Thursday, September 24, 2009


When I was a young, inexperienced Army chaplain, I went to see a chaplain who’d been in the Army over 20 years. I asked if he could give me some career guidance, and his answer was, “I don’t know what to tell you.” He either didn’t know much about the military, which is impossible (you don’t make Colonel by being ignorant), or he didn’t wish to impart his knowledge. All chaplains have supervisors, but they are not always mentors. Knowledge is power, and in a competitive military some people don’t want to share. What amazed me was that I was hardly a threat to this Colonel. Nonetheless he didn’t want to pass on his wisdom. I may have over-reacted to this unsatisfying conversation. As I gained experience and understanding, I shared it with others, often whether they wanted my knowledge or not. Not long ago I wrote an article on “ministry of presence” and emailed it to chaplains I know. It’s not an ego-thing, it’s simply trying to be helpful and generous. I hope for the most part my sharing is appreciated. I try to tell the chaplains I oversee as the Ecclesiastical Endorser for the Military to pass on their learning with others, to be a true mentor. As a retired chaplain I mentor seminarians seeking the military chaplaincy. I tell lots of “war stories” and give materials I’ve compiled to help them do well in this unique ministry. If we all did this, we’d all be a whole lot smarter and more effective. The question is: why don’t we? Do we feel threatened, are we being selfish, or do we think we have little to offer? When was the last time you shared a good idea with others? Let’s take the time to build one another up for the sake of God’s Kingdom.

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