Lessons Learned at Chaplain School

Graduation _Girls

A very long process has just come to an end.  New Army chaplains attend a 90 training program at the U.S. Army Chaplain Center and School located at Ft. Jackson, South Carolina.  It’s an introduction to the Army and to the Chaplaincy that challenges new chaplains physically and mentally in order to begin the process of molding them into the religious leaders that the Army needs them to be.  For me, that process came to an end in August.

As a National Guard chaplain I was given the opportunity to complete this course in phases so that I could continue my duties as a pastor at my home church.  This method allowed me to have small interruptions in my ministry at the church and my unit instead leaving for 90 days at once.  It also gave me the opportunity to implement what I learned in small chunks as I made my way through the course.

I learned more during my time at Chaplain School than I can write about here, but I have some lessons that I would like to share with you.  The following is a list of things that you can’t learn in a book.  These are lessons that our cadre (instructors) invested in us, and that for me have been transformational for my life and ministry.  I pray that they will be helpful for you as well.

Lessons learned:

Every day is an opportunity – We can’t always choose what a day is going to bring us, but we can choose how we will respond to it.  Some days will be more challenging than others.  We can choose to embrace each day and allow God to use it to stretch us, or we can just go through the motions and gain nothing.  The choice is ours.

Psalm 118:24 This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.

The process is more important than the product – This was repeated more than once on a daily basis.  It’s easy to get so focused on the outcome of a project that we miss out on letting the process teach us something.  Everything that we go through has the potential for helping us grow if we will allow it to.

Romans 5:3-4  Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope…

We are spoiled and often miss the point – We often had to figure out how to make things work in less than ideal circumstances.  Doing so brought to surface our reliance on the conveniences of home.  It’s easy to become so accustomed to the comforts that we enjoy that we don’t realize how they control and limit us.

Everyone has something to contribute – One of the strengths of the Army is the diversity of its members, and the Chaplaincy is no different.  Men and women are brought together from many different backgrounds with many different talents, abilities, and belief systems.  The Army gives soldiers the opportunity to learn to work together.  It’s a beautiful thing.

It’s also a picture of what the church can and should be.  1st Corinthians 12 describes the church as a body with many different parts that all work together.  When the church learns that it draws strength from the differences that we each bring to the body and it is better able to accomplish the mission that Jesus gave us.

Don’t quit – We were challenged mentally and physically every day.  Rest and free time were in short supply and assignments and stress were plentiful.  This was designed intentionally to create tension and to push us.  As we embraced this it taught us to endure and overcome.  Holding on through adversity helps us to grow and gain strength.  So when the days are hard hold on a little longer.  Don’t quit.

James 1:2-4 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

I hope this helps you.  The two years that it took me to complete this program have changed me in many ways and have prepared me for the calling that God has given me.  What is He teaching you?  I would love it if you would let me know in the comments below.

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