How to begin a church military ministry
Return to Church Military Ministry Resources - LINK
Here are suggestions for beginning a ministry to the military. There are so many variables to consider and this list is by no means exhaustive, but I hope it will help as you prayerfully consider how your church or organization can help:
For great ideas that other churches implemented for their military ministry, click here. Other things to consider:
- Church's proximity to a military installation a guard/reserve unit, etc.
- Size of church and resources (financial and people) available for military ministry
- Number of military personnel attending church or connected to church members (sons, daughters, etc.).
- Are there retired (or active) military in the congregation available to assist in ministry? These people are key...they speak "the language", they've walked in our shoes, they have some measure of understanding, and that is huge! These are the people you want in direct interaction with military families...leading the Bible studies, making the phone calls, etc. Don't worry, there's lots of other work to be done by others: cutting grass, watching kids, fixing computers, cooking meals, etc!
- Events and programs - Think of planning events for your military spouses to attend. When I was away from the military community for my husband's deployments, I wish there were other military wives to get together with at organized events. Incidentally I was the only one in my church, so I had to deal with feelings of isolation. (Now, thankfully, there are Christian military spouse websites, radio programs and good devotionals for military spouses.) With this deployment we are near a military installation and I have been blessed by an overabundance of military-related opportunities to choose from (Bible studies, FRG events, etc.)
- Adopt military families for the duration of the deployment - needs have to be met relationally...we need community, the hands and feet of Christ...not just a program or a one-time event that conveniently satisfies your desire to help and not our needs.
- Regular contact - Consider appointing someone to make regular, intentional contact and pray with the military spouse.
- Tell them about this website! Get Connected has a number of Christian military outreaches that will benefit them!
Military family members have shared what helps and what hurts regarding care during a deployment; it's valuable information that you must consider.
The needs depend on their life situation: If they have little kids, childcare would be a huge help. If they are single, being invited over for a meal might be nice to curb the loneliness. Other things to consider:
- parents, grandparents of military personnel
- girlfriends, fiances of military personnel
- military spouse with no children
- military family (how many children, ages of children, older children geographically removed from family to finish high school or attending higher education)
- health issues of military spouse or family member
- is the military service member deployed or geographically removed from family for a time?
For an exhaustive list of opportunities to minister to deployed military personnel and for inspiration from what other organizations are doing, click here. Here are other things to consider:
- not deployed but removed geographically from family for a time
- deployed and located in a well-established overseas base
- deployed and located in a remote location with no stores to replenish basic needs supplies and has limited communication to family
- military chaplains need our support and encouragement
- civilian contractors should not be neglected...their resources and support systems are very limited
Where do we begin?
- Pray: Pray for our military personnel, pray for their families. Pray for God's leading in how you can minister to our military "for such a time as this."
- Care: Just make a point that you care. Caring begins in "the little things" so don't get so caught up in big programs that you lose site in the importance of building relationships. We appreciate programs and events, but most of the time we just need a hug, a prayer, a phone call, a letter...something that reminds us that we are not abandoned and that you care. "How are you?" needs to be followed up by "no, really, how are you doing?" Be intentional, and be sure to follow through with your offers to help.
- Communicate: Ask how you can help...it's different for everyone. You're going to need to ask to know what their individual needs are.
What other churches are doing Here are a few churches that are doing some wonderful things to support our military. Also be sure to visit Military Missions Network for a list of military-friendly churches.
East Leesville Baptist Church
Ft. Polk, LA
What we are doing at East Leesville Baptist Church to help the Military?
"Whatever it takes to see them through" -- that's our motto!
Rhonda teaches a ladies' class on Sunday mornings that addresses the needs, emotional and spiritual issues these ladies are facing during a deployment. This is a time of encouragement and a healthy place to have their need for physical touch through our group hugs.
Also, on Wednesday mornings, we meet for coffee and yummy snacks, candles burning and relaxed atmosphere. (No, we do not drink out of Styrofoam cups, we have the real ones....) We have an intimate time of Bible study and sharing, childcare provided.
