processed them and spat them out’. He told me he has never seen such a dramatic change in someone in such a short time.”
Joanne also came to know Christ during her Positive Lifestyle Program and maintains regular contact with The Salvation Army as a volunteer.
The Salvation Army has received requests from high schools, parole boards, prisons and even the Australian Army to deliver its Positive Lifestyle Program. “We’re increasing our training opportunities across Australia so that more people can become facilitators,” says Ken, who believes that there is no situation in which the Positive Lifestyle Program would not benefit people.
“I just took a probation and parole officer through the course and he said to me, ‘Ken, who shouldn’t use PLP?’ So you can use it across a lot of areas.”
One of the ’12 Essentials’ of The Salvation Army Australia One initiative is “We will Transform: Transformation happens through relationships - with Jesus and in community.” The Positive Lifestyle Program is a tool through which transformation is possible, one life at a time.