Should the senior Chaplain over a chapel congregation pass the baton, too? I’m not talking about merely stepping aside as they leave and introducing their replacement, but rather planning intentional continuity of the vision and strategies of ministry. I think so.
In my experience, such transition in chapel congregations is even more rare than in military units. It might be that we typically view the leading of congregational services as more mystical than other types of service. In other words, “God laid this type of ministry on my heart, but you might feel an entirely different calling.” That might be possible – if we’re talking about minor changes of style in the delivery of preaching, song choice, sequence of the service, etc. But if we’re talking about changing the basic purpose and means of the ministry (assuming that the former vision and strategies were godly and effective), I’m not sure that’s appropriate or even possible – even if there is little continuity in the people who are coming to that chapel.
For example, the Airborne chapel at Fort Benning hosts Soldiers in very busy, short-term schools. The entire make-up of the congregation can change every few months. But the basic type of people who come remains the same: younger, self-starting, future leaders who are here (usually without any family) in the Officer Basic Course, the NCO Academy, Airborne school, etc. So they have the same types of concerns while they are at Fort Benning: short-term failure, long-term direction, loneliness, etc. Therefore, the vision must continue to address that audience and those types of concerns. And because their types of scheduled remain the same, any effective strategies should also remain.
The following is the last of five example continuity files that I’ve written for others who replaced me in ministries over the past several years. Again, I don’t offer them as “the” way to serve. They’re more of a buffet: choose what you need or want and leave the rest. No questions asked.
I do, however, offer them as a reminder that responsible ministry sets the next person up for success. I encourage you to do the same and seek the same. Ministry preceded our arrival and will follow our departure. Even you’re not the head Chaplain of a congregation or ever want to be, you might still find a nugget or concept that could help you or another member of your team. As always, you are free to copy, edit and share them as you choose.
Note: due to the nature of these continuity files, they are explicitly Christian.