Friday, May 6, 2016

Making a Successful Transition From the Parish Pastorate to Hospice Chaplaincy, Part 5

  • Review your ministry as a Parish Pastor.  What type of Pastor were you?  The answer to that will definitely have an effect upon your work as a hospice Chaplain.
    There are 4 key questions that will help you as you explore the answer.  Looking back over a ministry career in the parish pastorate can bring about feelings of nostalgia.  Nostalgia has a way of fogging one’s memory, it must be warned.  So let’s take a walk back over your parish ministry career and do some kicking around.

  1.  Key Question #1:  Do you have any unfinished business?  We hospice Chaplains are fairly well known for exploring with our patients any of their unfinished business.  Do we have any?  Unfinished business drains the soul of energy, creativity, and inner peace.  Is there someone you have yet to forgive?  Beware the quick and thoughtless, “Oh, I forgive him long ago.”  Did you really or is it easier just to say that instead of acknowledging your pain and getting before God in prayer for healing that you may, indeed, forgive?  Spiritual pain in ministry is real and lasting.  Perhaps a church member wounded one of your children.  How are you coping with that, particularly if the damage was so bad that that child (now an adult) will have nothing to do with church?  What about your spouse?  Thom Rainer, President and CEO of Lifeway Christian Resources, has a powerful blog site (  He posted a few articles about the pastor’s wife (I apologize to those Chaplains who are female. Perhaps you can add to this discussion through the Comments section to share your perspective).  Did she find any of these to be true when it came to her relationship with the church?  In the January 2014 edition of the blog, Rainer suggests “11 Things I Learned from Pastors’ Wives”: 1.The number one challenge for pastors’ wives is loneliness. 2. These ladies need to know they have the love and support of their husbands.  3. A pastor’s wife does not want a church member to tell her what her “job” at the church is.          4. She would like church members to understand that neither she nor her family is perfect.  5. The pastor’s wife does not want to field complaints from church members about her husband.  6. The pastors’ wives who entered ministry with no forewarning about the issues they would face were the ones who stressed the most.  7. She does not want to be told she needs to work to support her husband and family. 8. While most pastors’ wives affirm their identity as a wife in ministry, they do not want that to be their only identity.  9. Many pastors’ wives believe they need training for their roles.  10. These ladies want to be reminded again and again to keep their focus on Christ.  11. Many pastors’ wives want a means where they can support one another.
    Unfinished business does involve emotional responses to what happened in our past.  For most pastors it has to do with being lied to or lied about; mean and nasty words spoken to or about; a forced termination with the accompanying blood bath business meeting; unending stress; imposed and accepted false guilt about taking a day off, going away for a weekend, buying a nice car or nice clothes or nice anything, being openly criticized at a business meeting, being harassed by the church critic, never feeling accepted into the fellowship, being gossiped about in the community, and the list can go on.  Is there any unfinished business?  Believe it or not, the emotional drain will follow you into hospice ministry.  Changing vocational ministry settings will not erase all of that pain.  Hospice service will give you a wonderful change of pace, affirmation, acceptance, a place at the table, respect, encouragement, and many more great emotional strokes.  But, if you are carrying a refrigerator filled with rotting emotions, you won’t be able to enjoy the positive aspects of the work.
  2.  Key Question #2:  How did you manage your time?  In the parish pastorate you are master of your own time.  What was your schedule?  Did you have set office hours?  Did you have a starting time and a quitting time or was your day open-ended?  Since you were on-call 24/7, what did you do for self-care?  Have you noticed that there are many out-of-shape Pastors?  When you went to a convention or conference, did you notice how many pastors were obese, on all sorts of medication, nervous, anxious, and unable to focus for more than a few minutes?  I observe these kinds of things with a profound sense of sorrow.  What has church ministry done to these men, many of whom are friends of mine?  I spent twenty five years in the local parish pastorate.  I get it.  I know what it is like to work and work hard to get the resistant to come to church, to give to the church, to reach the lost (SBC language for those who need God’s salvation through Christ), to baptize more this year than the previous year, to increase missions giving, to build bigger budgets, to build bigger buildings, to have more and exciting programs to draw children, teenager, young adults, middle aged adult and senior adults, to hire new staff, to have a day care center, to manage the program efficiently, and on and on it goes.  It’s a pressure cooker.  Does a pastor need time for himself or herself?  You better believe it.  Someone used a play on words when commenting on the manner of Jesus… “He came apart from his disciples to pray”… The play on words is this:  either we come apart to pray or we come apart.  How true is that?  What was your pattern for prayer and getting centered spiritually when you were in the parish pastorate?  What is it now?  In the hospice chaplaincy, you have to build a schedule.  In fact, at Cornerstone Hospice you are required to have your schedule posted for the next 2 weeks. You have to visit your patients every 30 days.  That is a Medicare requirement.  You have meetings to attend.  The bottom line is this; you have to manage your time efficiently.  You have a starting time, 8 AM.  You have an ending time, 4:30 PM. 
  3. Key Question #3:  What was your reputation as a parish pastor?  What strengths did your congregation recognize in you?  Were you seen as a man of God with a pastor’s heart? A great administrator? A leader? A successful communicator? A good listener?  All of these will hold you in good stead as a hospice chaplain.  Wouldn’t it be nice if were in our success zone all of the time?  Since we’re human, that means we make mistakes and earn the “stink eye” from time to time.  Here are some qualities that a hospice chaplain definitely does not want to be known for: being a KIA (know it all); sanctimonious; stingy; critical; careless with language; careless with jokes (dealing with race, women, morality, to name a few); argumentative; given to moodiness.  These are not exhaustive in number and description.  Perhaps you have more.  Our readers would profit from your observations.
  4. Key Question #4:  What preparation have you made for hospice chaplaincy?  Each hospice organization has different requirements for hiring chaplains.  My observation has been that if the requirements are minimal, so is everything else about that organization.  Stay away from that.  The higher the qualifications, then the higher the standards of the agency. It could also follow that the pay and benefits are higher as well.  When I speak of preparation, my own opinions leak out like a fire hose!  When I was younger and impressionable, I was told in reference to the pastorate to prepare fully for the task.  My response to that was to earn a BA, an MDiv. and a DMin.  I’m not sure all that benefited me financially, but it enable me to function in the pastorate in a prepared manner.  When I transitioned to the hospice environment, I was blessed by two hospice agencies which encouraged and permitted me to take 4 units of Clinical Pastoral Education.  Did they pay for my Units?  No, but in a sense they did as they allowed me to take work time for my studies.  While it was not required, I earned Board Certification as a Chaplain and then certification as a Clinical Fellow in Hospice and Palliative Care.  Did any of this earn me a huge raise in salary? No, not a bit.  But, it gave me inner knowledge that I prepared as best as I could for the task I am charged with.  In the coming days, it is my opinion that in the new healthcare climate, Chaplains in the healthcare field will all have to be board certified.  I believe that will be a Medicare requirement.  For the longest time, hospice chaplains were parish pastors who were good people who cared deeply for the sick and dying.  It’s a different day in 2014 than in 1984 when hospice started.  We have gone from a ‘movement’ to an ‘industry’.  That carries with it a different set of requirements.  Hospice Chaplains, be aware of this and do your best to move forward toward board certification.  If you have questions about how to achieve this, please ask.  I’ll provide you with information.  Bless you, Chaplains, in your work.  

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