Beautiful yellow ribbons are embroidered with the deployed soldier's name. It is hung on the church flagpole by the family and stays there until their soldier returns home. This is a timeless keepsake for him and his family.
We assist the Family Readiness Groups in hosting their meetings with foot rubs, hand massages, lattes, and childcare.
We provide AWANAS, youth activities, children's activities, family studies, UPWARD basketball, Connect 3 on 3, MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers), church-wide Thanksgiving dinner, and military appreciation days.
Holiday parties and seasonal events, Ladies' retreats and conferences, Wednesday night dinners, CD's of our church services sent to the deployed soldiers, all of these are part of the military ministry.
On a more practical note, we jump car batteries, watch children while mom goes to the doctor, mow yards, stay overnight with them in the hospital, and most importantly, lead many of them to a first-time relationship with Jesus
First Baptist Church Richmond Hill
Richmond Hill, GA
“I have become all things to people, that I might save some.” 1 Corinthians 9:22. I am sure this verse sounds familiar to you, but I would venture a guess, you have heard the second half more frequently than the first. You may be asking yourself, what does become all things to all people mean? To be honest, until recently I did not understand this concept.
After being in numerous churches across the country, my husband and I know what most churches in military communities do. During the service, the pastor extends a sappy welcome to the visitors, military families stay glued to their pew while members greet them and ask questions such as, “Are you military?” With many times the reply being “Oh” and then they quickly leave not knowing what else to say. After the church service, the family makes their way through the crowd and never hears from anyone again other than the occasional, nonchalant, “How are you?” as they pass them in the hallway. As military families our hearts are hungry for spiritual food: a genuine welcome, acceptance into a loving family of believers, and meat from the Word of God with which we can grow strong enough to fight the battles unique to the unique needs to our lifestyle. What Paul meant by “I have become all things to people” means just that! Due to long deployments and transient lifestyle, military families need a church more than ever to understand what we are going through and give the support we need! It is time to go beyond reaching and recognizing families on Memorial Day and Fourth of July. Even though churches show patriotism, heroism and admire the bravery, the honor, the duty of our soldiers, their lack of understanding and empathy render them unarmed for helping its military families.
At First Baptist Church Richmond Hill, located near Fort Stewart and Hunter Army Airfield in Georgia, we are committed to being proactive in our military ministry by meeting the unique needs and changing lifestyle of our military families. We have committed ourselves to making a conscious effort to create an atmosphere for military families to feel welcome, a place to build relationships, and also a place they are given the resources needed to be the “Army Strong” they are called to be. We know from scripture, if we “become all things to all people” we will, in turn, “win some.” After all, that is the great commission! Other churches need to foster this attitude. Don't make the mistake we did for years, when we sat inside our church walls wondering why the military families did not attend. Join us as we begin to step out of the church walls and reach families in our community! Let’s get past “Hello” and help feed the hungry military families around us.
Some of the outreach programs we have started, and we hope will give ideas to other churches:
Spouses Night Out is a quarterly event, where parents (church members or not) can bring their children for a fun-filled evening created just for them while mom and dad can enjoy an evening alone. Many military families are far from family members and are desperate for a date night, or when their husband is deployed, an evening to spend at home relaxing or catching-up on sleep!
Military Wives’ Valentine’s Dinner was something we started this year. On Valentine’s Day, wives are alone to spend the evening without the physical reminder of how much they are loved. We held a dinner on Valentine’s Day where the church served them dinner, they heard a speaker, their children received free care, and there was a free mini concert. Our theme for the evening was a place to be “pampered, encouraged and honored.” We had a huge turn out (almost 200) and is an outreach we will definitely continue to foster.
Military Wives’ Bible Study is a new program we started this spring. We tackle the obstacles military wives face with a biblical perspective. We meet weekly and spend time studying God’s Word along with breaking into small groups to discuss issues related to being a military wife.
Military Prayer Board is a way for us to display our active duty military members who are serving as a reminder to pray for them and their family members here on the home front and in honor of their service to our country. On the board, we display of photos along with their address.
Adopt a Family program is something we are currently working on. Our goal is to connect each military family with a volunteer, non-military family for communication and encouragement.
