Friday, March 22, 2019

A Strategic Plan for Improving Community Relations for a Salvation Army Corps

This is a personal blog. The views on this blog do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of the Salvation Army, it's employees, or partners. The views on this blog are solely of those making them, based on the teachings of the Bible, in the Spirit.

Good community relations means being a blessing, a provider, and a truth-speaker to the community, to the people of the community, and the businesses and non-profits of the community. This article will outline a simple strategic plan to improve community relations for The Salvation Army. Of course every community will be quite different and unique, but most communities share certain core facets. In this plan we’ll look at community relations from a more generic perspective, in approaching community relations from a biblical Christian perspective, with an emphasis on the duel nature of Salvation Army ministry as proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ and meeting human needs in His name without discrimination.

First of all, to develop good community relations we would develop an evangelism ministry team, and go door to door in the neighborhoods surrounding the corps community center, to get to know the people nearby, help these neighborhoods to access services from our facility, and invite them to our church services. As part of the opening strategy we would go mailbox to mailbox in the neighborhood surrounding the corps and place pamphlets in each of the mailboxes. We would use corps vehicles to do this. We would take several weeks at the corps evangelism team meeting to train participants in door to door evangelism ministry. Hopefully we would have good attendance from corps members and soldiers. We would also spend several months in prayer prior to this effort, to ensure the Holy Spirit’s power is with us. Then approximately two to three weeks later we would divide the neighborhood up into different groupings, and gather 8-10 corps members and soldiers, and break them up into teams of two, and they would go door to door, sharing information about the corps social programs and invitations to partake in corps youth activities, Bible study, and church services. Each team would have a map of their targeted houses, pamphlets with them, as well as Bible tracts, and if we had the available baked goods in the corps, we’d bring a tray of sweet rolls or cake to each house we visit, assuming someone is home to receive it. Overall, after visiting fifty to one hundred homes in the surrounding neighborhood, the corps visibility in the local community would be well improved. The goal would be to gain five to ten new families attending the corps services and Bible studies, as well as to gain five to ten new children at youth activities. An increase in local families accessing social services at the facility may be hard to gauge, but the goal would be to gain ten to twenty new individuals/families who are aware of and access services offered by the corps. The end result would be more people who are aware of the corps social services, more awareness that we’re a church, and overall the Salvation Army’s community presence would be increased.

Secondly, to facilitate good community relations and better exposure in the community, we would connect with various local non-profits, churches, and government agencies. We’ll assume for the generic scenario that the corps in question is not well connected with local institutions, though many corps are. First of all, the goal would be to network with local non-profits to ensure we are not duplicating services, and to gain knowledge about services already offered, so that referrals can be made to agencies that are already meeting needs in the community. If there was a local monthly or quarterly meeting of non-profits in the area, it might be advisable to join that effort. Additionally, attending local United Way meetings could be a good way to connect with local agencies. Another way to connect with local non-profits would be to take part in chamber of commerce meetings in the area. To facilitate better networking with local churches, we would first make a list of the local churches, and our staff would spend time visiting their websites, and contacting them via email and phone to learn about the services they offer. We would also request, with 3-5 of the largest and most influential churches in area, if they would allow one of our officers to give a brief 5 to 10 minute presentation at their services on a Sunday, so their members can learn more about what The Salvation Army does in the community. We would seek to be very clear in our communications with the local churches that we don’t want to try and steal away their members, but we would like to share what we offer, what we do, and how we can come along side and partner with local churches to be a blessing to the local area. In regard to networking with local government agencies, we would look to see how we can connect with the schools, and find out if they would be willing to do can drives for our food pantry, or other activities to teach children to support charity. We would also connect with the local police department to see if we can offer their officers any sort of counseling or support. We would do the same with the fire department. Also, we would look to connect with the local jail, and request to do weekly visits with those in the cell blocks who would like pastoral support. If mental health or drug treatment facilities exist in the area, we’d also look to connect with them, and offer services to the patients at those facilities, as well as any local hospitals and nursing homes.

