On Seeking a College Chaplain

What is a college chaplain? A chaplain is the senior advisor to a president on the spiritual life of a campus–a critical position for the Christian college or university. This needs to be the starting point in your search. If you think a chaplain is merely a coordinator of religious activities for students then you will look for someone who is young, energetic, connects well with students, and may or may not have religious education or pastoral experience.

College chaplaincy is not youth ministry–it is “ministry to higher education.” It is ministry to the academic community, to students (of many ages, faiths, questions, and convictions), staff, and faculty. It’s to be the pastor of this vibrant center of life, thought, and service. It’s to be a partner with the president in setting the spiritual tone of the community. It’s to be the one who has to respond in times of crisis, to advise the president candidly, to be the friend of faculty and students with questions and struggles.

Seventh-day Adventist institutions should refer to NAD Working Policy E 05 42:

A Seventh-day Adventist chaplain is a duly-licensed/credentialed minister of the Church with ecclesiastical endorsement to serve in a specialized, institutional setting. A chaplain provides pastoral care for persons in need, facilitates ministry by other persons and works with institutional leadership in mission interpretation and policy/program issues pertaining to the mission of the institution. …

A Seventh-day Adventist Chaplain’s work will be demonstrably pastoral in nature; that is, it must encompass the customary functions of the pastoral office for which the church has granted credentials. This will include, but need not be limited to, worship leadership, spiritual nurture and support, administration of church ordinances and rites, preaching, religious/biblical instruction, pastoral counseling, equipping others for ministry, etc. The chaplain’s ministry may also involve other roles and functions relevant to the workplace, but these will always be in conjunction with the above functions rather than in place of them.

Endorsement for chaplaincy in the Seventh-day Adventist Church is granted by Adventist Chaplaincy Ministries. It requires pastoral experience, a Master of Divinity (for most fields–at present, campus chaplaincy requires a 48 semester hour Master of Arts in Pastoral Ministry or equivalent professional degree), and recommendations. Clinical Pastoral Education is required for endorsement in health care chaplaincy, and strongly recommended in every other field. A chaplain should have training in crisis intervention and pastoral counseling. In a college or university, the chaplain should ideally report directly to the president as the equivalent of a vice president. The chaplain, therefore, should be a proven, respected leader, mature in faith, and able to relate to all members of the university community.

Sounds overwhelming, does it not? But it isn’t. We have lots of examples of men and women doing outstanding jobs in all fields of chaplaincy. All stand ready to advise in your search.