This chaplaincy training working paper results from the project Chaplains as Facilitators of Covenantal Pluralism, supported by Templeton Religion Trust.

Citation: Cadge, Wendy, Grace Tien, and Trace Haythorn. 2022. “What are chaplains learning? Perspectives on the supply side: A working paper.” Chaplaincy Innovation Lab.


Employers, practitioners, educators, and leaders in the field of chaplaincy have differing views about the training chaplains need in order to do their jobs well. This article begins to map the “supply side” of chaplaincy, a complex array of organizations, agencies, and institutions that train and credential chaplains. Drawing on curricular materials, archival documents, and interviews from the supply-side, we show how professional chaplains are trained to work in some sectors in the United States, what they learn, and what institutions are involved in the process. We focus primarily on workplace settings where chaplains are required by law – the military, federal prisons, and the Veterans Administration. These employers typically expect theological schools and endorsers to prepare and vet individuals in the specifics of their own faith traditions. They see clinical programs focusing on hands-on experience engaging in diverse and pluralistic settings. They see their own training – employer or sector-specific – focused on aspects of organizational culture, including how to effectively provide spiritual care in individual contexts. Federal employers generally agree that new chaplains need more and better training in crisis intervention, moral injury, and the work of pluralistic and increasingly non-religious workplaces. We suggest theological schools and clinical training programs integrate these topics into required training. While the training organizations on the supply side of chaplaincy and spiritual care do share some important learning objectives, they do not work as a collective, efficient network to help build a workforce of chaplains with a consistent set of skills to best strengthen the field.


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