It’s important to know that a clergy entering the military as a chaplain or chaplain candidate will have several lines of authorities to answer to. First, of course, is the military chain of command. The chaplain always works for the commander as the commander’s personal staff officer. In this way, every chaplain is held accountable to military standards, in addition to having an opportunity to offer moral, ethical, and spiritual input. Second, the chaplain works for the installation chaplain or the next higher command chaplain. In other words, the chaplain has a technical chain that begins with a senior supervisory chaplain and goes directly to the Chief of Chaplains, ensuring that every chaplain is held accountable to Chaplain Corps standards and methodology. Third, the chaplain has an endorser or denominational “chain of command.” This relationship ensures that the chaplain maintains the theological and lifestyle standards as a representative of his or her faith group.
When you serve as a military chaplain, make it a priority to stay in touch with your church, faith group, and endorser. Send in the reports on time. Live up to your ordination vows. Pay your tithes or dues. If your endorser or faith group doesn’t require these actions, consider doing them anyway. It’s important for you as a chaplain to remember your roots. The chaplain comes from the church and will more than likely want to return to church ministry at some point. So, you can’t afford to lose touch with your denomination. Communication is crucial.
One of the ways many endorsers and denominational offices attempt to stay in touch with their chaplains is by asking the chaplains to send a monthly, quarterly, or annual report. Too many chaplains won’t submit the requested information. Here’s a hint: make up your mind from the start that you will send whatever report they ask for.
But the communication between chaplain and endorser has to be a two-way street. In today’s ever-changing environment in the military, it is extremely important that chaplains and endorsers communicate regularly. There are many ways this communication can take place. Some endorsers conduct periodic Zoom/FaceTime/WebX/Google meetings with their chaplains. Many send out newsletters, while others use social media to connect with chaplains, and chaplains with endorsers. We have to remember that communication is the key. When we communicate with each other, we provide a layer of accountability that endorsers and chaplains need in their ministry.
Another crucial concept is that although culture changes, the Gospel does not. Ministerial methods may change, but the message we are trying to communicate to those we serve does not change. The endorser provides leadership for those representing the church in the military, and chaplains need to walk within the guidelines of their particular faith group.
From the book Military Ministry: Chaplains in the Twenty-First Century by Paul E. Linzey and B. Keith Travis.