How to Become a Chaplain

Date Published

June 14, 2023

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Published by Calvin Seminary

What Is a Chaplain?

Becoming a chaplain is a momentous and exciting calling. It is a chance to put Christ-centered pastoral care and compassion in action within a specific context.

The Christian Reformed Church in North America (CRCNA) defines chaplaincy as “a healing, reconciling ministry of God, an expression and extension of God’s activity and mission in the world.”

What Does a Chaplain Do?

A chaplain shows God’s love and grace to people in a specific setting. Through serving in this pastoral role, a chaplain will provide spiritual guidance, prayer, and compassionate care to their constituency.

Types of Chaplains

Examples of types of chaplains include:

  • Hospital chaplain: Serve in a hospital setting to provide care, encouragement, and a listening ear to individuals and families as they face medical situations.
  • Military chaplain: Become a military chaplain to serve the branches of your country’s armed forces with spiritual care.
  • Nursing home chaplain: Be a part of ministry in a nursing facility, providing pastoral care to those who are aging.
  • Hospice chaplain: Provide spiritual care during end-of-earthly-life transitions, supporting patients and their loved ones during the processes of dying and grief.
  • Prison chaplain: Minister to those who are incarcerated, encouraging them in the hope and transformation that comes through Christ. Learn more about prison ministry and restorative justice through CRCNA resources.
  • University chaplain: Be a spiritual resource for college-aged students and a growing number of nontraditional and adult learners on a university campus. Preach sermons, oversee worship services and Bible studies, and shepherd the entire university community in faithfulness to God.

The Path to Becoming a Chaplain

1. Hear and Answer the Call

Chaplaincy starts with answering a call from God. This role is not without challenges, but God is able to do more in us and through us than we can imagine.

2. Pursue a Chaplain Degree

A Master of Divinity degree (MDiv) is a foundational credential that is typically required for chaplaincy. Calvin Theological Seminary’s MDiv program is a comprehensive ministry degree—with biblical and theological courses—designed to prepare students to step into chaplaincy, pastoral leadership, and other ministry roles.

Find an Accredited Chaplaincy Program

Future chaplains should look for accredited schools and seminaries. Calvin Theological Seminary is an accredited educational institution.

3. Become Ordained

Chaplains are ordained ministers. Calvin Theological Seminary prepares students for ordination in the CRCNA through our MDiv and Ecclesiastical Program of Ministerial Candidacy (EPMC) programs. Ordination requirements vary by denomination, and Calvin Theological Seminary students have pursued ordination in a variety of Christian traditions.

4. Meet the Necessary Requirements for Chaplain Certification

After obtaining an MDiv degree, prospective chaplains will need certification to begin their chaplaincy work. Certification designations include board certified chaplain and associate certified chaplain. Often, certification requires clinical pastoral education (CPE) and hours of experience.

How Long Does It Take to Become a Chaplain?

Your training to be a chaplain can vary based on your specific journey. Contact our admissions department to talk through your goals and possible paths for learning.

How an MDiv Prepares You for Chaplaincy

If you’re looking to become a chaplain, you’ve come to the right place. Calvin Theological Seminary’s MDiv degree is a program designed to prepare students for ordained ministry roles such as chaplaincy. Calvin is a premier seminary where you can tailor your MDiv program in preparation for becoming a chaplain. Your educational journey may include courses such as:

  • Faith Formation for all Ages
  • Foundations for Pastoral and Spiritual Care
  • Human Suffering and Pastoral Care
  • Ministry to and with Prisoners

Learn How to Become a Chaplain at Calvin Seminary

Do you know that God is calling you to chaplaincy? Do you think chaplaincy might be in your future, but you’d like help discerning your calling within Christian community? Calvin Theological Seminary is here to help. Use the form below to request more information.

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