Frequently Asked Questions

What is The Salvation Army?

The Salvation Army is a Christian church which is commited to spreading the good news of Jesus Christ through both word and action. Because of this primary aim the Army shows practical concern and care for the needs of people regardless of race, creed, status, colour, sex or age.

How did the Salvation Army begin?

The Salvation Army’s founders, William and Catherine Booth, were Methodists and William was a minister in that denomination. They both believed that William was called by God to be an evangelist and they did not agree with the decision of Methodist officials that he should be confined to a local church situation.

So strongly did the Booths believe William should be an evangelist that he resigned from the Methodist ministry and they moved to London with their young family. After being invited by a group of Christians from a small mission to preach on the streets to the crowds thronging the Mile End in East London, William was sure he had found his destiny.

The group made William its leader, and became known as The East London Christian Mission. The Mission grew rapidly, its work spreading through Great Britain, resulting in its name being changed to The Christian Mission.

In 1878 the Mission’s name was changed once more — this time to The Salvation Army. Such a military name fired members’ imagination and enthusiasm, and uniforms were adopted and military terms given to aspects of worship, administration and practice.

While over the years the Army has adapted its military image to changing times, it still retains a distinctive uniform and structure to enable it more effectively to combat wrong and make known the good news of Jesus.

What does the Salvation Army believe about God and the Christian life?

The Salvation Army’s beliefs are in line with those of mainstream Christian churches. You can read the 11 doctrines of the Army here.

Briefly, we believe the Bible is God’s word and forms the only basis for our faith and living. We believe there is only one God and he only should be worshipped, and that he expresses himself as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

We believe that God’s creation of the universe was perfect but when man first deliberately disobeyed God, sin and suffering entered the world. As a result, man’s relationship with God has been spoiled.

We believe that Jesus is both truly divine and human. Through his suffering and death on the cross is given the only way by which sinful people - which means all mankind - can be forgiven. When we are forgiven, our relationship with God is put right and we receive new spiritual life. Although this is God’s free gift, we have a part to play in that process - we must be truly sorry for our wrongdoing and have faith in Jesus.

To maintain this new life we must continually have faith in Jesus and be obedient to him. Once we are ‘saved’, God gives us the help we need to live in the way he wants us to.

We believe that our real selves never die but go on living beyond physical death. After this present life we will be accountable to God for how we have lived. Those whose lives have been as God has wished will live with him in eternal happiness; those who have not done so will be unhappy forever because they had no time for God.

Changing social and economic conditions require the Army to take a critical look at, and sometimes review, parts of its structure, patterns of worship and methods of service.

However, these Christian beliefs which form our doctrine are relevant to all generations and point to the unchanging answer to people’s basic need of a right relationship with God.

Why does The Salvation Army have a flag? Does it have a special meaning?

In the early days of The Salvation Army over a century ago, it seemed logical that if the Movement was called an army then it should have a flag.

The flag was designed to symbolise the essential beliefs of the movement, and today the design is largely unchanged, no matter in which parts of the world the Army operates.

The flag consists of a blue border surrounding a red background, in the centre of which is a yellow star. The Army’s motto ‘Blood and Fire’ is also inscribed on the flag, as is usually the name of the local centre each flag belongs to.

The blue represents holiness - the holiness of God and the holy lives Christians are called to live. The red is a reminder to Salvationists of Jesus’ blood shed when he was crucified, making it possible for us to live lives free from sin because he died. The yellow star symbolises the power of God’s Holy Spirit. The motto reinforces this symbolism. Salvationists do not regard the flag as sacred but it is thought of with respect because it represents important spiritual truths.

How many people are in The Salvation Army?

There are nearly 4 million soldiers of God within The Salvation Army worldwide. This includes volunteers, officers, and employees; and this number is growing. Literally thousands of people participate in The Salvation Army’s good deeds in the United States alone.

How can I join or learn more about The Salvation Army?

We encourage you to contact us if you are interested in joining or if you seek more information. Those interested in contributing can also see our donations page or volunteer through the online Volunteering section. Thank you for helping us to help others.

Why do you wear those uniforms?

Mainly because it gives us an “open door” to service and because the uniform tells everyone that the wearer is a Christian who will be glad to help. Also, we have never heard of an Army without uniform. Uniforms are worn by members of our clergy and by some members of our congregations.

Is The Salvation Army making a difference in my community?

Because of the wide scope of the services we offer, The Salvation Army is uniquely positioned to think in terms of long term solutions to social problems. We certainly continue to meet the short term needs of individuals for food, shelter and clothing. Our long term care services provide a continuum of care based on the philosophy of “aging in place” wherever possible. It is very likely that there are people in your community that have been served by one or more of our many services.

What is the role of volunteers in The Salvation Army?

Volunteers give us valuable assistance in many ways. Last year alone, we had over 3.4 million volunteers across the country working in a variety of capacities and alongside our employees to provide direct services to those in need.

Why should I contribute to The Salvation Army?

There are several answers to this question. First, The Salvation Army has demonstrated its ability to effectively identify and efficiently meet urgent human needs in communities throughout the world for over 120 years. When you give to us, you know that your money is going to those who need it most. Second, the people we serve have multiple needs. The wide range of our programs means that we can deal with the whole person under the umbrella of a single agency. Third, our staff combines the expertise of professional training with the experience of working on a wide variety of social problems and emergency relief situations.