by Karen A. Fliedner, OCF Assoc. Ed
October is Clergy Appreciation Month!
What are you going to do to let your pastor–your chaplain! –know how much you appreciate them in their God-appointed roles?
Better yet, go even further! Ask the chaplains in your realm of influence how you can come alongside and help them run the race God has set before them–serving others as earthbound shepherds of His flock.
One of Officers’ Christian Fellowship’s longstanding spiritual pillars has been and continues to be supporting the chaplaincy, first by recognizing chaplains’ responsibilities and authority in local command religious programs. Coming from that starting point, OCF members are then urged to cooperate with and assist chaplains by prayer and participation in chapel-sponsored and workplace ministry.
Chapel activities at military units, bases, posts, and aboard vessels are ideal venues for Christ-centered outreach and service. OCFers can help reach others for the Lord Jesus Christ throughout the entire military society by volunteering to:
- Teach a Sunday school class
- Lead a Bible study
- Assist with youth groups, worship team, or as needed
From OCF’s booklet Supporting Your Chaplain, authored by CAPT Bill Weimer, CHC, USN (Ret.), are suggested ways OCFers can encourage their chaplains:
- Get to know the chaplain-and family-providing personal friendship and encouragement.
- Pray constantly for that chaplain.
- Communicate and interact regularly with the chaplain. Show the chaplain that you do appreciate him or her, and the command ministries–and provide resources and tangible support.
- Offer the gift of hospitality such as inviting them to lunch.
- Invite them to your unit where you can introduce them to people.
- Find ways to honor publicly his or her special talents and accomplishments.
On a larger scale, entire OCF fellowships can partner with–and thereby truly honor–their local chaplain in ways such as:
- Offer leadership and service for major chapel events: prayer breakfasts, speaker events, concerts, and special worship.
- Welcome new chaplains to their assignment.
- Be aware of significant events in your chaplain’s life-birthday, anniversary, illnesses, orders, promotion or pass-over.
- Hold a “Chaplain Appreciation” event- and make it a “no-cost” event for them. Invite all chaplains and possibly their spouses to participate.
- As led by the Lord, participate in chapel tithes, offerings, and special gifts to help support installation religious programs and activities.
- Understand the chaplain’s vision, missions, and needs so that you can properly submit your OCF ministry to his or her legitimate command authority.
- Remember that chaplains, like pastors, cannot personally meet all the needs represented in the chapel or in your fellowship. OCF members can be of tremendous assistance to the chaplain both personally and professionally.
Chaplain Weimer stresses the importance of not allowing a “non-essential belief different from yours” to “prevent us from being brothers or sisters in Christ and coworkers in ministry.”
And he also points out that a chaplain, “even if not of the same biblical conviction, can be used as God’s instrument to expand His kingdom in the military.” Christians are often called by the Lord “to cooperate not only with the like-minded but also with others whose motivations, interests, and biblical views may differ somewhat from ours–all without compromising our own personal call and convictions.”
If in a setting, however, where concepts or doctrine are not biblically based, Weimer suggests that upon prayerful consideration and before leaving, to “meet with the chaplain to discuss your concerns.”
Pastors--chaplains! –and their families often live in the glaring spotlight with the intense pressure of unrealistic expectations. More often than not congregations expect their pastors and chaplains to be perfect people with ideal families-and always available with all the right answers, and never be distressed or discouraged.
Often set apart from other military members in their distinctive caregiving roles, chaplains too need the Lord’s strengthening encouragement that can come from fellow believers in Christ who take a sincere interest in them as well.
That is why it is important to support and encourage the clergy in their lives of perpetual service to others, for as God in His Word declares, “The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching” (1 Timothy 5:17).