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
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
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
*Red Cross Chaplains
*Armed Forces Emergency Services
*School / College Chaplain
*Industrial / Workplace Chaplain
*Jail / Prison 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:
*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
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
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
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
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.