Working with Military Chaplains

Military chaplains function throughout their careers in multiple categories. The basic two categories, presbyteries will deal with are chaplains in the reserve and guard programs dwelling within their home presbyteries and chaplains who are activated or on active duty serving away from their home presbyteries.

Working with National Guard/Air National Guard and Reserve Chaplains.

Chaplains serving in these categories typically are working within the boundaries of the presbytery. They should be active members of the presbytery and in good standing. Because of the nature of their military service, they need to ensure their military situation is clearly identified with their term of calls.  (Sample Mobilization Agreement 2002) Issues that need to be identified with the congregation include status with the congregation when performing duties, responsibilities and legal ramifications if the chaplain is activated. (PCUSA: USERRA BOP Paper)

The church and presbytery gain in this relationship by having an individual who is receiving additional training on a regular schedule.  Benefit by having a minister actively and regularly engaged in mission to a highly unchurched population and young adult culture. Chaplains are frequently trained to be trainers in suicide intervention skills, crisis intervention, stress management methods, and marriage preparation/enrichment programs. In addition, military chaplains often function as staff officers on commander staffs, developing great administrative skills that can assist a church and presbytery. Because of the religious pluralism of the military, chaplains also gain great understanding and working relationships with individuals from other faith groups and denominations

For hard to fill small or rural congregations, the reserve/guard chaplaincy can offer a win/win solution. Currently several presbyteries have and are considering ordaining individuals as they complete seminary to reserve or national guard chaplaincies. The chaplain is installed with the congregation while at the same time performing duties with the military. The church gets a part time pastor, the pastor gains work and pastoral experience. This is a presbytery decision, but one might be beneficial for the church and pastor.

Working with Activated Chaplains.

The second categories are chaplains serving on active orders.  Typically when chaplains are activated, it removes them from inside the boundaries of presbytery. This category includes, career active duty chaplains, mobilized reserve and guard chaplains.

Chaplains who desire to serve on active duty typically look to complete at least a 20-year career with the military. For those who are seeking to serve in this category, all military services require a minimum of 2 years post ordination experience. If you have a chaplain who is on active duty, please realize they are still a member of your presbytery and must fulfill your requirements and expectations. We require them to submit a report to us every March and September, and we expect them to submit reports to you as well.

All activated chaplains of the PCUSA denomination will conform with G-2.0503. They are not exempt from this requirement. We highly encourage Presbytery’s COM to stay connected to their chaplains, and we will collaborate with you to ensure this is accomplished.

Mobilized reserve and guard chaplains are activated for several reasons and perform several different duties. The most common situation is a military unit deploying to a combat area or providing assistance in disaster relief efforts. We would greatly appreciate a working relationship with the Committee on Ministry in the presbytery to ensure support to the individual and their families. We will gladly talk with the COM about how that support can take place.