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The following form for the ordination/installation of chaplains aims to recognize the diversity of calls and positions included within the designation of chaplain. It is understood that chaplaincy is not a distinct office but rather falls under either the office of minister of the Word or commissioned pastor, and yet the role of a chaplain working outside of the organized church is unique enough to warrant its own form for ordination/installation.

This form includes text for the following categories:

A. Preaching and Sacraments
B. Worship
C. Youth
D. Faith Formation
E. Pastoral Care
F. Evangelism
G. Military

You will need to decide which categories apply to the call of the chaplain to be ordained/installed in your congregation. Most chaplaincy work will focus particularly on E. Pastoral Care. This form serves as a template that you can adapt to your particular setting.

The Announcement

Congregation of Jesus Christ:
Today we rejoice in Christ’s special care and love for his church because we have the privilege of ordaining/installing [name] as chaplain [or: for a special ministry of this church]. Because [name] has accepted the call of [name of ordaining/installing congregation and/or institution], we shall now proceed with the ordination.

The Introduction

From its beginning the entire New Testament church was called to proclaim the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ to the whole world: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:19-20). It soon became apparent that the task committed to the church was vast and complex and that “there are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work” (1 Cor. 12:4-6). Therefore the church, under the guidance of the apostles, instituted distinct ministries to ensure that the work would be done well (Acts 6:1-6). Those engaged in these ministries were to function with Christ’s power and authority, a power and authority rooted in obedience to his Word and expressed in loving service.

These ministries are therefore to be distinguished from the more general ones given by Christ to all believers. The role of chaplain is one of these distinct ministries.

The Instruction

In varying ways every chaplain is a servant both of Christ and of the church, a steward in the household of God, a teacher to explain the mystery of the gospel, a shepherd who cares for the flock, and an ambassador and a herald of our King, proclaiming the message of reconciliation. As [job title] at [name of congregation and/or institution] you have also received a specific call.

[Use one or more of the following paragraphs as they apply to the calling of the chaplain. The focus of ministry for most chaplains will be E. Pastoral Care, but you may adapt these or write your own.]

(Preaching and Sacraments)  As a chaplain you may be called to preach. The preaching of the Word must faithfully reflect the Word of God and relate it to the needs of the listeners. Paul stressed this demand when he wrote, “Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage . . .” (2 Tim. 4:2). And because the sacraments are closely related to the preaching of the Word, the chaplain may have the privilege of administering holy baptism and the Lord’s Supper.

(Worship)  As a chaplain you may be called to lead God’s people in worship. Begin all your ministry efforts with the conviction that the Lord is “great . . . and most worthy of praise” (Ps. 48:1); “how good it is to sing praises to our God, how pleasant and fitting to praise him!” (Ps. 147:1). Always remember that Christ calls us to worship him “in the Spirit and in truth” (John 4:24) and that God calls to meet together (Heb. 10:25). All your leadership efforts must be charged with the conviction that “to him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!” (Rev. 5:13). Care well for your own spirit and heart so that your leadership comes from a heart and mind fixed on the Lord. Stir our hearts, knowing that our worship is preparation for joining the heavenly chorus.

(Youth)  As a chaplain you may be called to teach and form the faith of our youth. When Jesus said to Peter, “Feed my lambs” (John 21:15), he entrusted his followers with special care for the young. The chaplain must instruct baptized members of the congregation and others in our community in the way of salvation, and encourage and assist those who teach alongside (2 Tim. 2:2). “Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you an overseer. Be a shepherd of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood” (from Acts 20:28). Be a friend and Christlike example to our youth. Give clear and cheerful guidance. By word and example, bear up God’s people in their pain and weakness, and celebrate their joys with them. Hold in trust all sensitive matters confided to you. Be compassionate. Know the Scriptures, which are “useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16). Pray continually for the church. Remember at all times that if you would truly give spiritual leadership in the household of faith, you must be completely mastered by your Lord (1 Tim. 3:2-7).

(Faith Formation)  As a chaplain you may be called for the specific task of forming the faith of our community through worship, education, and service opportunities. The apostle Paul has taught us in Ephesians 4:11-13 that Jesus “gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” In order that every person following Jesus Christ may attain these goals, you may be called to assist this church as it promotes a vital program of education and faith formation.

(Pastoral Care)  As a chaplain you are called to visit those in crisis within the population that you serve [the members of the congregation and broader community], calling on the sick and suffering, comforting those who mourn, encouraging the weak, admonishing those who stray, and counseling those in need of guidance, holding in trust those matters confided in counsel or confession. The chaplain rejoices with those who rejoice and weeps with those who weep (Rom. 12:15).

(Evangelism)  A chaplain is called not only to serve those who already are members of the church of Christ, but also to serve and engage in conversation with those of other faiths or of no apparent faith. As a true disciple of our Master, the chaplain should show that the church exists also for the world and that the missionary task of the church forms an essential part of its calling.

(Military)  As a military chaplain you are called to a ministry in which you not only serve those under your care but you also live among them, deploy with them, and represent Christ to them, at all times and in all manner of places. “Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you an overseer. Be a shepherd of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood” (from Acts 20:28). Be a friend and Christlike example to all. Give clear and cheerful guidance. By word and example, bear up God’s people in their pain and weakness, and celebrate their joys with them. Care for the suffering, comfort those who mourn, encourage the weak, admonish those who stray, and counsel those in need of guidance. Preach the word, administer the sacraments, and lead God’s people in worship. Know the Scriptures, which are “useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16). Guard your heart and mind. Remember at all times that if you would truly give spiritual leadership to others you must be completely mastered by your Lord (1 Tim. 3:27).

