Suppose you’re interested in chaplaincy, a career in which you can profoundly impact people as an ambassador of Christ, helping others through their most challenging moments. In that case, you first need to find out how to become a chaplain.
It will take some time and effort, but it’s worthwhile for those who feel called to this work. This is a noble profession in which you can be the light of Christ in places where people can feel afraid, alone, or anxious.
These dark or fretful moments are opportunities to witness to believers and non-believers alike. In some cases, chaplains offer spiritual support to those who have never been churched or received pastoral care.
Where You Might Serve
These are workplace settings that often need a chaplain.
Chaplains provide counseling for people struggling with life and death decisions. They help patients and their families understand the implications of surgery, intervene when families or staff feel they are at their breaking point, and support them in times of grief.
In a correctional setting, chaplains minister to people who feel utterly broken, angry, or afraid. They have a vital role in demonstrating that God’s grace extends to everyone, especially those on the outskirts of society, as they answer Jesus’ call to comfort prisoners (Matthew 25:36).
One of the most notable chaplaincy roles is in the military, in which high stress, trauma, and mental health complications are every day, especially among those called up to active duty. Military chaplains provide pastoral care and connect personnel with spiritual resources.
As Maj. Tammie Elfadili, a chaplain in the U.S. Army Reserve explains, the goal is to help all service members cope with the stresses of the job regardless of their faith:
“As chaplains, we are responsible for supporting all soldiers whether they’re religious or not. I am here to help soldiers identify a resource in their lives – whether it’s religion, spirituality, or any resource that will help them maintain resiliency.”
Many workplaces either employ chaplains or welcome visitors from traveling chaplaincy programs from factories to corporate offices and various small businesses. Industrial or corporate chaplains provide pastoral care to all kinds of workers of all faiths.
Here’s How to Become a Chaplain
While the journey may look a bit different from person to person, these five steps should give you a general idea of how to become a chaplain.
1. Consult the Word.
Just as any pastoral professional should, those who want to do chaplaincy work should always begin by exploring their calling through Scripture.
Read the stories of God sending out His prophets to preach in foreign lands.
- Do you see yourself in these stories?
- Can you imagine being a sort of pastor for those who may not share your faith?
- Are you drawn to the idea of being the light of Christ in the darkest places?
As it is a workplace ministry for secular settings, chaplaincy is distinct from working within the church. Ask the Lord to guide you as you consider this remarkable and challenging profession.
2. Decide what type of chaplain you want to be.
Where do you want to serve?
- Is there a specific civilian setting you’re drawn to serve, such as hospitals and prisons?
- Do you personally know service members who have inspired you to serve as a military chaplain? Or do you have military experience yourself?
- Are you interested in serving workers in a more blue-collar industrial setting? Or serving workers in a more white-collar setting as a corporate chaplain?
This will determine the type of educational program you pursue.
3. Select the right program to match your goals.
Because the job requirements, rules, and regulations tend to be more complex in a chaplaincy role than in a church-based ministry, you’ll need the proper training to become a chaplain.
The educational requirement is usually a Master’s degree, though you may want to consider a doctoral degree to expand your qualifications and career options.
- A Master of Divinity with a concentration in chaplaincy will equip you to become a chaplain in most settings.
- A higher degree, such as a Doctor of Ministry, will prepare you to take on a more significant leadership role, perhaps overseeing a chaplaincy program.
To be sure you graduate fully prepared for these responsibilities, look closely at the courses offered at your theological seminaries of choice. Here at CCCTS, chaplaincy programs are thoroughly robust and support virtually any future career in the field.
4. Speak to a chaplain.
Before you commit to investing time and tuition to seek out this career, you should speak to someone who has experience doing this work.
Seek out a chaplain in your desired setting (hospital, prison, etc.) and ask them to meet with you. Chances are, they will be more than happy to offer you their perspective.
Ask as many questions as you can think of, such as:
- What did you learn in college and seminary that you apply today?
- What challenges should I expect as a chaplain?
- What will I enjoy about going into this career?
You should also reach out to an admissions counselor and faculty at your college of choice. Discuss your vision for your future career, your sense of calling, and ask plenty of questions about the careers students like you enter after graduating.
5. Stay open to the Spirit.
It is very common for students like you to start or re-start their educational journey to know what it will mean to become a chaplain and then change course. Even multiple times!
This usually isn’t because of indecision or a lack of conviction. Students who change degree tracks are no less committed to fulfilling their calling than those who don’t.
Most often, what they’re doing is listening to the Holy Spirit and prayerfully considering whether He is prompting them to change direction. Like the Apostle Paul called in a vision to change course and go to Macedonia (Acts 16:6-10), we must be prepared to respond to the Spirit.
We understand this at CCCTS. That’s why our admissions counselors, faculty, and staff are always eager to listen. If you sense a redirection, we are ready to support you either way: to shift into your new God-given path or rededicate yourself to answering your call to chaplaincy.
Discover How to Become a Chaplain at Charlotte Christian College and Theological Seminary
At CCCTS, we can give you all the knowledge and skills you need to pursue the calling to chaplaincy that is tugging at your heart.
And as you work toward that degree, you’ll enjoy the support of a Christ-centered community eager to care for you and guide you through to the finish line.
Learn more about our in-person or fully online chaplaincy courses. And please consider visiting our campus. We look forward to meeting you!