Thirdly, to gain better exposure in the community we would develop our social media accounts, mainly through Facebook, and Twitter. We would primarily focus on Facebook, because that’s where most of the people in the TSA’s demographic range access social media networking. We would build up the corps Facebook by assigning a staff member to post updates on it three to five times a day. The corps officers would also have administrative access to the Facebook account to post anything they feel would be valuable to reach out to the community. We would post fliers on the wall in the waiting room and in the chapel area, as well as in the gym if we have a gym, to please “like” us on Facebook and “follow” us on Twitter. We would also use limited paid advertising via Facebook so that postings go out to a wider audience in the local community. We would set the goal of garnering at least 2,000 likes on Facebook, and 2,000 followers on Twitter. This would be very helpful to community engagement because social media is increasingly used to stay connected with events in the local community. We would share scripture verses on our Facebook and Twitter accounts as well as pictures of volunteers (who have signed a waiver in regard to a right to publish pictures), pictures of gifts received from local individuals or corporations, as well as invites to our church services and information about upcoming events. The applications for garnering increased exposure in the community are many in regard to social media, and we would look for new ways to innovate and connect with more people in the community via the web as time passed.

Fourthly, and finally, we would spend time developing the advisory board and establish connections with various industries and sub-sectors of the communities’ chamber of commerce, as well as local leaders in education and politics. We will assume for our generic corps in question that the advisory board is not well established. We would begin a campaign as soon as possible to establish connections with local leaders in the community, and meet with them one on one to seek their interest in becoming board members. We would coordinate these efforts with DHQ staff, and look to them for help and guidance in how to connect with those individuals and how to garner their interest. We would seek to target a wide variety of different leaders in different industries. Supposing the chief employer of the community was a local factory, we’d look for leaders in that factory to join the advisory board. We’d look to influential churches in the area as well for leaders that may desire to join us in ministry. We would seek to connect with leaders in the non-profit community, local schools and education, chamber of commerce members, government agencies, and generally seek people who have an interest in serving the local community. We would also look for people with a strong spiritual fervor to reach people for the gospel of Jesus Christ. We seek to make sure we’re participating actively in local service organizations such as rotary club, and Kiwanis, as well as Lion’s Club to make sure we’re meeting local leaders where they are and networking with them in that way. Overall, we’d hopefully spend three to six months actively recruiting new advisory board members, meeting with them one on one, networking with local organizations, and then meeting at the corps to discuss how they will fit into the advisory board and how they can help. The goal would be to gain five new advisory board members. A higher goal might be possible, but we want to guard against casting too wide of a net. Potential advisory board members must be established through intentional relationship, and targeting too many too quickly would weaken that vital aspect of advisory board building. If all goes well, the five new advisory board members would become an integral part of the corps’ connection with the community. This will help establish more long-term connections in the community, that will stand the test of time, and also help garner greater monetary donations.

In conclusion, increasing a corps’ presence in the community is no easy task. It should be approached from multiple angles to connect with the various divergent aspects of a society, from education to church to non-profits and the business sector. We would need to guard against becoming spread too thin however, and each of these elements should be done separately over a 12 month to three-year time span, to ensure each element is built up successively, and not short-changed or under-utilized. It is not realistic to assume all of these attempts would be completely successful in the wide range of communities across the United States. However, if even one or two of these approaches garner reasonable successes, the corps’ community relations ought to see drastic improvements, given time and prayer.



References
Center, L. (2019, March 05). 50 Ways to Take Church to the Community. Retrieved March 6, 2019, from https://www.churchleadership.com/50-ways/50-ways-to-take-church-to-the-community/
Council, F. N. (2017, October 17). Nine Ways Nonprofits Can Increase Community Engagement. Retrieved March 6, 2019, from https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbesnonprofitcouncil/2017/10/17/nine-ways-nonprofits-can-increase-community-engagement/#1a816b57799d
Lamb, J., Lamb, J. L., & Grace Fellowship Church. (2017, November 02). Evangelism – Where Do I Begin? Retrieved March 5, 2019, from https://www.dare2share.org/article/evangelism-where-do-i-begin/
Winning, L. (2017, November 16). Make The Ask: How To Build An Advisory Board. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/lisawinning/2017/11/08/make-the-ask-how-to-build-an-advisory-board/#688c390a357b

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