As a military spouse, Pastor Jennifer M. Moreno has made 12 moves in the 19 years her husband has been active duty in the United States Army.
Since 2012, when she was commissioned as a minister with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), she’s established military ministries in each congregation she serves – so far seven congregations in three regions. She currently serves as interim pastor at Palm Lake Christian Church in St. Petersburg, FL.
For Moreno, a military ministry should serve three key functions: keep service members and congregations in touch, support military families in the community, and provide a meaningful role for congregants who currently serve (or have previously served) in the military.
To keep service members and congregations connected, Moreno focuses on creating an online presence for the congregations she serves. When a congregation member is deployed, watching livestreamed or recorded services online can help them “stay engaged, be fed, and stay connected,” Moreno explains.
Developing an online presence also helps congregations reach and support military families in their communities, Moreno suggests. When she talks with military families, she recommends they research faith communities in their new home to find one that best fits their needs. Reading about congregations on their websites or watching clips from worship services can help new families find that fit. “Online tools are important for congregations to get comfortable with because they can be used to test drive your church before a person or family ever decide to visit in person.”
To further support new military families in her congregation, Moreno offers pastoral care for families when service members are deployed. She encourages other congregants to join her in intentionally inviting military family members to church and community activities or offer to bring them a meal.
“It’s very important for us to understand that not only the service member is sacrificing, but families are too,” explains Moreno. “Families are missing out on so much. We have to be mindful of that, willing to understand that, and be extra supportive for spouses and families.”
“Offering this extra support for military families is also a great way to involve interested service members and veterans already in your congregation,” Moreno says. Perhaps a willing veteran member could serve as a “military liaison,” welcoming and sitting by military family visitors.
Any congregation can, and should, take these steps, she argues. “Every single town has recruiting stations, so every single congregation has an opportunity to reach out to military families…We also all have veterans and families of deployed service members in our communities.”
Developing military ministries is a calling for Moreno, who has experienced the value of congregational support. “As a military family, connecting my family and my church family has always been extremely important. My husband and I know wherever we live, we always have a place to call home for church. We’ve lived all over the world, but no matter where we go, we always have a home away from home.”