Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Applying The Military Chaplaincy Model To The Business World

I love discovering new things and being exposed to new ideas!

I was recently introduced to U.S. Army Chaplain, Dr. Lee Vermont, who is serving on active duty at Ft. Meade, Maryland. He will be retiring from the Army in a few months, and settling in the Boston area. Chaplain Vermont and I have been exploring his post-military employment options. One of the options he mentioned to me that he was considering was to find a role as an “industrial chaplain.” He stopped me in my tracks. I had never heard that term before, and was not aware that there are chaplains serving in industrial settings. So, I asked him to explain the concept. I was impressed, and felt that there might be several readers of The White Rhino Report who would be as intrigued as I was by the notion of visionary companies working to improve employee morale and retention by providing chaplaincy services. Here are some excerpts from the conversations that Chaplain Vermont and I have had about the role of an “industrial chaplain”:

Al Chase: “You can tell that I am a bit surprised to learn of the existence of chaplains in private industry. Can you tell me something of the history of industrial chaplains?"

Chaplain Vermont: “Progressive American corporations since the 1940’s have effectively used chaplains to establish a caring and increasing professional degree of holistic ministry to employees. Hiring a corporate chaplain makes good business sense. If employees are skillfully and compassionately cared for, they and their companies become more productive.

Corporate Chaplains of America is a company that provides trained and certified chaplains to a variety of companies. They have this to say about the development of chaplaincies in the private sector:
'It was not, however, until the mid-1980’s to early 1990’s that the industry truly began to take shape. Prior to this time most workplace chaplains served mainly as sole proprietors or employees at specific businesses. Liability concerns on the part of business owners brought an end to the widespread use of company employee chaplains and ushered in the era of more highly trained professional chaplains serving as independent contractors.'”


Al Chase: “What kind of special training do corporate chaplains or industrial chaplains bring to the table?”

Chaplain Vermont: “In addition to the usual training in pastoral ministry, chaplains serving in industry must be certified in CPE – Clinical Pastoral Education, a very intensive and highly specialized regimen that exposes a pastor to counseling skills in a clinical setting.”

Al Chase: “Most of the readers of The White Rhino Report are familiar with the model of chaplaincy in the military. How is industrial chaplaincy similar to what you and your colleagues do in the military when you serve as chaplains?”

Chaplain Vermont: “Army Chaplains must learn to operate in a religious and culturally pluralistic environment. Skilled chaplains adapt to various leadership styles and navigate through specified chains of command in order to deliver relevant and timely ministry. Chaplains in the military traditionally provide leadership in change and process management, critical incident debriefings, crisis intervention including suicide prevention, life-skill training and traditional pastoral care, individual and marital counseling. The experience of serving as a military chaplain perfectly equips someone to offer genuine caring in the workplace.”

Al Chase: “Can you give me an idea of some of the specific services and specific benefits that a chaplain can provide in the work setting?”

Chaplain Vermont: “Let me refer you once again to Corporate Chaplains of America. They have a whole section on their Website of testimonials from companies that have employed chaplains. Here is one that I found particularly impressive:

'The decision to engage Corporate Chaplains of America has provided a tremendous benefit to our employees, both spiritually and emotionally. Our chaplain has provided services for funerals and weddings as well as helping employees dealing with depression, marital problems, and a myriad of other matters. He is a true friend to our employees. Many of the things he does for our team I could never do myself as the president of the company. CCA definitely provides eternal benefits to our employees that we will not see this side of heaven.'

Ted Null, PresidentControl Corporation of America

Al Chase: “If some of the readers of The White Rhino Report wanted to explore the possibility of introducing a chaplaincy program to their company, how should they proceed?”

Chaplain Vermont: “Well, I would love to help them to go through such a process, or I can put them in touch with National Institute of Business and Industrial Chaplains, of which I am a member. Anyone with an interest in learning more should contact me through your e-mail address: achase@scwellesley.com.

What a fascinating idea! Who knew?


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is a fascinating idea that needs to be done and done right. However, I would fight tooth and nail against any company chaplaincy. An industrial chaplain must be jointly agreed to by the company and the union as equal partners. A chaplain accountable to the boss alone is morally wrong.