Trauma Chaplaincy: A Light on the Darkest of Seas
by Rev. Wayne M. Martin, Ph.D.
Presented by Saint Luke Evangelical School Of Biblical Studies

Upon entering the ministry, "I," thought God had a different route for me. Little did I know, God had another direction that I could have never seen. He chose my life to move into a plane. A plane that would not come close to what "I" thought I would be doing in the ministry.

I had such beautiful thoughts of a nice, big church with many pews, huge choir with long, flowing gowns with many colors and so much more! Little did I know, God was going to continue to shape me into what "He" needed me to be. Here I thought I knew what He wanted; me in the ministry, into the world in a manner that most would not tread. A road of uncertainty, misery, hardship, death and emotion, just to name a few.

He took me and still, ministering and leading a congregation. Only the congregation I work with may be one or many, depending on the situation at hand.

He made me a Chaplain, actually a "Trauma Chaplain," one who deals with death, rape, marital problems, accidents, fire, and so much more. Who would of thought, especially me, that I would be touching lives in the middle of such turmoil?!?! Touching lives with the Words of our Lord Jesus Christ. Touching lives just by listening. Touching lives, just by being there. What better way to minister to someone that is non-Christian, than to be there for them and show them, how Jesus is with us.

Expanding Your Ministry

Though I do not have an actual church or physical building to do weekly worship out of, I find it refreshing to be in the rain, wind, heat, praying with others that need the Holy Ghost's presence to calm their spirit. No office, just us and the elements.

For some pastors and ministers, this doesn't appeal to them at all! Which is good; God needs them where they are. But by utilizing your Spiritual Leadership, you can bring others to the Lord to do such work. others who don 't feel comfortable at the pulpit, but can bring others to their knees in worship, praise, and forgiveness. They, can be seeking the world for new members of Christ's Body.

This opens up the doors to many opportunities for expansion in your ministry:

*Police Chaplains
*Fire Chaplains
*Red Cross Chaplains
*Armed Forces Emergency Services
*Hospital Chaplains
*Hospice Chaplains
*School / College Chaplain
*Industrial / Workplace Chaplain
*Jail / Prison Chaplain
*Military Chaplain

And many more. The point is: by utilizing the overlooked talent in your church or ministry, you may find someone who can advance a program such as the ones above. Programs that can show the depth, perception, and compassion of your ministry.

The Chaplain, in essence, thrives in their soul to help people in need more than others. Not that most pastors or ministers have a similar feeling to help, it's just that, the chaplain would prefer to be in the "trenches," a passion that is given as one is given passion for the pulpit & normal congregations. God has placed us where He needs us and has molded us to suit the needs of our duties according to His Works.

Another great attribute of a Chaplains Program is the fact that this is a great way to reach out to a special group of people who normally are not touched by the local church. Usually, the circumstances can vary widely as to why you are talking or meeting with a particular individual, a family or a group of people who may be of all different denominations:

*Marital Problems
*Forest Fire
*And any other major form of Trauma or Emergency that may arise.

You could be dealing with adults one day and a group of kids another, all from varied backgrounds of religions and beliefs. Whatever the reason(s), this is an opportunity to share the Word in a rare manner. by Love, Compassion, even just listening. Literally in a manner that Jesus himself did, by being a living example.

Now all ministers are, for the most part, living examples to one degree or another of the way Christ is. But for some reason, when there has been a catastrophe, certain characteristics of aid workers are remember more than others. This is due to the Post Traumatic reactions from adults and children, both; different with multiple stages for varied groups. Love, compassion, giving, even just listening are "remembered" and "comforting" feelings, thus, you can reach a wounded heart, in a manner never thought of. Many become emotionally and spiritually crippled when they find that what used to work is no longer effective in coping with life's pressures.

If your ministry is going to have multiple chaplain programs, you must be willing to delegate and share authority with leadership positions, as one cannot do it all alone. Delegate certain chaplains to specific areas of ministry.

Key Points & Issues

1. The main objective of the chaplain is to provide spiritual and emotional support and guidance for personnel and their families. Thus, making it one of the most vital parts of a trauma team. You will support the staff and families, as well as the families you come into contact with due to the trauma.

2. Don't stretch yourself too thing. Too often, we feel we could be doing more or finding ourselves, wanting to do more. Remember: we are only one, thus use the team effort and energy. Utilize your training and expertise to keep the team in clear, concise movement toward your goal for that trauma situation.

3. Stay focused on areas of responsibility. Each trauma situation will have different areas of responsibility, depending on the circumstances involved. With all the chaos, it is vital that the chaplain remain calm and focused to help workers, families and victims go through the full recover process. Again, depending on the trauma (tornado, hurricane, fire, etc.) the process may vary due to death, insurance, investigations, etc. You name it. it could come up. Thus, the chaplain should not be inept, but very able and willing to do the job at all cost.

4. When a dispute occurs amongst the people you work for or volunteer, avoid taking sides. A chaplain should always stay neutral and should offer support such as prayer. But any personal involvement or opinions will only lead to your loss of credibility.

Four key important characteristics that trauma chaplains should have:

1. Availability: Try to be available at any time of the day or night. Traumas occur at some of the worst times for us. just remember, we are dealing with people who desperately need our help. usually, more than they truly know. Be available when it's convenient for them. Anything less is unacceptable.

2. Visibility: Be visible before, during and after any trauma. "Before," by working with and training with trauma teams, crews, and volunteers. Being prepared and having the teams know what to expect from your position on the team is vitally important. "During," this should be self-explanatory. It is hard to do what God has called you to do, when you are constantly finding other things to do. Be careful with your time, as there are many things to do in a disaster. "After," follow up with the familie(s) and the casualties if at all possible. This part of the program can last for months to years. Be prepared. Be visible.

3. Adaptability: No trauma, disaster, wreck, etc. are ever the same. Things can change at a moments notice. This is why it is important to understand how different trauma teams work. Don't be surprised if the casualties and/or families have a hard time wanting to pray or listen about God. Remember this: Trauma hits everyone in a different manner. Allow the people you are working with to accept things in their own time. not ours. Allow the stages of Mourning and Death to fully take place. Be ready to adapt to any environment, circumstances, or situations.

4. Credibility: Be trustworthy, reliable, walk and talk what you preach. Live a life where people see who you are. People will see right through a fake person. Ensure your chaplains are of the same caliber and meet the standards the Bible sets forth for ministers of the Gospel. Train them, to ensure they meet the needs of those who need their assistance.


By setting good standards and adhering to them, a small or large ministry both can be enhanced with a good Chaplains Program. Keep it simple, constantly train, and quiz one another with scenarios. Once can never be prepared enough for the unexpected. Make sure everyone looks, acts and speaks like a professional in our field, but more importantly, be a compassionate man or woman of God. who we truly are.

copyright 2003 by Rev. Wayne M. Martin, Ph.D.
Used by permission.