Making A Place For Young People to Grow

A key component of youth development is a focus on establishing nurturing environments where young people can discover their identity in Christ. Far from simple coddling, making a place for young people to grow means promoting safe, healthy, caring environments within corps and communities. Read more on the research behind the youth development concept here. Guest contributor Matt Aho shares a reflection on what it means for us within The Salvation Army.

Making A Place For Young People to Grow

13853What wonderful words. Those first three words, ‘making a place’, have resonated in my mind over the past couple of years. I have sought to understand them and what they mean for those of us in ministry. I think they first caught my attention because of their direction to action, the type of action that can be taken by anyone. A bird makes a place for its coming offspring. A child makes a place for their most precious stuffed animal. Jesus is making a place right now for us in heaven (John 14:2-3).

But what type of place should we who participate in Christ’s ministry make?

I admit I don’t fully understand the answer. I don’t think it was ever meant to be fully understood. The open-endedness of the question makes room for faith, innovation and the change that happens over the passing of time. And that question continues to wonderfully resonate with and challenge believers over the years. How do we make a place? Why? What type of place is it? Who is it for?

Making A Place Within The Salvation Army

6850I think The Salvation Army started with one man making a place for others. As William Booth gathered women and men to his mission, plans for a wonderful place were made. Almost like building a house. They had great ideas of beautiful walls, a solid foundation, a roof that covered any who drew near, and an open door amongst other things. But as they started building they realized it takes a lot more to build a beautiful house than just wonderful ideas. It takes workers, tools, resources, experts, feedback, communication, and more.

I have chosen to live in this place, this house that was started many years ago. As I look around I see a lot of walls halfway built; crooked frames, leaks in the roof, and broken window panes. I also see lots of good doors, and a firmly placed foundation. I want The Salvation Army to be beautiful for God, but it seems we’ve stopped thinking about that wonderful question, “How do we make this place what God intended?” Not just for the young people, but for the old ones too, and everyone in between. Since we’ve stopped wrestling with that question, it feels like we’ve stopped building something that will last.

A Place For Me?

15204I never hear the question, “How can we make a place for you, Matt?” All I hear is, “How can you serve The Salvation Army?” I don’t have a problem with the second question; I think it is a delightful question when placed in context of the larger work of Christ, but I just want it to be asked after the first question. I want to have a place for me within The Salvation Army. I want to feel like I belong, like who I am becoming is important to others even if I fail. I want to feel like my choices can make a difference to the organization, and that my gifts are valued.

If I don’t have a place, why should I stay? I feel I have found my place–my home away from my true, heavenly home–but it’s still not fully built. So the question still needs to be asked, “How do we continue to make this the place God intends it to be?”


  • Who is The Salvation Army for?
  • Is it really important to stop and consider what we’re building?
  • How do we make The Salvation Army a place for all people?
  • Do you feel you have a place in your corner of The Salvation Army? Why or why not?
  • What makes you invest in The Salvation Army as your home?


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