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Are we connecting people?

Are we connecting people?

Are we connecting people?

13 October 2021

The June-July Connecting People Questionnaire found 39 per cent of people started to attend their Salvos faith community because a friend or family member invited them.

By Rod Yule

How do people come to be at a Salvation Army corps or faith community? Are we connecting people to faith communities? Are our people growing and engaging in mission?

The June-July Connecting People Questionnaire was completed by more than 3300 Salvos and provides a snapshot of The Salvation Army in 2021.

One of the key findings is that 39 per cent came to be at their Salvos faith community because they were invited by a friend or family member, while another 15 per cent were invited by a chaplain or Salvos staff member.

Meaningful relationships with people remain God’s main way of bringing people to faith communities so they might learn more of his love and plan for a flourishing life. These findings are an encouragement to build relationships of hospitality and generosity with those around us. As COVID-19 restrictions lift, opportunities to share meals and invite people into our homes will open up again, as will other previously taken-for-granted opportunities to meet with work colleagues and neighbours.

The findings also highlight the opportunities we need in order to build meaningful relationships with community members coming to the Salvos for assistance. This includes people needing financial support (via Doorways and Moneycare) and seeking support through our homelessness, family violence, addiction and youth services.

In 2021, seven per cent indicated they had come to Doorways or Moneycare services before coming to the faith community. Another seven per cent indicated they had come to a social mission service (addiction, youth, family violence, homelessness).

Professor Cameron Parsell, of the University of Queensland, suggests that community members caught in the cycle of poverty and homelessness want someone in their life who is not paid to be there. His research has highlighted that this is the essential human factor in transforming lives – and this is where our missional corps and faith communities can make all the difference. Social workers, caseworkers and staff are valuable, but people need someone in their life who can be their friend.

Commissioner Robert Donaldson said our corps people could engage and share the love of Christ through building relationships with those engaged in our other mission expressions.

“The increased integration and collaboration of our mission expressions through Area Leadership Teams is key to making this a reality,” he said. “There is not another Christian denomination that has such access to the wider Australian community to show love and care for people experiencing addiction, homelessness, domestic and family violence or financial stress.”

The Salvation Army is uniquely positioned to provide that person who is not paid to be there. In William Booth’s own words, “One of the secrets of the success of The Salvation Army is that the friendless of the world find friends in it.” Jesus said to his disciples, “I no longer call you servants because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends” (John 15:15).

The Salvation Army is committed to increasing the number of disciples actively engaged in mission. The Connecting People data provides an invaluable baseline measure that we hope to build on in the future.

Sixty-three per cent of our people in faith communities are engaged in activities that reach out to the wider community and are ready to share their faith with others. The questionnaire indicated that in the past 12 months, 28 per cent of these have built relationships with others at a corps/church-based ministry, 21 per cent have built relationships with people attending Doorways or Moneycare, and 15 per cent have built relationships with people at a social mission centre.

Robert said that the Connecting People information is a strong base for building our mission in the coming years.

“We encourage you to pray about how God would have you build relationships with people to show the love of Christ,” he said. “As our people are growing in their walk with God and building healthy relationships of love and care for others, we hope that we will see more and more people come to know the saving love of Jesus.”

Rod Yule is Australia Territory General Manager, Local Mission Delivery and Resources

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