“No college, no book but the Bible, nothing but living and teaching…only the development of spiritual and natural power and willing to do our way and feel as we do about things. A year’s training and then a year at a station should turn out men and women in our mold.”
—George Scott Railton, 1877
For six years it has been known as Project 1:17, School of Youth Ministry & Mission, a vision of Majors Larry and Janet Ashcraft. During that time the program has graduated 55 students to serve as lay youth ministers. And out of those graduates, approximately 10 percent have become cadets and officers. Others serve in various forms of youth work in the territory and around the world.
This month, the school itself will “graduate.” It will no longer be a “project” but will be recognized as a fundamental part of the School for Officer Training. The new name, Railton School for Youth Worker Training, has already appeared on posters and in ads but will actually take effect this fall semester. The announcement was scheduled to take place during the Welcome to Cadets ceremony on Sept. 7.
Students have signed on for a two–year curriculum that will include a year of rigorous classroom study and fieldwork and a yearlong internship in their division of origin.
Programs notwithstanding, Lieutenant Stephen Bussey, who, with his wife, Lieutenant Sharon Bussey, are now the school’s co–directors, says, “It’s really about the people.
“[The new concept] started with a meeting we had with Commissioner [Lawrence R. Moretz, territorial commander] in January,” says Bussey. “And the message, which came out very strongly, was that Commissioner Moretz wants to see youth workers who are trained and equipped and then located to frontline ministries.”
Bussey says the Army needs trained workers who are focused on kids at risk in both urban and rural settings. However, these workers must break free from the typical models that are pervasive today.
“Rather than seeing youth workers as having an expiration date [of typically 25 years old, when they ‘grow up,’ get married, and have children of their own] we need people who will say, ‘This is God’s calling on my life. I’m not just going to get a crash course on this—I’m going to devote myself to this calling of lifelong learning and understand how I can most effectively reclaim children and youth.”
Bussey hopes to create a setting something like a greenhouse, where youth workers can be cultivated. “There is nothing natural about a greenhouse,” he says. “Its intention is to be a safe space, an intense space that will take seed and turn them into saplings in an accelerated period of time.”
In the second year of training, these “saplings” will move from the “greenhouse” to the “garden” and be nurtured by mentors in their home divisions. “[The students] will still remain in contact with us, but along with that, they’ll work with their leadership development secretary and corps officer,” Bussey says. This process, he says, allows them to learn incarnational ministry in a familiar and safe environment while mastering leadership and administrative challenges.
The final stage is to transfer the graduates from the “garden” to the “field,” where the division will identify a corps or community center and relocate him (or her) to that place. “That’s where we take the training wheels off,” Bussey says. “But at this stage, we are no longer needed because there is a relationship established between the leadership development secretary and corps officer.”
Lieutenant Sharon Bussey says that corps and community work are not the only options available after training. “Some students pursue officership or go back to college for advanced degrees,” she says.