Whether in the field performing military maneuvers or taking a morning run with the troops, chaplains are ever present in the lives of the men and women they serve. Because of their proximity and availability, chaplains are fixtures in the military that enlisted personnel and officers rely on for spiritual and moral support.
When new recruits enter the service, many turn to chaplains for encouragement and guidance as they adjust to the rigors of military life. Even high-ranking officers confide in chaplains, especially during times of national or personal crisis. Chaplains have access and influence with so many people in part because they are held to the same rigorous standards as those they minister to.
Though a military chaplain’s main function is to provide for the free exercise of religion for everyone in his or her care, he or she is able to share Christ’s love and compassion in a variety of ways such as counseling, worship services, Bible studies, serving others and teaching classes on morals and ethics.
Standard operating procedure for Assemblies of God military chaplains is to represent Christ to all people at all times so no one feels they are exempt from the love of God. Military chaplains serve in diverse settings to an eclectic group of people representing many cultures and religions. To be an effective chaplain one must be courageous, physically fit, educated, flexible and able to handle pressure and time away from home. But the rewards of such a ministry are numerous.
Besides sharing one’s faith with men and women who desperately need Jesus at the center of their lives, military chaplains are also afforded the opportunity to work in culturally diverse settings, live in locales around the world, continue their education, and receive excellent retirement benefits.
However, military chaplaincy is not for everyone. At times the job is demanding, stressful and dangerous. But for those interested in making an eternal difference in countless lives, military chaplaincy can be highly rewarding.
Requirements for becoming a military chaplain include two years as a senior pastor and a master of divinity degree from an accredited seminary or university. Candidates must also be able to pass a National Agency Check (background check). Each branch of the service sets additional age, weight and physical requirements.
Being a Reserve and National Guard chaplain is an excellent opportunity for pastors of local churches, or other qualified ministers, to serve their country and minister to those who need to hear Christ’s message. This part-time ministry is challenging but rewarding. It allows a minister to have contact with people he or she might not otherwise meet. Plus, Reserve and National Guard chaplains accrue pay and benefits in accordance with military regulations.
For pastors or other Christian leaders such as college professors, the Reserve and National Guard chaplaincy offers flexible hours and allows one to continue pastoring or teaching on a full-time basis. Each year, Reserve and National Guard chaplains must train with their unit for two weeks and meet with them for 16 hours each month.
For those looking for a way to minister to others on a regular basis the Reserve and National Guard chaplaincy is an excellent option. Reserves and National Guard are liable for call-up during national emergencies.
Chaplains serving in the Civil Air Patrol or State Militia often discover an amazing inroad into their community that allows them to be in contact with nonbelievers on a regular basis. Sometimes that contact occurs during emergency situations such as a local disaster. In such circumstances chaplains are able to minister God’s love and grace to victims and surviving family members through compassion and prayer.
Chaplains invest in the lives of youth cadets and senior members of the groups by teaching classes, counseling those who seek help, and praying for those in the group.
To be fully equipped to perform as a chaplain in such programs one must be trained in Critical Incidence Stress Management (CISM). Other requirements vary, but one must be an ordained Assemblies of God minister and have a master of divinity degree from an accredited seminary or university.
For those wanting a head start on becoming a military chaplain, the chaplain candidate program is the place to be. The program is a preparatory stage for training seminary students who, when fully endorsed, are ready and equipped to serve as active duty or reserve chaplains.
Upon commissioning as an officer in the chaplain candidate program, a person receives benefits comparable to an active duty or reserve chaplain during the time they are serving with official orders. The candidate gets real world experience as he or she may perform 45 days of active duty for training per year and receive pay and allowances commensurate with his/her rank.
After graduating from seminary, chaplain candidates must apply for full endorsement for active duty or reserves in a specific branch of service.
One must be a citizen of the United States and a full-time resident graduate student at an accredited seminary or theological institution. A chaplain candidate must also be physically qualified, approved by a recognized ecclesiastical endorsing agency such as the Assemblies of God, and able to pass a National Agency Check.
Veterans Affairs chaplains exist to serve those who have already sacrificed while serving their country. In VA hospitals Assemblies of God chaplains care for veterans who are physically, mentally, emotionally or spiritually hurting. Most VA chaplains know the feelings veterans are going through because they, too, are veterans.
Through counseling, prayer, marriage seminars and classes relating to spirituality and family skills, VA chaplains are able to share God’s love with veterans and their families. Chaplains also carry out traditional duties such as conducting worship services, funerals and serving communion. A chaplain may also act as a liaison between the hospital and the civilian community. But the chaplain’s main role is to serve as a pastor to the patients.