One of the most rewarding parts of my life has been my role as a military chaplain (padre). I hear from pastors who are considering joining the army but are not sure if they should. I would like to share why I think it is a good idea.
For clarification, I can only speak from my perspective. That means that I am speaking about the Canadian military and even then, only about the reserves. For other contexts, please contact someone serving in that capacity.
1. There is a tremendous need. Many of the soldiers I have served with have done tours in Afghanistan. No one can go through something like that and not be changed. These soldiers need a Christian presence in their lives.
2. Pastors need to get out of the Church. Christians are nice but pastors need to be around real people. Serving in a military unit, you will be around people of every religious tradition and those of none. It is a great way to get out of the Christian ghetto.
3. Padres receive training that is useful in pastoral ministry. Pastors are often looking for ways to study but education is so expensive. In the military, not only is the training free, you actually get paid for it. Many of the courses you will take are just as applicable to local church ministry.
4. Padres benefit from experience. A pastor will be stretched in the military. Padres get pushed in the way they need to minister and this will help them to grow as pastors within their church.
5. Being in the military keeps you in shape. The military expects all of its members, including padres, to keep in good physical shape. Pastors are not known for being physically fit. The military will prevent you from getting lazy.
6. Being a padre is really fun. The activities you get to be involved in and the people you spend time with really make it worth it. There are things you can do in the military that you would never get to do in a church. It is an enjoyable experience.
7. This is not the most important, but it is an added income. There are pastors, especially those in smaller churches, who are not paid very well. The military pays relatively well and the added income can really help a pastor’s family.
These are just some of the reasons that I think pastors should consider military chaplaincy. If you live in Canada, you can start by checking out this site.