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Chaplains a servant to all in the military

Chaplains in the military have a unique pastoral role where they provide guidance to all ranks.

14 March, 2024

Generally, chaplains practise within a servant leadership model, which refers to the example of Jesus Christ who served people from all walks of life, from the very successful to the marginalised.

Chaplain Bill Dewar says people in the role were called to serve all, “whether we agree with the opinions or actions of the person or not”, and regardless of whether they were religious or not.

“We are asked by Command to support people who are going through difficult times and many people walk in or make contact to talk with us about their day to day life. We act as a sounding board for questions they have, we serve and support them without judgement through difficult times and also during exciting events or stages of life.

“Through this type of service, we gain the confidence and trust of many people right through the Command chain.”

As Defence personnel, chaplains complete leadership courses where they learn about leading themselves and leading others. “We use this knowledge and training along with our servant leadership skills to help people who have lost their way,” Chaplain Dewar says.

How does someone lose their way?

“A Defence Force member came to see me one day and after a little chit-chat I asked them how they were going. They looked at me and says they didn’t know where they were going in life and felt lost. There was a sense of hopelessness, frustration and loss, emotions that many of us will have experienced at one time or another.

“With our training, servant heart, and years of experience walking alongside people through difficult times, we can help people find their way back, whether that be emotionally, physically or spiritually.”

Chaplains are happy to help people of all denominations, or with no religious inclination at all.

“We provide a confidential space for people from all walks of life, whether they have a faith or not, to download their hurts, worries and frustrations – and begin to unpack what this means for them.

“We carefully listen to their story, at times this is all a person needs, many find their own answer and leave feeling heard, supported and valued. Chaplains can help provide a different perspective on a situation, help the person identify options and encourage or support them to make a plan for moving forward,” Chaplain Dewar says.

“Chaplains are human like everyone else, we will not always get things right, perfect or be liked by everyone, but ultimately, we try to do our best to follow the example of Jesus Christ, who considered himself a servant to all, putting others’ needs before his own.

“It is a privilege to walk with people as they navigate all aspects of their life. By listening, walking alongside, providing guidance and being there to support people, chaplains are a catalyst in developing a positive culture within the Defence Force,” he says.