Chaplaincy in business

What is corporate chaplaincy?

Corporate chaplaincy provides employers the opportunity to offer a Chaplain Assistance Program (CAP) benefit to their employees. A CAP is a personal, voluntary, and confidential employee care benefit available to employees and their households/immediate family members. The employer sponsors the opportunity, and a chaplaincy provider brings in chaplains.

Corporate chaplaincy provides the benefit of caring, compassionate chaplains available to serve all employees 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. Chaplains help employees connect with the resources they need in order to reduce stress and help the organization run more smoothly. They ensure that employees do not have to feel alone when life gets overwhelming.They also ensure that managers are not alone when trying to deal with the complex personal situations that employees bring to work.

As chaplains build relationships with employees, they are available to provide support and encouragement when things are going well, and to facilitate creative problem solving when employees are struggling with any number of personal issues.


Why should a business have a corporate chaplaincy program?

The current economic crisis is taking its toll on more than just people’s wallets. The additional emotional stress is hitting families, and many Americans are taking this stress to work with them each day.

Even when the economy is strong, the fast pace, pressures, and distractions of everyday life create the reality that most employees are barely able to hang on. Many people have run out of margin: They work beyond the 40 hour work week, fulfill responsibilities at home, and are tired and overwhelmed much of the time. Many people do not have anyone to turn to during the challenging times of life. Difficulties and challenges that employees face outside the workplace come to work with them, which can result in low productivity, low morale, and high absenteeism.

Through a Chaplain Assistance Program (CAP), employers can demonstrate that they care about the people they lead.


Why is a Chaplain Assistance Program important for employers as well as their employees?

Offering a CAP as an optional employee benefit provides a competitive edge when it comes to hiring top talent. Additionally, organizations offering CAPs report much higher usage rates than those offering traditional Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs), simply because of the relational nature of corporate chaplaincy.

Most employers recognize that absenteeism and turnover can create a significant cost to an organization. In addition, an employee who is focused on a personal problem, rather than on work, can be the cause of expensive errors or accidents. Being proactive in caring for the life, emotional, and spiritual needs of employees can actually save an organization money in the long run.


What benefits does a chaplain offer to an organization’s management team?

Chaplains are available to serve rank and file employees as well as leaders within an organization. In addition to being available to help executives and managers resolve personal problems, chaplains serve as a resource for the leadership team and are available to respond quickly and offer assistance with a variety of issues when there are special requests from the leaders within an organization.

With a chaplain in the workplace, managers can focus on the productivity of the organization and doing that for which they are trained, rather than on the plethora of relational issues that otherwise seem to consume so much of their time—often these issues are outside the scope of the manager’s expertise as well. A Chaplain Assistance Program, therefore, frees managers to do what they do best—and allows the chaplain to do what he or she does best for the benefit of all involved.


How does a Chaplain Assistance Program (CAP) differ from an Employee Assistance Program (EAP)?

While an Employee Assistance Program can be an important asset to any employee group, it is often underutilized or unable to address the initial onset of a concern. An on site chaplain is frequently able to help identify a potentially problematic issue, facilitate its early resolution, or refer to the EAP provider.

Specifically, a Chaplain Assistance Program can add benefits beyond a traditional Employee Assistance Program in the following ways:

  • A CAP is designed so that chaplains build relationships with employees and are available for conversations regarding issues large and small. Often, a small issue never becomes a large one because the Chaplain Assistance Program is accessible, personal, and available early on.
  • A CAP offers an extensive range of personal assistance. These services include hospital visitation, home visitation, jail visitation, and personal encouragement—not only in the workplace, but also by phone and/or email. Chaplain availability also extends to weddings and funeral services.
  • A CAP attends to the individual employees directly because chaplains are committed to regularly being available and developing personal relationships with employees through visits to the workplace.
  • A CAP offers on site chaplains who provide a caring, proactive approach to improving the quality of life for the employees and the organization.The chaplain is a person with whom the employee can develop a relationship and is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week,365 days a year.
  • The chaplain will help the employee articulate his/her needs and connect with an EAP sooner and more effectively in situations where an EAP referral would be beneficial.


