These are listed in no particular order.
1) No cape required. You can do this too.
2) Be comfortable with unorthodox beliefs in others; discipleship is about instruction thru “walking with” others, not mere information transfer: “Valhalla” “gods” loose pluralism, loose orthodoxy. Different beliefs of others won’t automatically change yours. We earn the privilege to be listened to, by listening to others.
3) Be present; 90% of ministry is just showing up.
4) Their crisis is not your crisis (esp. when experiencing trauma or suicidal ideations). First responders can empathize, but avoid freaking out regardless of what you hear or see. Bring calm.
5) Listen. Then listen some more. Many people will solve their own problems if they simply have someone who will sit down and shut up long enough to listen.
6) Don’t worry about looking perfect. You won’t and that’s not what people need from you anyway.
7) Don’t worry about having all or even most of the answers. Be willing to delay decision IOT discover answers together.
8) When all else fails, just love on ’em.
9) Read the word.
10) Be mobile. Go to where they are on the battlefield. The most effective place for the BN Chaplain is not in a HQ tent; its where the fighting is thick. If you wait for the battle to get to you, it’s often too late. Soldiers notice that too.
Soldiers don’t retreat, they will fight wounded…even unto death. They often won’t come to you. Go to them. This is also what the world is expecting.
11) Just ask ’em if they’d like to pray. Then pray. Messy prayers welcome.
12) God provides unexpected peers and allies. Embrace them even if they disagree with you. They’ll become “family” for this age and the next.
13) Be flexible.
14) Embrace awkward. If it’s scary or uncomfortable, there’s a good chance God is inviting you to do it. Be willing and comfortable to be roasted and teased. In Army, that is a sign of affection. If they stop talking around me, that’s when I worry.
15) No qualifiers. I’m not Drill Sergeant Chaplain. I’m Chaplain… not Ranger chaplain, combat badge chaplain, airborne chaplain… I don’t require you to live up to any expectations before spending time with you…showing you love. Soldiers need their chaplain to be the one person in uniform who looks at them with different eyes. I don’t see you for your badges, medals, and ribbons, or what’s on your chest. I’m looking for what’s inside your chest…your heart.
16) Make time to recover and refit. Get your love tank refilled by God, by family, by trusted friends.
17) Get sleep. It’s amazing how a good night’s sleep can change your outlook and problem-solving capacity…and that of others.
18) Convenience is over-rated and a poor litmus for ministry. Much of my most meaningful ministry moments have been inconvenient. But, we’re in good company – so were Jesus’.
“Find ministry don’t do ministry.” ~Rindahl
2 thoughts on “What I learned as a Deployed U.S.Army Chaplain”
Hello Chaplain Lance. This is great. It is all great advice. So much here is applicable beyond chaplaincy.
I have been in and deployed with the 53d IBCT prior to this most recent deployment. I have since transferred to the Texas National Guard. I am currently a Logistics Officer, but recently graduated from seminary and became a senior pastor at a church. Chaplaincy is my next stop in military life.
Thank you for serving in this very important role.
Thank you for your service, bro. As you know, the Army needs prior service Chaplains like you. Let’s stay in touch and share notes along the journey.