The Random House Dictionary of the English Language defines a chaplain as “an ecclesiastic attached to the chapel of a royal court, college, etc., or to a military unit,” or “a person who says the prayer, invocation, etc. for an organization or at an assembly or gathering.”
However, Paul Bettis, chaplaincy specialist with the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma, and the xxx endorsed chaplains he coordinates in Oklahoma know their work is much more than that—it is a calling.
But, what if someone feels a tug from God to minister to those in need, but he isn’t quite sure just what that tug means? To help answer that question, Bettis has called upon Robert McMillan to help.
McMillan, a xxx chaplain endorsed through the North American Mission Board is developing a basic chaplaincy course called, logically, “Introduction to Chaplaincy.”
This course, which will begin in mid-August, is at the very basic level, as opposed to the intense disaster relief chaplaincy training which has been presented in Oklahoma by Naomi Paget the last several years.
“We’ve had some feedback from folks who have expressed some interest in chaplaincy and when they take Naomi’s class, which is, of course, directed more at disaster relief chaplaincy, they say, ‘it seems a little too much advanced for us, is there anything a little less extensive?'” McMillan said.
“So we wanted to sit down and come up with something that is a bit more basic. Start from the very beginning. The idea is to look at this as a four- part process, none of them being more than one day. Naomi’s training, which is just excellent, is something like 15 hours over two days, and is very intense.
“This is intended to start with the basics on day one and then focus on the particular aspects later, such as legal aspects, focused information on counseling techniques, and so on.”
While on a basic level, McMillan said the course may even stretch into information on Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM).
“We’d probably focus on a basic introduction to CISM or maybe even get into the full CISM training,” he said.
Regardless, McMillan said each of the four parts of the course will “stand alone, yet build on each other, too. So, a person could come in on the process at any point.”
The basic outline for the course calls for a definition of chaplaincy, a comparison of the duties of a chaplain versus those of a pastor, the different types of chaplaincy, the call to chaplaincy, the biblical basis for chaplaincy, the core principles of chaplaincy ministry, the role of confidentiality and the role of availability.
The curriculum will include lectures, role playing, videos and case studies, McMillan said.
“It’s also an attempt to explain what chaplaincy is,” he added. “When you say the word chaplaincy, most people immediately think of the military or hospitals. Sometimes, they’ll think a little bit further along the line of disaster relief if they have had some experience with that, but a lot of companies and corporations are starting to recognize the value of chaplains in the marketplace and business world.”
McMillan has been the lead chaplain for the Oklahoma Civil Air Patrol for six years; and has served full-time as chaplain at the State Capitol for three years through his non-profit organization, Capital City Chaplain Services.
“I work both side of the legislature and with other agencies and try to develop long-term relationships with those who work at the Capitol,” he explained.
“The work has been phenomenal and has been received so well. I’m amazed almost daily about how well it has been received and the people are so appreciative.”
Although he has no office space at the Capitol, he walks the halls and is becoming the face of chaplaincy to government workers, he says.
“Everybody knows how to reach me because I’m constantly handing out business cards and telling them if you need anything at all just give me a call,” he said. “I try to make the rounds and check in with each office every day, if I can. I try to meet the lawmakers in their offices or in the halls.
“There are 10 different agencies there and I try to stop by each of them every day.”
He loves his work.
“The word that always comes to mind, although I realize it’s probably not the best word to use, is it’s the most fun job in the world. I guess satisfying is a better word. I totally, totally enjoy working with the people and getting the chance to know them.”
A former pastor, McMillan attended divinity school at Duke University in Durham, N.C. at age 46. He was pastor of a church in North Carolina for a few years before moving to Oklahoma.
“I really enjoy chaplaincy more than preaching; I enjoy the one-on-one contact,” he confessed.
“I always tell people I see preaching as holding up the ideal, which is necessary, but I prefer trying to help people try to work that ideal into their daily lives.”