SAN DIEGO, CA (January 8, 2010) – The author of a new book explaining how churches can minister to military families says the Evangelical Covenant Church he and his wife attended 30 years ago remains a model for congregations seeking to extend God’s love to that specific population.
In his book, Beyond the Yellow Ribbon: Ministering to Returning Combat Veterans, retired Navy Chaplain (Cmdr.) David Thompson recalls the ministry his family received from Clairemont Covenant Church.
“The ministry of that Covenant church made a life-long impact upon our lives while in uniform, which we will never forget,” says Thompson, who was endorsed through the Free Methodist Church of North America. “They got it right before anyone was talking about reaching out to military families.”
In the book, Thompson describes Clairemont as “sensitive, innovative, and inclusive.” Members of the military and their families were invited to be full participants in the life of the congregation and not just seen as people who were passing through.
Thompson says his wife, Judy, still tears up when she remembers how church members included the couple’s children in extracurricular activities, such as Little League sports teams, while he was deployed. He emphasizes that the church didn’t see their ministry as any “big deal.” Instead, he says, “they saw their actions as just part of ordinary Christian living in a community committed to seeking to love God with all their heart and their neighbors as themselves.”
Any church, regardless of its members’ political stances on various conflicts, can be welcoming to military families, as exemplified by the Clairemont congregation.
“It was not a super-patriotic or nationalistic church, but it honored the service and sacrifices of military families and fully appreciated some of the ethical tensions and practical challenges service personnel faced on issues of war and peace,” Thompson writes. “Those in uniform were not stereotyped as militaristic types, but rather seen as individuals who held a wide variety of opinions on the armed conflicts we faced. Military personnel and their families felt respected and felt safe to belong and become in that faith community.”
Thompson notes that churches don’t need to start a specialized ministry to military families, especially since only a small fraction of the populace has a member in the Armed Services. Only one half of one percent of the population is in uniform, and an even smaller number actually serve in combat zones, he says.
Still, the need for ministry to these families is great, he says, adding that the need is heightened due to the cumulative effects of multiple deployments.