Why the Salvation Army is So Cool.

I brought my MBA class to the Kroc Center here in Omaha this last week. The Krocs started McDonald’s (hamburgers) and made a fortune, and Mrs. Kroc helped build a Kroc center in San Diego which is focused on helping kids who don’t normally have the same opportunities as other kids. Its a giant family fitness, cultural and education center– kind of like a YMCA on steroids– except that it is run by the Salvation Army. The one in San Diego was so successful that she decided to offer to build them across the country, and so Salvation army offices across the country put in applications for getting one built in their community. Omaha was one of the first to get accepted, and also one of the first to get one built.

The Kroc center in Omaha has four components: physical (pool, gyms, workout facilities, etc) educational (classrooms, computer rooms, programs) and cultural (fine arts auditorium, chapel, banquet hall, the largest kitchen in south Omaha) and spiritual (the salvation army and other groups have church, bible studies and prayer meetings here each week).

The Salvation Army is pretty interesting. It is an organization which has a number of components, like education, helping alcoholics, etc, and one of those components is their church. The church isn’t over all of it, the church is one aspect of it. But Salvation Army officers, who basically run everything, are each ordained ministers (men and women) and officers can only be married to officers (so you and your wife will both be ordained ministers).

What was especially interesting to me is their pay. The officer we spoke with said that when he and his wife moved here, they left their house and car and furniture in Minneapolis for the officers taking their place, and got a car, house etc here in Nebraska– the Salvation army provides that. But he and his wife make 40,000 per year, directing this Kroc center. But the highest paid director within the salvation army worldwide also gets paid that same amount (with his wife). So the salvation army takes care of you, but you aren’t going to get rich. Its definitely a calling.

Salvation Army is, as he told us, very clearly about salvation through Jesus Christ. That is fundamental to who they are and they are very straightforward about that. One student asked if they receive funds from the United Way, and he said that they do participate with the United Way, but that technically the United Way doesn’t just give organizations money, they ‘buy’ programs. So if you want them to help you, they will sponsor a particular program, like your aquatic program, but in doing so it is essentially theirs, and so, for example, you couldn’t have pictures of Jesus or any evangelizing being done in connection with that particular program– there are strings attached. But he of course said wonderful things about the United Way– he just made it clear that they don’t have to rely on the United Way, but it is beneficial for them to be connected to the United Way in large part because then the United Way can say they help the Salvation Army, which helps them raise money which in large part they give to smaller nonprofits. So the Salvation Army plays ball so to speak by lending their name to the effort so that smaller nonprofits can benefit.

The Kroc Center is pretty amazing. IT was packed with kids and families, and was really a wonderful facility. Its available for weddings and parties and meetings and they have a great catering service. Their head chef is an instructor at Metro Cullinary Arts school– which is in the top 10 in the country if you didn’t know 🙂

Kroc centers get 60 million– 30 million for construction, and 30 million for an endowment to live off of (that supplies 1/3 of the Kroc center budget in omaha).  But the local community had to raise an additional 15 million for endowment support.  This was to help ensure that the center and its programs would have long term funding.  The Salvation Army took their stewardship of this large sum seriously, and really thought through wether or not they could follow through and achieve was Mrs. Kroc was expecting.  I really respected that.  They are extremely careful with money, and while that does lead to more red tape in some cases, it also means they have one of the highest credibility ratings of any nonprofit in the world.

It was really encouraging to realize the very strong Christian roots of the Salvation Army and to hear about the dedicated service of the officers.  A good Christian witness for sure…that we all could do so much with what we’ve been given!



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