I love that the church where I am pastor (FBC O’Fallon, IL) is near Scott Air Force base. We have hundreds of military folks in our church and it is a great blessing. It will be 19 years this summer since I came and I’ve learned some things about the military folks. (I am a slow learner.) Here are some things I’ve learned about ministry with the military community.
1. Military types move. A lot. To lots of places. It isn’t unusual for me to meet a new family moving in from Guam while saying goodbye to another moving to Germany. Some move in saying “I’m only here for three years so I’m jumping into the church with both feet.” They look immediately for opportunities to serve and connect. I love that! Others say, “I’m only here for three years so I’m not going to get involved.” The smart aleck in me responds with, “How long will you be here if you do get involved?”
Military families learn how to deal with new circumstances and environments. The children of military parents learn to make friends and adjust to new things. Their moves make them interesting to us civilians. They have seen places we haven’t and enjoyed experiences foreign to us. We are impressed with the variety of their experiences.
They are so interesting. But, they leave us. And, if we aren’t careful, we guard our hearts against the pain of their departures. I remind our church often that we must be willing to love each other- military and civilian- even though our hearts are broken when we part. Love is worth the pain.
2. Military types deploy.
They get sent to Iraq or some troubled spot in the world. Some are short term trips of a few days or weeks. Sometimes they deploy for months or a year or more. They often leave family behind
I was at Chick-Fil-A. I have a slight addiction to their sandwiches and, besides, the grandkids wanted to play in the playground. A youngster from our church was there with his mom. His dad is deployed in a difficult part of the world. He talked and talked to me.
Sometimes a boy needs a guy to talk with about super heroes and skinned knees. Sometimes a spouse of a deployed military type needs some help or understanding. Deployments can be hard on families.
We civilians need to understand the strains that come with these trips and deployments. A little understanding and a willingness to help can be a great support. A healthy small group ministry in the church can really make a difference here.
3. Military types are busy. The military of today is asked to do more with less. They tend to work long hours. When a crisis comes to the world (911 comes to mind) their jobs get even busier. They don’t get overtime pay; they just have to get the job done.
Stress is common to their world. You don’t hear them complain a lot, but they get up early and get after it. I want to be well prepared for my sermons or any meetings I lead. I don’t like wasting their time.
4. Military types are awesome. They are dedicated, patriotic, dependable…the list of good things is long. They defend our country, do our hardest jobs and never ask for our thanks. But we should thank them often.
They are also awesome at church. There are many committed Christians in uniform and I am so thankful for their love of God and country. They make my church so much greater and my life so much richer. I love the opportunity to serve the Lord with these warriors and I appreciate them all the more the longer I am around them.
Don’t take your freedom for granted. Freedom isn’t free. There are folks willingly sacrificing for your freedom and security.
Maybe this would be a good time to thank a veteran or a service man or woman. Maybe there is a military type in your church.
I enjoyed reading this, Pastor Doug. I’ve never been in a church with a high concentration of service members, so it was intriguing to think about what that dynamic creates in terms of opportunities for ministry. God bless you, your church, and those families.
While the turnover can be challenging at times, I love the benefit and blessing of serving with so many military folks!