Support Your Local Chaplain


We’ve seen it in every chapel we’ve attended.  Whether our chaplains minister in operational units or the community chapel—or both—they are constantly faced with unrealistic expectations of those they serve.  Folks on the receiving end often want the chaplain to do it all.  We expect them to give priority to meeting all our spiritual needs, and we’re not too interested in the heavy workload they labor under.

The question we should be asking is—to paraphrase President John F. Kennedy—not what our chaplains can do for us, but what we can do for our chaplains.  The answer is that we should join them in ministry, and we should invest in them as individuals.

Jesus said that He came not to be served but to serve.  This should be the attitude that guides us as we work with our chaplains.  God has blessed all Christians with spiritual gifts and abilities, and we should be eager to put them into practice.

Minister with them

The list of needs within the chapel community isn’t long or demanding.  Some tasks require special skill or experience—playing a musical instrument or leading a Bible study—but the only qualification for many jobs is a desire to help the chaplain and to serve the Lord.

At the chapel, there’s always a need for ushers, folks to read Scripture or pray during worship, musicians, and children’s Sunday school and vacation Bible school teachers.  The chaplain often has to recruit people to serve on the parish council, helping to provide direction and financial oversight for chapel programs.

In the workplace, we can offer to pray with the chaplain for people in the unit and can introduce our co-workers to our spiritual leader when we know they’re facing difficult times—and when things are going well, too.  We can volunteer to help the chaplain during worship or leading a Bible study while deployed.

Minister to them

As valuable as this assistance will be, one other ministry may be even more important.  As our chaplains minister to us, seldom does anyone minister to them.  We can reverse this trend by telling them how much we appreciate their faithful service.  Everyone is blessed by receiving compliments, so we should look for ways to thank our chaplains for what they do and how they do it—and be specific.

Our chaplains would be delighted for us to pray with and for them when we become aware of needs within their families, especially prior to and after deployment.  Perhaps you could treat your chaplain to lunch and a chat to see how things are going.  Or you could invite the chaplain and family for a meal and some time to relax.

However you choose to serve with and encourage your chaplain, your involvement will go a long way in helping him or her cope with the responsibilities and challenges of the job.

Something to think about:

How active are you in the life of the chapel?
What could you do to better use your gifts and abilities in serving the chapel community?
What have you and others in the chapel done to encourage and care for your chaplain and his or her family?

Note for those active in civilian churches or parachurch ministries:

You have a heart to minister to the men and women on the base near you. The best and only respectful way to do that is to work with and through the base chaplain. By doing that you are helping him and honoring God.