I have had quite a number of pastors talk to me about a desire to become military chaplains. I am a chaplain (or padre) in the army reserves and I love it. It is one of the most rewarding things that I do. I am always happy to talk to people who are interested in this type of ministry.
However, I have had a number of people recently ask me about military chaplaincy who have not started university or Bible college. It took me off guard because often people think of military chaplaincy after they have graduated from seminary and have been pastoring a church for a few years.
The question they ask is, coming out of high school, what steps should a young person take to prepare for military chaplaincy?
There is no one answer to that question. Most often a person would put it on the back burner, do their undergraduate degree and then their seminary degree, and if the desire was still there they could apply to join as a military chaplain. The problem with that is that it may take close to ten years and the goal could be totally forgotten.
If I was a recent high school graduate and I really wanted to become a military chaplain, this is what I would do.
I would apply to a university or Bible college to begin my undergraduate degree. At the same time, I would join the army reserves.
Why is this? For one reason, being an army reservist is a better paying job than most part-time jobs and it will help you get you through your education. The summer training would really help with tuition.
More important than that, it would give you valuable experience about what it is like to be a soldier. Chaplains do go through basic training but it is not the same thing as what the average soldier goes through. Doing this would be a resource that most chaplains could only dream of. There would be something in common between the chaplain and the soldier that would make ministry so much easier.
If someone did this, by the time they finished seminary and were ready to join as a chaplain, they would already have five to ten years of military experience. That would be an amazing advantage. By the way, this would work whether the person wanted to be a chaplain in the reserve or regular forces.
I am not saying that potential chaplains have to do this, but it is an idea worth thinking about.