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Becoming a Chaplain

Prospective United Methodist chaplains need to seek professional credentials before they can begin serving in a specialized setting, either under appointment or as volunteers. Those seeking appointment as a chaplain must be endorsed, and those seeking to serve as volunteer chaplains must receive ecclesiastical approval. The United Methodist Endorsing Agency (UMEA) handles both endorsement and ecclesiastical approval.

Endorsement for Appointed Chaplain

Serving as an endorsed chaplain, pastoral counselor or spiritual care provider is a multilateral partnership that involves the chaplain, the church, the employer and the professional organizations which train and certify clergy for ministry in specialized settings. Applications for all categories of endorsement and approval are available here.

Endorsement Process: Institutions which train and employ chaplains or spiritual care providers often require evidence of endorsement as a condition of employment or certification. Governmental agencies, corporations, professional associations and other secular institutions are not qualified to judge the religious qualifications of those they employ as spiritual care providers. Instead, they look to church bodies and other religious institutions to identify those rooted in their traditions, professionally qualified and ecclesiastically authorized to provide ministry in specialized settings. In providing endorsement on behalf of the Church, the UMEA serves as a bridge between annual conferences, which license, ordain and appoint clergy, and outside institutions, which employ and certify chaplains.

Endorsement certifies that a person is credentialed as clergy by The United Methodist Church and is authorized to perform the religious ministries required in the endorsed setting. Endorsement recognizes the presence of the gifts of character and ability required in the setting, including the ability to acquire the professional training and certification necessary in the endorsee’s field of expertise.

Anyone who needs to document their ecclesiastical qualifications as a condition of employment must receive endorsement from UMEA. Such documentation is mandatory for military chaplains and those serving in government agencies. Corporations and professional associations also commonly require endorsement.

Applicants for endorsement must belong to one of three clergy categories:

  • Elders ordained in full connection or provisional members on the elder track.
  • Deacons ordained in full connection or provisional members on the deacon track.
  • Associate clergy members of the annual conference or licensed local pastors.

Click here to apply for endorsement. Learn more about the full process with the UMEA Endorsement Guide.

Training and Certification: Most civilian employers will require substantial training in Clinical Pastoral Education in addition to a master’s degree, and many employers will require chaplains to achieve board certification within a certain period after employment.

Employment: Although United Methodist chaplains serve within the appointive system, chaplains are responsible for finding their own employment. The best way to learn what employers require is to read job descriptions and talk with clergy now serving in the specialized profession that interests you.

Ecclesiastical Approval for Volunteer Chaplain

Clergy serving as volunteer chaplains also commonly need evidence of ecclesiastical approval. UMEA provides ecclesiastical approval for clergy serving in settings that include:

  • Civil Air Patrol (CAP)
  • Coast Guard Auxiliary
  • Volunteer State Guard
  • Law enforcement chaplains
  • Fire and rescue
  • Disaster services, EMS
  • Other unpaid volunteer chaplain programs (hospitals, prisons, etc.)

Click here to apply for ecclesiastical approval to serve as a volunteer chaplain. Explore the Volunteer Chaplain Approval guide to learn more about the full process

Military Chaplain Candidate Program

Seminary students enrolled as candidates for ordained ministry in The United Methodist Church are eligible to participate in chaplain candidate programs conducted by the military departments. Participants receive a military commission and regular officer’s pay for the days spent in training. The chaplain candidate provides students the opportunity to explore military chaplaincy and learn about ministry to the military community. Participation in the chaplain candidate program does not guarantee future employment in the military as a chaplain or future endorsement by the church.

Click here to apply for ecclesiastical approval to participate in a military chaplain candidate program. See our Military Chaplain Candidate Program guide to learn more about the full process.

Scholarship Opportunities

Some funding support is available to prospective chaplains. Those seeking more information should explore the Ministry as a Career section of GBHEM’s Loans & Scholarships page. Scholarship funding is also available through the Chaplain Samuel Grover Powell Scholarship Fund administered by the United Methodist Higher Education Foundation.

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