Can a corporate chaplain effectively care for employees from varied religious backgrounds?

Yes. Chaplains are skilled workplace caregivers who are trained in providing care in a diverse environment. Regardless of their faith backgrounds, chaplains can offer relational care and basic human care. If a question of faith is brought to the chaplain, the chaplain will do his or her best to offer assistance and help the employee find answers.

If the question refers to a topic about which the chaplain does not have an understanding or is not qualified to speak, the chaplain will then help the employee by offering to assist with referral services. For example, if a Jewish employee asks a Christian chaplain about a specific doctrinal interpretation, the chaplain would help the employee find a leader within the Jewish community to help answer those questions.


Do chaplains push religion or focus primarily on the religious needs of the employees?

No. Chaplains are sensitive to any needs employees may have. The CAP approach is based on the military or hospital chaplain model—a neutral, nurturing, and always available caregiver—and focuses on helping employees and their families better manage and respond to basic, personal life, and work issues. Because it is not an organized religious program, nothing is done that violates religious discrimination, civil rights, or privacy laws.


How will the chaplaincy program be introduced to the employees at the client organization?

Before a chaplain starts work with an organization, an orientation meeting is held to explain CAP features and benefits, as well as appropriate ground rules like chaplain confidentiality. This meeting is similar in tone and function to other benefits orientation meetings with a time for questions and answers.

At the end of the orientation, employees receive a business card with the chaplain’s contact information (cell phone number, email, etc.). The chaplain’s contact information is also posted on bulletin boards and listed in other company communication vehicles.


What about employees who may not want a chaplain?

At the orientation meeting, employees learn that they—not their employer or the chaplain—make all decisions about interaction. In practice, all or most employees eventually come to appreciate the benefit of having someone safe with whom to talk, and they enjoy a positive relationship with the chaplain simply because the chaplain is there for no other reason than to care.

If someone isn’t open to a conversation, chaplains can simply offer a friendly “Hello.”As chaplains find out about the interests of the employees, they can offer a greeting that’s more personal, but chaplains will not force a relationship or even a conversation. Sometimes it just takes time and consistency for employees to see chaplains as non threatening and trustworthy.

Chaplains will need to read each situation and each person, since each is different. Most importantly, chaplains understand that it is the employee who will be leading the chaplain employee relationship.


Do chaplains in the workplace interfere with employees getting their jobs done and/or create safety hazards?

No. The typical chaplain employee interaction lasts only a few minutes and occurs regularly (often weekly). If the employee wants to have a more in depth discussion or requests additional assistance from the chaplain, follow up conversations are arranged outside of work hours. These arrangements may include sending an email, a phone call, or getting together during a break or at lunch. Additionally, a more in depth discussion may occur at a neutral location, or possibly even the employee’s home.

The amount of time a chaplain spends visiting employees in the workplace is dependent upon the number of employees with whom he or she has conversations, as well as the number of business locations being served. If a prolonged visit at the workplace appears necessary, the supervisor’s approval would be required before any such meeting took place. Usually, only a brief conversation is needed to bring hope, encouragement, and a fresh set of eyes and ears to a problem.


What types of cases typically involve chaplains?

While chaplains can officiate wedding ceremonies and funeral services, their primary role goes much further.

As chaplains build relationships with employees, they are available to help employees deal with issues both proactively and reactively. When an employee wants to talk, chaplains are happy to listen. Chaplains understand the importance of building trust through conversations about day to day issues, as well as being there to listen and offer assistance with more serious matters, such as: hospital care, family and marriage care, substance abuse, stress management, and interpersonal conflicts. Ideally, the chaplain employee interaction occurs before these issues get to a stage where they involve crisis management. In the event of an acute need, chaplains are certified to enter jail facilities, emergency rooms, and accident scenes.


How will the chaplain get to know the employees and their individual needs?

Every week, the chaplain will visit the worksite and have a brief personal interaction with every employee who desires it. While providing an uplifting moment of encouragement, the chaplain will build relationships with the employees. Additionally, employees can call their chaplain anytime (24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year) to get help with personal crisis management.


When are the chaplains available, and how does an employee contact a chaplain when special needs arise?

