Date of Award

5-1-1999

Degree Type

Dissertation

University or Center

Interdenominational Theology Center (ITC)

Degree Name

D.Min.

Department

Church Administration and Leadership

Abstract

The model of ministry developed in this dissertation is intended to demonstrate how military hospital chaplains can respond more qualitatively to the needs of patients and care providers at Martin Army Community Hospital at Fort Benning, in Columbus, Georgia. Fort Benning, is an installation unit of the United States Army. The model calls for the implementation of a Volunteer Training Program that builds on the skills and experience of active and reserve duty chaplains, as well as those of laity and spouses, to conduct pastoral ministry and visitation. This project grew out of a drastic need to assist chaplains in the Department of Ministry and Pastoral Care in ensuring adequate coverage for patients and care providers at the Hospital. The model seeks to establish a “Ministry of Presence,” i.e., to have so many trained volunteers available throughout the Hospital that the care needs of patients at any given time do not go unmet. Historically, the Unit Ministry Team has been hampered in its efforts to provide adequate coverage for the ministry and pastoral care needs of patients and care providers. This situation resulted primarily from the fact that excessive meetings, conferences, miscellaneous duty requirements. and other low-priority tasks consumed a disproportionate amount of the Ministry Team members’ time. While some effort was made to reduce the number of non-essential functions, duties that were not directly related to pastoral care still constituted ma] or distractions and prevented the Unit Team’s members from attending to the more essential tasks of ministering to the needs of patients. The implementation of the Volunteer Training Program brought relief to the overwhelmed Unit Ministry Team in the form of an “army” of volunteers who were trained to function as chaplains. The presence of support staff allowed the chaplaincy staff to attend to other tasks and helped ensure that a trained and caring person was available when needed. The Program is an intensive experience structured around one week of instruction, readings, simulated counseling sessions, role-playing visitations, writing verbatim reports, peer review, and dialogue-feedback sessions with a volunteer supervisor. The training gave active and reserve duty chaplains additional experience in hospital ministry and fulfilled the basic requirements for continuing education units for lay person. Overall, the Volunteer Training Program was successful in that it enhanced the presence of trained chaplain’s volunteers and ensured that the care needs of patients were meant. The Program precipitated an increased awareness of the importance of pastoral care and a greater sensitivity to the need for hospital ministry. In addition, this Program inspired chaplains at other military hospitals to consider such a program for the hospitals at which they are stationed. Most importantly, the Volunteer Training Programsignificantly improved the capacity of the Department of Ministry and Pastoral Care at Martin Army Community Hospital to provide effective pastoral ministry and patient care.

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