August 16th, 2011 at 3:13 pm
During my first deployment to Iraq in 2003, I had great support from my church family in Belton. I knew my wife was being looked after by godly friends and a great community of believers. As much as First Baptist Church Belton (FBCB) did for us during those months of separation and the unknown, I knew so much more could be done.
When I tried to think about what that would look like, I couldn’t help but think about how the church ministered to other people groups within the congregation. There are a lot of young families that attend FBCB, so naturally the church provides incredible pre-school, youth and high school ministries to meet those needs. With a university located right next door, a robust and exciting college ministry is to be expected.
However, I found it odd that even though the largest military base in the world (Fort Hood) is right down the road, there was no specific military ministry. As I discussed this with my pastor after returning from that deployment, I found out I wasn’t the only one thinking about this.
While in Iraq struggling with my own thoughts, FBCB had gone through an intense strategic planning session which resulted in a five-year plan to start a ministry for military families. A year later, I had completed my time in the Army, was enrolled in classes at Truett Theological Seminary and had started working on staff at FBCB as their new minister to military families.
As with any new ministry, there was a lot of trial and error that happened over the first few years. The biggest successes were stumbled upon by seeing what the church was already really good at and putting a military spin on it.
For example, our Kingdom Kids ministry had just started providing childcare for Date Night every other month to help our busy, young families take time to strengthen their marriages. When asked if they would do the same for our military families and spouses of deployed soldiers, they were thrilled to help, and military family night out was born.
Due to the never-ending deployment cycle at Fort Hood, this program truly served a need and was something our military families looked forward to every month. We also had an energetic group of military veterans who were ready and willing to serve the current generation of military families. They became the hands and feet of the military ministry and would become a critical part of programs such as the Military Veterans Fellowship.
Early on, I met a man named Gary Sanders from Norfolk, Virginia. Gary had started a military ministry at First Baptist Church Norfolk and had just founded a new organization called Military Missions Network. Through Gary and his network, I was able to meet, talk to and bounce ideas off of others who had a passion for military ministry from different perspectives like the military chaplaincy, para-church organizations and the local church. For anybody looking to start up a ministry for the military in their community, I highly recommend looking at the Military Missions Network website.
Most of our communities are linked to the military in one way or another. From Active Duty posts to National Guard units, Veteran organizations to ROTC programs and Blue Star Parents to Gold Star Families, your local church can make an impact in the unique military community you serve. Each community is unique and will require specific ministries tailored to the specific mission, personnel, unit types and needs.
For example, military ministry around the Fort Hood community will look different from a military ministry around the Fort Sam Houston community in San Antonio. The first step is identifying your military community and attempting to understand their needs. After that, it is just simple ministry – show them the love of Jesus Christ and welcome this special people group into your church family.
Written by Chaplain Will Alley, an Army battalion chaplain stationed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington. After being called to the ministry during a deployment to Iraq in 2003, Will had the opportunity to attend Truett Theological Seminary while working on staff at First Baptist Church in Belton as the minister to military families. He is married to his high school sweetheart, Jessica, and they have two children with one on the way.