Baptists field several hundred “volunteer” chaplains in our wonderful state of Arkansas, most of whom are NOT ordained clergy! Why should you, sir or ma’am, a church member, consider becoming a chaplain?
First, you can take the love of the Lord Jesus and His gospel to places that the church itself cannot. Yes, chaplains are church members and their personal ministry goal is ultimately to further God’s church and kingdom! But “the church” can’t ride with a police officer in her patrol car the same way a group of church members visit homes in a neighborhood.
Several kinds of chaplaincy ministry, like police chaplaincy in this example, require recognition by the agency served and permission to “enter in” to that agency’s domain. The same would be true for fire chaplaincy, hospital chaplaincy, hospice chaplaincy, jail chaplaincy, and others. Volunteer chaplains are able to take the gospel to people and places that are not generally open or approachable. If you are willing to volunteer and prepare yourself, you can become a volunteer chaplain in one of these more closed settings.
Be aware, though, that there are almost unlimited opportunities for you to serve as a chaplain in more open settings! We teach a concept called “Community Chaplaincy.” You could become the “chaplain” to your son’s ball team, the “chaplain” to your neighborhood, to your local airport, even to the convenience store workers in your town! You might not have the title, but the purpose is the same!
Another reason to consider becoming a chaplain is that you can use your interests for ministry. I serve as a law enforcement chaplain in my town. In my case, I am a volunteer auxiliary police officer. Years ago I served as a full-time officer and loved the work! Now, I am back as a volunteer serving the officers of our department and our town in a field that is an interest of mine. It would make sense, then, that a full-time or volunteer fire fighter who is a believer might hear God’s call to become a volunteer chaplain for their department. One man I know lost his wife to cancer years ago, and through that life event became very familiar with and was blessed by hospice. He now is part of a volunteer hospice ministry that has led hundreds to Christ. There is nothing wrong and everything right with plugging your interests into ministry!
The last reason I’ll give for you to consider becoming a chaplain is that you really can make difference in people’s lives. Becoming a chaplain is a purposeful act. When a man says to himself, “I am going to prepare myself to becomes the chaplain to my son’s ball team,” that is a purposeful act that basically says, “at some point in the season a child, or his dad or mom, is going to have something happen in life where they are going to need the love of God shown to them, and I am going to be ready and willing to be God’s instrument in that situation.” When a child on the ball team finds out that his grandpa died, that “ball team chaplain dad” will be there to pray, offer comfort, and at the appropriate time, the gospel, to that child and his parents. As a believer who purposely becomes a chaplain, title or not, you can impact “now” and eternity in the lives of people God brings your way.
Bob Fielding serves as the chaplaincy coordinator on the Missions Team.