Becoming an Industrial Chaplain

What is an Industrial Chaplain?

An industrial chaplain is someone who works for a business and actually offers workplace ministry to the business’s employees. This may include offering counseling, helping mediate conflicts between employees, and offering wellness seminars. If an employee is killed on the job or suddenly becomes ill, an industrial chaplain may help console co-workers. The chaplain may also visit ill or hurt employees at the hospital or even at the homes, providing them with someone to talk to outside of the workplace.

There are actually a fairly large number of corporations who have chosen to hire someone to handle workplace ministry. According to statistics from the Corporate Chaplains of America and Marketplace Chaplains USA< there are upwards of 3,000 chaplains who work for businesses, giving over 47,000 employees the chance to turn to an industrial chaplain in their times of need.

Workplace ministry is not designed to be an evangelistic program, and industrial chaplains shouldn’t try to convert others.

Who is an Industrial Chaplain?

An industrial chaplain is an ordained minister who has been hired by a corporation to provide workplace ministry to its employees. While many would assume that these chaplains are hired mainly by privately owned, Christian-based companies, there are actually a number of publicly held businesses and non-Christian businesses that have industrial chaplains on the payrolls. Of course, not all of the workforce a company employs is going to be Christian, which means these chaplains do have to realize that they may not be welcomed by everyone. Industrial chaplains must always be respectful of the beliefs of others and be willing to step away when an employee expressly states that they do not want the chaplain’s help.

Industrial chaplains may have an office at the workplace where they meet with employees who are in need of counseling, but they’re often on call 24/7 and may meet with employees anywhere. Some even visit employees at their cubicles or offices to offer them a friendly hello and ask how they’re doing. Outside of work, they visit ill employees, talk to employee family members who have recently lost a loved one, and may even officiate services for those who aren’t a member of a church.

Many would mistake them for regular employees—they don’t often wear robes or other traditional minister garb except when officiating at services. Some may not appear overly religious, either. In order to help the most people, some may approach their position as more of a counselor or therapist and less as a religious evangelist.

In very large corporations, there will actually be several industrial chaplains on staff. This is especially true for businesses with multiple offices in different locations. In this case, it’s possible one of the industrial chaplains will also serve as a department head, coordinating the activities and actions of other chaplains in the business.

Steps to Become an Industrial Chaplain

If you plan on working as an Industrial Chaplain, you will have to complete several degrees, become ordained by your church, and get licensed to work as a chaplain. These requirements are mandated for all chaplains, not just those who want to go into workplace ministry. Listed below is a summary of the basic requirements needed to become an Industrial Chaplain:

  • Have a strong desire to help people through a sharing of your faith.
  • Earn a bachelor’s degree in Religion, Theology or Pastoral Counseling.
  • Earn a master’s degree in Biblical Studies, Theological studies, or Spiritual Studies.
  • Get ordained.
  • Complete a residency or internship if required.
  • Get certified.

Religious Requirements for Industrial Chaplains

In order to serve as an industry chaplain, you’re going to have to become ordained in your church. That’s because you will have to be a certified chaplain to meet most job requirements, and in order to gain this certification, you’ll need to be ordained. Becoming ordained is a process by which the church leadership recognizes that you have the knowledge, drive, and faith necessary to be seen as a leader in the church. The requirements to become ordained are not always the same—different churches and different denominations will require different things. However, you can expect that your involvement with the church and religious community will be evaluated, and there is generally an interview with a group of church leaders.

Education Requirements

Your first step towards becoming an industrial chaplain is to enroll in an undergraduate religion program. You’ll need to earn a bachelor’s degree before you can work on your master’s. These programs will prepare you to enter graduate school with a solid educational foundation. You will learn how to do research, become familiar with the Bible and the church, and much more. If you major in ministry or enroll in a program that focuses on church leadership, you may also take courses in counseling, public speaking, and administration.

While not a requirement for most religion degrees, you might also want to take a few courses in psychology and counseling. These classes will help you gain a deeper understanding of emotions like grief, anger, and sadness plus provide you with tools for dealing with conflict and depression.

Why Earn a Master's Degree?

Once you’ve completed your undergraduate studies, it’s time to look at graduate school or seminary. Both will provide you with further training and education. You may want to get a Master’s of Divinity, but usually, any master’s degree in religion will be sufficient. Graduate work often requires you to complete a thesis and take courses that are more focused than the typical introductory courses that undergraduates take. You will delve more into Biblical studies and scriptures, study various leadership techniques, and much more.