Never Forgotten Flags is another new program we are implementing. We are going to have American flags in the sanctuary (in per soldier in our church who is deployed) as a public display of our commitment and reminder of their sacrifices.
Rivers of Living Waters Church of God
Ft. Bragg, NC
We are still trying to implement new ideas on a continual basis. At this time we have a monthly fellowship, usually at the church because we have a large gym with a kitchen counter (no stove) but we bring pot-luck, or we will make a theme dinner and everyone bring something representing that theme and sometimes we decorate to represent that them (eg. we did Italian, so I decorated the middle of the gym to look like a large fountain garden with lots of plants and trees, we used round tables with red checked table coverings, and large patio umbrella's supported by coffee cans with concrete poured in them with a metal pole coming out of the middle. The look turned out awesome and the members felt loved and cared for. It wasn't just plain white tables in a large gym. It showed we cared enough to make it special.
Sometimes we open up our home and have the fellowship at our home to give them a more home feel. We want them to know we are here for them not just as ministers in the church but as people and friends, to let them know they are welcome in our home anytime day or night.
I have an email list to which I use to remind everyone of the upcoming fellowship or outings we might have planned. In that email I try to make it personal and not just a generic reminder. I also remind them how special they are. I thank them for their sacrifice they make on a daily basis to which the civilian community knows nothing about.
We also try to stay in contact with the spouse when the military member is deployed. This past year we had one in particular that she and her son spent almost every day with us or at least the weekends and holidays. Her husband emailed us and couple of times and said how it set his mind at ease know his family was loved and being cared for. We had another who had a plumbing problem with her kitchen sink where she had emptied her entire refrigerator in her garbage disposal to include coffee grounds and needless to say it became a dam inside the pipes. I and a friend went to her house and for two days worked on this problem because the plumber wanted at least $200.00 to come out and that did not cover expenses. So, my hope is to put together a list of men in the church who are willing to do this type of work, be it painting, carpentry, yard maintenance, automotive and etc.
I have put together a tri-fold informational brochure telling of our ministry not just locally but worldwide that is available to anyone in the church, members or guests, It is mostly denominational-related (Church of God). It is designed to help keep the ministry in front of the people.
We also from time to time try to plan outings (ex. zoo trips, picnics at the park and etc) We just had a Kite Day where we all gathered a the church because we have a lot of property and flew kites and provided refreshments. It was actually sponsored by the Sunday School Department but because my wife and I were in charge of it mostly the ones who showed up were the military members and their kids.
Every Sunday (if he remembers) our pastor will ask if any one has returned from Iraq or Afganhistan recently. If so he will ask them to stand and the whole congregation will stand and applaud them.
Washington Heights Baptist Church
We have a small group just for military spouses (primarily wives) but may add one for the men. It is open to all military in our community and all ranks. We do not talk ranks and try to keep from talking too much about "our" branch of the service. What we have found to be successful is that no matter the branch or the rank, we all seem to go through the same feelings, frustrations, needs, etc. This has become our safe haven. We meet once a week and have childcare provided. When a new family moved to our area from Europe, she was so excited that she had a place to immediately connect. Not everyone participates, but for those that do, they find this a night to look forward to. We are using the "Hope for the Home Front" Bible study and we like it because it keeps us in the Word and everyone can relate at some point in time if not right at that time.
We also have military welcome packets available. This has information about the bases close by, discounts, maps, etc. We give a free copy of "Psalm 91" in each packet, along with a car magnet. Anything we can think of to help families get connected. I've also included website info. for military sites (to include Operation We Are Here).
We have had members of our congregation reach out to families at Christmas time by adopting a military family. They are usually anonymous and most have children who are reaching out to other children.
During deployments, we offer prayer support through prayer cards. Members or family members complete the info. and we keep it private, but do get the word out to help get the support for these families. It is not just prayer for the military member, but the entire family. It is so important to lift up the entire unit and provide strength for all of them.
I think the key is finding what works for your church. As you are aware, military families are unique and each one has their needs and likes. We try to keep that in mind and realize we are not going to please everyone, but try to offer services and info to help keep families connected.