Over the past two years, I have been in an Air National Guard unit that was preparing for a major exercise. The goal of the exercise was to see whether the unit was prepared to deploy and be dropped into a war zone. To do this, the evaluators don’t just gauge how the unit does when all is going well but also when things go a little haywire.
How this comes into play for the chapel team is that the evaluators will go into a shop, look for a key individual, and hand them an “exercise inject card” which will read something like this, “You are tired and don’t feel like working anymore. Sit down and stop doing what you are doing. Refuse to get back to work.” It doesn’t take long for the rest of his/her team to realize that they have an exercise situation, someone has to step into that person’s role, and then they have to call in support for the troop who has stopped working. The religious support teams (chaplains and chaplain assistants) are called in to respond. This is just one of many exercise scenarios we face and we counsel the troop and advise leadership without breaking confidentiality.
What gets interesting though is when you get called in for an exercise inject, you go to the troop and bring them to the counseling room to provide the counseling you would give in such a case, and the evaluator pops in and out to judge how you are doing. And then in the middle of this fictional crisis you are going through with the troop, they bring up a “real world” issue they are facing. At this point, you have to be able to rapidly switch gears from the fictional scenario when the evaluator is in the room to the real world issue the troop is facing when the evaluator is gone. Due to confidentiality, you cannot even let the evaluator know you are doing two things simultaneously. Every chaplain I know who has gone through one of these exercises has had that happen to them.
It reminds me that so often when we are in a working environment, people are dealing with issues in their lives that have nothing to do with work but are on their minds at work. The same can be said at church or in any social setting. I like it in the military that many recognize that the chaplains are there to help them work through the challenges they face. It’s important for folks to have someone else to vent to and hear what they are facing regardless of what they do in life.
At Parkway, we’ve got a special team of folks who help people work through issues named Stephen Ministers. They receive many hours of training and also strongly observe confidentiality so that if folks share anything with them, unless it deals with someone harming themselves or others, what is discussed will always be kept confidential. I have met many people over my years of ministry who have been helped by Stephen Ministers. If you’d like to find out more about their program (for yourself or someone else) come to worship at Parkway on May 9th. The 10:30 a.m. service is going to be focused on sharing the gifts these folks bring to the table.
And let us all remember to listen to those who share with us. Some might surprise you when they will open up. When they do, let’s be there as a resource for them. There are many out there bearing burdens and what will help them most of all is not to have to bear it alone. God made us not to be independent but interdependent. Life is not easy but together we can do more, bear more, and accomplish more than we ever can alone.
All the best & In Christ,