The Importance of Accreditation

When deciding where to get your bachelor’s and master’s degrees from, it’s very important that you look at accreditation. An accredited university has been evaluated by an independent accreditation program. These programs look at a number of factors to determine whether or not the university is graduating degree-holders who are prepared to succeed in their field of expertise. Degrees from universities that are not accredited may not be accepted by employers as proof that you have the knowledge you need to actually do the job you’re applying for. That’s why it’s very important to enroll in an accredited school.

Undergraduate programs may be accredited by a number of different groups. Those who are looking to become certified as a chaplain will want to look for a program that is accredited by the Council for Higher Education Association (CHEA). That’s because those who graduate from a CHEA-accredited school will not need to take certain educational requirements for their Association for Professional Chaplains (APC) certification.

When looking at graduate school, you want to find a program that is accredited by one of these groups:

  • The Association of Theological Studies
  • The Transnational Association for Christian Colleges and Schools
  • The Association for Biblical Higher Education

Master's Program Objectives and Goals

The objective of these educational programs is to confer degrees upon students who have gained the knowledge, training, and skill set needed to excel in their fields. For those in religion, this means learning to be a leader in the community, having extensive knowledge of the scriptures and the church, and having developed a strong faith that can form the basis of communication with others.

Earning Practical Experience

In order to be licensed, you will need to gain some practical experience in the area of ministry. This means working under a supervising chaplain for a period of two years or so. If you’re going into workplace ministry, it only makes sense that you do this residency under an industrial chaplain so that you gain experience directly related to the area in which you wish to work. This will help you see how to apply everything you’ve learned while gaining your degrees.

Some graduate programs require internships or work in a community outreach program. In many cases, you can do this type of work under an industrial chaplain and may be able to count it as part of your practical experience, shortening the time it takes for you to get your chaplain certification.

Industrial Chaplain Licensing and Certification

You will need to get certified by the Association for Professional Chaplains (APC) in order to work as an industrial chaplain. This means that you will have to complete all of their requirements, which include becoming ordained, holding a graduate degree, and completing the Clinical Pastoral Education program (CPE).

CPE has four different units that you need to complete, each of which takes about three months to do. That’s another year of work, but some of these courses or even entire units may be skipped if you earned your bachelor’s degree from a university with CHEA accreditation.

Industrial Chaplain Jobs & Job Description

Industrial or commercial chaplains are a growing sector of the chaplaincy movement.  Working with employees, these chaplains should be comfortable with the following duties on a day to day basis:

  • Foster an atmosphere of guidance for individuals or groups
  • Support both clients and staff as required
  • Provide an environment of safe communication in a non-judgemental and loving environment
  • Offer clients, employees, volunteers and managers spiritual guidance in accordance with their faith denomination
  • Offer spiritual care and services
  • Advocate on behalf of the well-being of internal and external stakeholders
  • Make hospital, hospice, and home visits as required
  • Provide spiritual formation for individuals and groups
  • Lead services to promote and encourage spiritual growth and exploration
  • Curate and maintain worship materials
  • Purchase new worship materials
  • Arrange to copy or bind certain worship materials
  • Liaise with a variety of community faith groups and churches
  • Provide pastoral services and support for marriages, funerals and baptisms
  • Utilize volunteers to assist in the chaplaincy work when necessary
  • Assist staff members in finding their vocation through work and a process of self-discovery
  • Cooperate with other members of the clergy and faith teams to provide a variety of accessible worship experiences
  • Encourage and empower all staff create a culture of work life and collegial respect
  • Be available on an emergency basis during non-work hours
  • Facilitate, manage and participate in special assignments and/or projects
  • Offer workplace ministry that counsels and mediates between employees, and between different levels of the organization
  • Be prepared to speak with employees outside of the workplace
  • Visit with employees at their work stations and offices
  • Act as an extension of a company’s employee assistance program (EAP)
  • Schedule and facilitate voluntary Bible studies and prayer groups
  • Share the Gospel as appropriate
  • Provide a kindness dimension to work life

Professional Organizations for Industrial Chaplains

Many professional chaplains join the APC, although it’s not a requirement. Those who do may take advantages of a number of resources the group offers. As a nondenominational organization, you may find it helpful to discuss how to approach difficult employees or how to effectively help those who are not religious but want to speak to someone for counseling. Other notable organizations include the National Institute of Business and Industrial Chaplains and the Industrial and Commercial Ministries.