Why College Chaplaincy?

An Imaginary dialogue between a college student and her chaplain.

Student: Chaplain
Kate, I have to interview someone for my First Year Seminar class. Would you mind if I asked you a few

Chaplain: That sounds
fine to me. What are you researching? 

S: Well, we were supposed to interview a professional woman
about her job. I was kinda curious about
why you are a chaplain so I thought I’d ask you, if that’s okay, that is…um,
well, and if you have time…

C: That sounds good
to me. I’ve got some spare time
now. Ask away.

S: So why are you a chaplain?

C: I’ve always
understood it to be a call.

S: A call?

C: Something God has asked me to do, not in so many words,
but through my life experiences. When I
was a sophomore in college, I came to the realization that I had some of the
gifts that indicate a call to ministry. It was a scary prospect, but at the same time, the minute I said the
words out loud I felt at peace and a little excited. That inner sense of peace and excitement all
at once has always been an indicator to me that the Holy Spirit is involved in
whatever decision I’m about to make. I
had the same feeling about volunteering in Northern Ireland for a year and about coming to Wilson. 

But back to your question, at that point I really loved my
college chaplain. She was a fantastic
role model, and I idolized her a little. Well, maybe more than a little. I guess at the time I thought, “I would hate
to work in a church, but I could totally work at a college. That sounds like
fun.” Working in a church sounded
stifling at the time while working at a college sounded liberating. I spent a lot of time exploring all of the
ministry options while I was in graduate school, and after all that searching I
came back around to the same place. This is the work I love.

S: What do you love
about it?

C: A lot of
things. College students live in the
space between childhood and adulthood. You are forming your adult beliefs and values while exploring what it
means to no longer be a child. It is an
exciting time in your lives. And it’s
exciting for me. I love to meet you when
you enter Wilson as a first year student, and I’m often astounded by what amazing young women
you have become when you graduate. (pauses) I guess the other reason
that I love this work is that I just plain love people. I like to get to know you, to see what you
will do next, to laugh and to cry with you. It’s a gift to walk with students when they are at this time in their

Oh, and I really love the hours. I’m not a morning person so I really like the
fact that during the academic year I’m not usually needed in the office before
9:30 am or so. It feels like a total
luxury to sleep in until 8am. I also love
running late night programs even when they exhaust me. I’m at my best between 6pm and midnight so it
just suits who I am. That might sound
crazy, and sometimes after a really long week I think it actually is
crazy. But I still love it.

S: What do you hate
about it?

C: Well, I’m not a
fan of paperwork, and I have a little bit of a phobia about phone calls. I hate to talk on the phone. But it’s worth the paperwork on my desk and
the necessary evil of talking on the phone in order to do the rest of the
work. I suppose in an ideal world I’d
give all the paperwork and business-y stuff to someone else and just spend all
of my time planning events and talking with the students, faculty, and staff of
the college. But working as a one woman
office in a small college gives me the experience of getting to know all
aspects of a chaplaincy. I figure that
will be great information for the future.

I also find that by the end of each semester I am completely
exhausted. I think that to do the work
well you have to be able to really push yourself to work exceptionally hard
through the semester, understanding that there will be a bit of a break in the
summer. When graduation comes each year
I find myself wondering if I will be able to do it again, but by August I’m
bored out of my mind and can’t wait for the students to return. There are moments when I wish for a more
balanced year, but I don’t think that any job really has that.

S: Ok, final question. If someone else wanted to become a chaplain what would you tell them?

C: Hmmmm. I guess I would tell them to start by
listening to the spirit by looking at their own gifts. We each have unique talents that we can use
in a variety of ways. In high school I
thought I really wanted to be a professor, but that doesn’t quite suit my set
of skills. Being honest with myself
about what I was good at led me to a call that fits me. Next I would tell them to start in college by
getting involved in their own chaplain’s office.  It’s always good to try to look at a job from
the inside. Then, while in seminary,
look for an internship that would allow them to explore the field. Finally, talk to other chaplains to see what
they do. You can track people down through
the National Association of College and University Chaplains (www.nacuc.net) or by asking people in your
faith community if they know any chaplains. Or, just give me a call!

S: Thank you. This was actually kind of interesting.

C: Not a
problem. Glad it wasn’t too
tedious! Good luck writing your paper.

S: Thanks!

1 reply
  1. Callista
    Callista says:

    Thanks for this. I’ve enjoyed being interviewed by students lately too. Not sure if I want to know what they write about me or chaplaincy in the end, but the process is a fun way to connect with students and reflect on the work we do!


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