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Webster’s New World College Dictionary says, “…3. a clergyman, or sometimes a layman, appointed to perform religious functions in a public institution…” A chaplain, then, is distinguished from the parish pastor because his chaplaincy is performed in a public institution as he ministers to those in a hospital, nursing home, police station, fire hall, jail or prison, or to those in the military and their families. A parish pastor might also serve as a chaplain on a part-time basis at one of those facilities.

The WELS Chaplain Certificate (CCP) is designed to raise professional standards, enhance individual performance of ministry, and demonstrate the knowledge essential for the practice of chaplaincy care.

The WELS Chaplain Certificate Program exists to help and train individuals, WELS pastors, staff ministers, teachers, laypeople, and those in confessional agreement with WELS for service in various forms of chaplain ministry.

Yes, anyone who meets the entry requirements of Martin Luther College may enroll in the college’s courses.

There are no course prerequisites; however, the prospective student should be spiritually active in his or her WELS/ELS church and have a passion for serving others. All lay (non-CRM) candidates are required to take the Foundation Course TH9534 “Grounded in Scripture,” preferably before they take any of the other courses.  Special exceptions may be granted in unique circumstances by the WELS Chaplain Certification Committee.

  • The candidate submits an application to the MLC Office of Continuing Education.
  • The application is reviewed, and professional and personal references are contacted.
  • If all information is complete and the candidate meets the personal and spiritual qualifications, the applicant may be accepted into the program.
  • After acceptance, the applicant is assigned an advisor. The advisor and applicant meet (face to face, if possible) to set up a program of study and practice.
  • The advisor and applicant will review the applicant’s previous work and study experience to explore whether experiential learning credit may be possible. Experiential credit is applied for, and received from, the MLC Office of Continuing Education.
  • If necessary, the advisor will assist the applicant in identifying a clinical pastoral education (CPE) course that will fulfill an elective of the program.
  • The applicant will fulfill the required courses for certification.
  • Since being prepared to carry out ministry requires more than fulfilling academic requirements, MLC with the advice of the Chaplain Certification Program Committee reserves the right to dismiss an academically eligible student for attitude, behavior, comportment, sociability, or diligence reasons.  The judgment of the committee may be that the student does not possess the skills necessary to serve in the ministry at this time.
  • Upon successful completion of the requirements, certification is granted by Martin Luther College for an initial period of three years.

There are four required core courses and several electives. The electives are offered for those who want to specialize in a particular area of chaplaincy.  A special foundation course in Christian doctrine (THE9534 Grounded in Scripture) is required for all lay workers (non-CRM) before other courses are taken.

Required Core Courses

  •  THE9520 Communicating Forgiveness – A study of the scriptural meaning of forgiveness and the many ways this truth can be communicated vividly and meaningfully by God’s messengers.
  • THE9521 A Scriptural Approach to Addiction Counseling – A study of addictions, especially substance abuse and pornography, and the ways Christians try to help through law/gospel counseling and referral.
  • THE9522 Your Chaplaincy and Ethical Issues – A practicum in chaplaincy requiring a field site and discussion of chaplaincy issues and experiences.
  • THE9532 Chaplaincy Seminar – A week-long, face-to-face seminar following the fieldwork course including group interaction and portfolio presentations to the Chaplain Certification Program Committee.

Elective Courses

  • THE9523 Ministry to the Incarcerated and Their Families – A study of service to the incarcerated and their families and the ways in which jail ministries can be established.
  • THE9524 Frontline Chaplaincy – This elective is specially designed for those who would serve as chaplains to people on the frontline of the defense of our society, namely the military, the police and firefighters, and their families.
  • THE9525 Geriatric and Care Facility Ministry – A team-oriented approach to ministry for people who are aging or residents in care facilities.  Provides both knowledge and skills for congregation members to provide spiritual care for homebound and institutionalized.
  • THE9533 Grief, Loss, and Trauma – Help for the Hurting – Explore grief, loss, and trauma from a biblical as well as mental health perspective. Develop understanding of what happens when someone experiences a traumatic loss and learn how to minister to such a person, both initially and in the long term.
  • THE9601 The Spiritual Side of PTSD – Helps spiritual advisors recognize the signs of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and provide appropriate spiritual care.

While ecclesiastical endorsement requires specific theological training, other religious training may be provided through studies and certification based on the type/level of chaplaincy that is desired or required by the calling body/hiring agency.

Note that other courses or experience might qualify for experiential learning credits for these courses. These courses are open to all – pastors, teachers, staff ministers, and laypeople. One does not have to be accepted into the CCP to take the courses. The courses may also be a part of the individual’s personal continuing education program.

Agencies that utilize chaplains will have different religious requirements. Some chaplaincy work requires ecclesiastical endorsement.

Continuing education units of credit (CEUs) will be required to maintain one’s certification active.

Ecclesiastical endorsement is the church’s affirmation that the worker is religiously trained, a member in good standing with his/her denomination, and is performing or will perform a valid ministry in the name of that denomination. A form is available for trained WELS workers to request ecclesiastical endorsement. Called workers will apply for Ecclesiastical Endorsement through the district president. Non-CRM workers will apply through the WELS Chaplain Certification Committee who will seek a recommendation from the applicant’s pastor and then pass the recommendation on to the district president.  The synod president signs and issues the final Ecclesiastical Endorsement certificate.

The applicant must have completed the religious training required to achieve a certificate or diploma for his/her position, whether pastor, teacher, staff minister, evangelist, congregational assistant, etc.

Ministry can be carried out in many different facilities. Those facilities might include, but are not limited to, children’s homes, general hospitals, hospices, mental health facilities, jails, prisons and other correctional institutions, half-way homes, retirement communities, substance abuse clinics, and military installations.

Many healthcare facilities, jails and prisons, and military bases are tightening their requirements for ministry in their facilities, especially if a pastor wants to reach out to more than just his own members or a layperson wants to do chaplaincy work.

Endorsement is required for membership and a certificate in virtually all professional chaplaincy associations. It is also a demonstration of the chaplain’s commitment to professional competency and accountability to the mission of the church.

CPE is professional education for ministry. It brings students into a supervised clinical setting. The concepts of CPE are included in the required course: “Your Chaplaincy and Ethical Issues.” The essential elements of CPE training are these:

  • The actual practice of ministry to persons in need
  • Detailed reporting and evaluation of that practice
  • Pastoral supervision
  • A small group of peers in a common learning experience

The fieldwork/CPE programs are offered through health care institutions, hospitals of all kinds (e.g. general, university, children’s, psychiatric, military, VA), geriatric centers, hospices, parishes, mental health facilities, correctional institutions, and a variety of other settings.

No CPE units are required in this program, unless the program participant chooses to use CPE as an elective. If a person also wants to be certified by a national certifying agency, those agencies may require additional units. One unit might be a daily course for nine weeks or it might be one day a week for nine months (400 hours). Each program has different requirements.

The courses earn credits through Martin Luther College, which is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. Click here for current Tuition and Fees.   The costs for the CPE program vary by institution. There is no charge for endorsement.

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Financial assistance is available from several different sources for applicants who have completed at least one course in the certificate program.  Application for such assistance may be made through the WELS Commission on Special Ministries and the Chaplain Certification Committee.