Army Chaplains launch new ministry outreach
By Chaplains Sean Callahan and Daniel Werho, US Army, Fort Bragg, NC
Our greatest blessing this quarter has been the new Verge service launched here at Fort Bragg. This ministry was a product of much labor, prayer, guidance by the Holy Spirit, and the leadership of fellow CBAmerica Chaplain Daniel Werho. In a nutshell, Verge is a new Wednesday evening gathering focused on reaching Soldiers in the barracks population, building community, investing in their spiritual growth, and empowering them to take the lead in the ministry.
The journey began last spring, when Daniel launched a working group with the intent of studying the Emerging Generation – the young generation emerging after the Millennials. A small team of Chaplains and retirees met regularly to conduct book studies, Scripture studies, and present on survey findings in order to discern the best way of reaching the young Soldier population on Fort Bragg. For every answer we thought we had, more questions emerged, and so the weekly meetings became a fluid process where the shape of the ministry changed and adapted. With the help of some key mentoring Chaplains, the team began to settle on the vision, mission, and values of a Christian worship service for Soldiers, by Soldiers.
Central to the ministry effort are focus groups, which are essentially existing small group bible studies that commit to a 3-month process of studying a book on a relevant topic, studying the Scriptural answers to the questions that emerged, and then empowering young Soldiers to share their stories of learning and transformation during the service itself. The idea was that these groups would enable us to get bottom-up feedback as to what struggles young Soldiers are facing, and then we could shape our teaching to shed light on the biblical truths that answer their struggles. It also provides a unique venue for retirees and other “mentors” to build community with and disciple these young participants.
Daniel’s leadership has been essential to moving the initiative forward. It’s something new and different in the Army chapel life, and as with anything new, will meet with skepticism and unforeseen hurdles. However, support from Chaplain leadership across Fort Bragg has been superb, and we have received many helping hands along the way. Our launch night exceeded our expectations, and since the launch, Soldiers have truly taken ownership of the service. But probably the most rewarding part of this launch month has been the intentional interaction with these young Soldiers. Our goal is to listen to their stories and share the story of God’s transformational love in our own lives.
In the end, our ministry will be missional. We hope to mobilize and equip young Soldiers to reach their peers. We want to have a presence in the barracks. We want to solidify a sense of community in a disconnected world. We want to come alongside of people in their brokenness, and help them see how Christ can lead to wholeness. This has been an incredible joy for the team and our families, because every single interaction on Wednesday night is with our target group. There is a single-mindedness in our effort, and every week we are looking closely to see where God is at work and who we can invest in.
As I shared last night during our “response night” that culminated our four-week series on Verge’s values, the ultimate point of ministry is to glorify God. It’s so easy to get caught up in worries over numbers, interest, or even how our performance (or lack thereof) looks to others. But, as Paul said in 1 Corinthians 1:27-29, “God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.”
Every time we have been overwhelmed by the enormity of the task, or worried how it would turn out, God has reminded us (and especially me) that he can take the least of what we think we have to offer and turn it into something that far surpasses our expectations. He does it this way so that when we look back on the process, we will see his fingerprints everywhere and give him glory for it…because it certainly wasn’t us.
Join me in thanking God for the Spirit-led initiative of Chaplain Daniel Werho and collaboration by Chaplain Sean Callahan and others to pursue the vision for this new ministry outreach to the barracks Soldiers of Fort Bragg, and potentially other US military installations. Pray that word would spread, and that God would put interest in young Soldiers to come check out this new ministry experience.
For more stories by and about CBAmerica chaplains, military and civilian, visit http://cbamerica.org/category/chaplaincy/. To learn more about endorsement, email Andy Meverden, Director of Chaplaincy at firstname.lastname@example.org.