The chaplains are available via cell phone 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. Because chaplains typically visit each contracted location on a regular basis, employees often ask for assistance directly. Chaplains can also be contacted via email. Since they come to know the employees by way of brief weekly contact, there are very few barriers to initiating a discussion and following up with regards to any concerns on successive visits.


Does the chaplain provide long term counseling services?

Chaplains will not provide counseling services, but they will provide care for those who are in need of professional counseling by helping connect them with a suitable counselor, either from the employer’s insurance network or from the chaplain’s own referral network.

Corporate chaplains are very clear in both their written and verbal communication, as well as informal conversations, that they are not counselors and that they do not do counseling. Chaplains do emphasize how there is a positive, complementary relationship with counselors through referrals. In this sense, chaplains are more inclined to play a similar role to that of a local pastor, priest, or rabbi in the care spectrum versus a professional counselor; local leaders within the faith community need to know when to refer someone to professional counselors, just as chaplains do.

Much like family practice doctors refer patients to specialists for a variety of different issues, chaplains serve as generalists who are there to help employees know where to find the resources they need in order to help them deal with a variety of issues. Unlike a counselor, a chaplain will rarely meet with an employee to discuss the same issue beyond three or four visits. By interacting with employees on a regular basis, chaplains can help them address issues while they are still small. If issues grow larger, chaplains can facilitate the decision to seek counseling and find resources from any number of specialists in the community. Corporate chaplains are comfortable as the generalists, knowing that counselors are the specialists.

In the event that a chaplain is also a trained counselor, an employee receiving care may move from what is covered by chaplaincy to what is covered through counselor care by following an agreed upon protocol for such situations.

When people use the words “chaplain” and “counselor” interchangeably, a chaplain is happy to clarify the difference. They can explain the complementary natures of each profession while highlighting their unique areas of service.


What type of training do chaplains have, and what is the commitment to ongoing continuing education?

The on ramps into corporate chaplaincy are numerous, like they are for pastoral ministry. Just as some pastors seek formal training in seminary and some pastors gain experience through apprenticeship in a local church, so it is currently with corporate chaplains.

Some of the current on ramps into the field of corporate chaplaincy include:

• Involvement in a local church or parish work as a pastor, priest, or rabbi

• Professional training as a counselor or social worker

• Training as a spiritual director

• Training as a Stephen Minister

• Training as an Employee Assistance Provider (EAP)

• Experience as a marketplace leader coupled with significant experience and training as a lay leader in the faith community

• Experience as a military or hospital chaplain

Only two seminaries in the U.S. currently offer master’s level programs appropriate for corporate chaplains. As a result, apprenticeship type learning, in addition to training in related fields, is essential.

As in many other professions, there is also a commitment to ongoing training by means of:

  • Continuing Education Units (CEUs) offered through regional chapters of Employee Assistance Program providers, colleges, universities, seminaries, and churches
  • Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) courses
  • Tailored in house training


Is there a legal concern associated with offering a Chaplain Assistance Program?

No. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits religious discrimination by

employers with 15 or more workers. Under Title VII, employers:

• May not treat employees or job applicants more or less favorably because of their religious beliefs.

• May not force employees to participate in a religious activity.

• Must reasonably accommodate employees’ sincerely held religious beliefs or practices, unless doing so would impose an undue hardship on the employer.

• Must take steps to prevent religious harassment of their employees.

Chaplains are also familiar with and work within the parameters of the White House Guidelines for Religion in the Federal Workplace. Furthermore, during more than 60 years of corporate chaplaincy history, no organization offering a Chaplain Assistance Program, nor any chaplain agency, has been the target of litigation concerning chaplain care.

When a Chaplain Assistance Program is voluntary and non denominational, it fulfills the positive requirement of enhancing a faith friendly and diversity friendly environment in the workplace.


How does an organization benefit from outsourcing chaplaincy rather than hiring its own chaplains?

There are several benefits to outsourcing chaplain!care. First, outsourcing is more cost effective than hiring a full time staff person. Second, chaplaincy organizations offer a support network that gives the client organization access to other trained, experienced professionals. Finally, outsourcing chaplain services provides greater confidentiality and objectivity.