As a servant of Christ, the chaplain must care for the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick, and those in prison (Matt. 25:31-46).

In all this work, the chaplain proclaims, explains, and applies holy Scripture in word and deed to all within his/her care. For this work, the chaplain must be devoted to the ministry of prayer, joining all Christians in confession, intercession, thanksgiving, and praise.

The Questions

[Name], in order that all God’s people assembled here may witness that you, in the strength of the Lord, accept the responsibilities of this office, you are -requested to stand and answer the following questions:

Do you believe that in the call of this congregation [and related institution] God calls you to this holy ministry?

Do you believe that the Old and New Testaments are the Word of God, the only infallible rule of faith and life?

Do you subscribe to the doctrinal standards of this church, rejecting all teaching that contradicts them?

Do you promise to be a faithful servant, to conduct yourself in a manner worthy of your calling, and to submit to the government and discipline of the church?

[Name], what is your answer?
Answer: I do, God helping me.

[The officiating minister shall then say with the laying on of hands:]
May God, who has called you to this great and glorious office, enlighten, strengthen, and govern you by the Word and Spirit so that you may serve faithfully and fruitfully in your ministry, to the glory of God’s name and the coming of the kingdom of the Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.

[The members of the congregation are now requested to stand to make their vows. The officiating minister addresses them:]
Dear congregation of Christ, we ask that you respond to the following questions with “We do, God helping us.”

Do you in the name of the Lord affirm [welcome] [name] as a chaplain called to serve [name of congregation and/or institution]?

Do you promise to pray for [name] as he/she carries out this work with obedience, love, and respect?

Congregation, what is your answer?
We do, God helping us.

[Option 1]

The Charge

[The officiating minister (or whoever has been designated) shall then congratulate and encourage the chaplain and the congregation in the following manner:]

Dear friend and fellow servant of Christ:

We rejoice with you on this day that, after much preparation, you have been -ordained/installed as a chaplain. [Or: We all rejoice with you on this day as you begin your ministry in (name of congregation and/or institution).]

May you experience much joy in fulfilling your calling. As you exercise the authority of the office entrusted to you, may you always remain a humble servant. Look faithfully after those you are called to serve—the old and the young, the faithful and the unfaithful, the healthy and the sick, the strong and the weak. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and suffer with those who suffer.

Use all your talents to the utmost of your ability, and do not neglect any of your gifts. And one day our chief Shepherd will give you the crown of glory, saying, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

And to you, dear fellow Christians, pray for [name] daily.

May you as chaplain and supporting congregation live as the bride longing for the coming of our heavenly Bridegroom, praying, “Come, Lord Jesus” (Rev. 22:20).

Let us now give thanks and ask the Lord to help us do what we have promised.

The Prayer

Thank you, Lord, on this day for your many blessings. Thank you for your church. Thank you for giving your church the task of serving and calling -others to your saving grace in Jesus Christ and to the fellowship of the covenant community.

Today we thank you in particular for those serving as chaplains on our behalf. We pray that you will bless [name] as a servant of Christ and the church.

Strengthen [name] and all of us all in the work of your church so that we may be the salt of the earth and the light of the world. Help [name] to endure the heat of the day and the darkness of the night, sustained by your healing and guiding presence. Together may we rejoice in the various callings you have given us as we serve in your name.

All this we ask with thankful hearts in the name of your dear Son, our Lord and Savior. Amen.

[Option 2]

The Charge

[The officiating minister (or whoever has been designated) shall then congratulate and encourage the chaplain and the congregation in the following manner:]

Brothers and sisters in Christ, joyfully support [name of chaplain] as your Associate Pastor [or Commissioned Pastor] serving as a Chaplain at [name of institution]. Encourage [her/him] as [he/she] ministers to individuals, families, and staff of [institution]. Pray for [her/him] as [he/she] represents the healing, guiding, and sustaining presence of God to those who experience themselves as wounded, vulnerable, or broken. Consider yourselves partners in [her/his] ministry, fulfilling God’s calling to all of us to serve Christ gratefully as our King. Be living reminders yourselves of the presence of God and assist [name of chaplain] in sustaining a kingdom vision. May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus Christ, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip us all with everything good for doing God’s will, and may God work in us what is pleasing to God, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

The Prayer

Gracious God,
We thank you that through the ministry of your people empowered by your Holy Spirit you desire to extend the healing power of your grace to all.

We thank you for the gifts of this servant, sent to [name of institution] as an agent of your grace.

Fill [him/her] now with your Holy Spirit.

Enlighten [her/his] mind to know the truth of your Word.

Soften [his/her] heart to feel compassion for those [he/she] meets.

Guide [his/her] hands to work for the good of others and the glory of God.

Shape [her/his] character so that others can see Christ in [her/him].

Give [her/him] speech to make known with sensitivity your deep compassion and restoring grace.

Endow [him/her] with wisdom to care for and guide the people to whom [he/she] ministers.

Give your servant courage to fulfill [his/her] calling against difficulties.

Help the individuals and staff of [name of institution] to see [her/him] as your servant. May they receive [him/her] as a pastor and trust [her/him] with their souls and life stories. Through [his/her] ministry may they deepen their trust in you and grow in faith, hope, and love.

We pray, O God, for the sake of your dear Son, in whose name we pray:

Our Father, who art in heaven . . .