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Should orgs offer chaplaincy services?

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HC Online | 21 Oct 2013, 12:00 AM Agree 0
In early 2007, the Howard government introduced the National School Chaplaincy program – federal funding for chaplains to work in schools, with the proviso they were not to evangelise or proselytise, but to provide support and guidance to students and staff alike. Now, offering the services of a chaplain to employees is on the rise.
  • Kenn Kilah | 19 Mar 2012, 03:02 PM Agree 0
    Hi there. I have been working as a chaplain in the workplace for the past ten years. One of the important benefits I have found is to actually relieve department managers from having to deal with personal issues such as; stress over marriage problems, stress of single mums with sick children, counseling men who have child support issues, men who have issues with blended families. My employer woul always support me in communicate the benefit of managers recommending their staff to me.
  • John Attwater | 19 Mar 2012, 03:27 PM Agree 0
    This is what Employee Assistance Programs are for, not chaplaincy services. I wonder how receptive a muslim or buddhist employee would be to being referred to a chaplain for support on personal issues....let alone an atheist. It's hardly inclusive or recognising the diversity of our workforce. In fact, it's sending a very clear message to employees about the culture of the organisation, and what 'most of us around here' are like.
    I would also think that chaplaincy advice would be rooted in religious values and beliefs, potentially doing more harm to an employee experiencing a personal issue, than good. I can't imagine employees seeking support on issues such as unwanted pregnancy, divorce or sexuality would get receive balanced and reasoned advice in all circumstances.
  • Bernie Althofer | 20 Mar 2012, 09:28 AM Agree 0
    Organisations can and do have both Chaplains and an EAS/P. Having worked in a police organisation where both services were provided, each service seemed to meet differing needs of individuals. Chaplaincy Programs that offer a range of religious backgrounds may find that employees 'accept' the diversity of beliefs.

    I suspect that if there are clearly defined policies and procedures, and understandings about who provides which service and the limitations, then the Chaplains and the EAS/P can work together when required, and as individuals offer services or support as required by the employees. Kenn and John both offer good points. Having been a Peer Support Officer who has liased with both Chaplains and EAS/P staff, employees seem to head towards those who can best help them when required. Sometimes, it will be the Chaplain, sometimes EAS/P and sometimes both.
    I believe that establishing a relationship is a key determinant and when trust has been built, and employees know what can and can't be discussed in confidence, they know who they will go to for support.

  • James | 22 Mar 2012, 02:09 PM Agree 0
    Since when does belief in superstition equip you as a counsellor?

    Anyone seeking the counsel of chaplains is free to do so outside work through the relevant religious organisation or channels.

    This is an insult to qualified, registered counsellors and psychologists who spend years to develop their skills. It is also inappropriate promotion and favouring of religion in the workplace, under the much abused and distorted label of ‘diversity’
  • Kenn Kilah | 27 Mar 2012, 09:36 AM Agree 0
    I simply don't understand why there is such a reaction to so called 'religion" in the workplace. My experience is, whether the person is muslim, non-religious or atheist, that all people appreciate someone who will listen, who is trusted and who is trained and experienced. I am talking as a practicioner not a theorist, having done this almost fulltime these past ten years. Lets face the facts, nearly all our values as a western society are founded on Judeo-Christian ethics, so whats the problem?
  • Pete | 27 Mar 2012, 04:57 PM Agree 0
    Kenn... it would be rather blind of you to not realise that not all the employees of a company will share 'your' Judeo-Christian values.

    That's the problem.
  • Steve Mead....State School chaplain..... | 27 Mar 2012, 10:37 PM Agree 0
    Responding to John Attwater you are absolutely right that a religious Christian chaplain will do more harm than good.....however if the chaplain is a true follower of Jesus his/her response will never ever be of a condemning nature...because true followers of Jesus know the true meanIng of One Love
  • MM | 21 Oct 2013, 03:19 PM Agree 0
    People are confusing "Chaplain" with "Christian" but a chaplaincy service can be interdenominational. Remember the whole purpose is not religious but care and counselling. If people want religious assistance, that is a whole 'nother issue which they can be directed to.
  • Dave | 21 Oct 2013, 03:49 PM Agree 0
    I am also strongly opposed to chaplaincy in schools, let alone in my workplace. Having a religious affiliation does not automatically qualify you as having the emotional intelligence, resilience and maturity to assist people to work through complex interpersonal issues. It also does not qualify you as being up to speed on WH&S, legislative requirements, diversity and fair treatment, etc. Overall, being a non-believer, I feel I would be very distrustful about the Chaplain's priorities (i.e. responding from their doctrinal beliefs, potential favoritism to those of the same faith, desire to reform those with different cultural norms, alienate LGBT employees, percieved licence to speak out about issues outside their support role, etc) and having them in the workplace would send all the wrong messages to me as an employee about the company's commitment to fairness and diversity.
  • Julie Cork | 21 Oct 2013, 03:52 PM Agree 0
    I agree with John. Workplaces can only achieve a culture that encourages and supports diversity and respect if those charged with providing (EAP) counselling services are themselves free of bias and equally available to all workers and, importantly, seen to be free of bias and equally available to all workers.
    AND inclusive workplace cultures = highly productive workplaces.
  • J.D. | 19 Nov 2013, 11:21 AM Agree 0
    I believe that there are many opinions on here that are not grounded in fact, but people's perceptions about chaplaincy. First of all, since when does what a person believe hinder their ability to lend a listening ear on matters pertaining to workplace morale, single mother issues, marriage, etc. Chaplains act in a manner to encourage and increase good workplace morale, bring a sense of caring to an individual, and a compassionate sense of empathy to what an individual may be going through. Many posts I have read tend to believe that a chaplain to there to evangelize another. That is a FAULTY ASSUMPTION not grounded in fact. They may only do so if the one that is requesting their services inquires. Second, managers tend not to be focused on people's issues that might decrease production in the workplace. So chaplains fill a valuable void that a manager cannot. Thirdly, chaplaincy IS NOT based on the idea of long-term counseling. It is based on short-term counseling to help in a time of need or personal crises. So to assume that chaplains are a "slap in the face" to traditional counselors is to not understand the role of a chaplain. Chaplaincy is on the rise and provides a valuable point of contact for those who don't like talking on the phone to a stranger who they don't know designated as an EAP.
  • kevin | 19 Nov 2013, 04:14 PM Agree 0
    I don't recall seeing so much vitriol. Can I suggest that those not in favour stop ageing immediately as the vast majority of "aged care" facilities are run by the church or other religious groups.
  • Anonymous123 | 20 Nov 2013, 08:11 AM Agree 0
    Although I understand why chaplains are helpful, I don't know why any workplace would open themselves up to possible issues with employees (who whether accurately or not may feel the organisation is promoting religion) when you can get an EAP.
    In an EAP you know that employees will be talking to those appropriately trained.
    Those individuals who would prefer seeing a chaplain would likely do that on their own because I think it would be a fair assumption that given the choice, most people would choose a trained professional.
    Let me just say that this is NOT to say that chaplaincy is not valuable, but I just don't think that it has a place at the companies I have worked for.

    Just as a side note, I went to a Catholic university (although I was not Catholic) and had to talk to my school's chaplain at one point. Although he was very kind, he was not qualified to handle anything beyond lending an ear. He was out of touch with current issues/realities and more than a handful of times told me the answer would likely come to me in prayers or god has a plan. It felt more like I was confessing at church than seeking help.
  • Kenn | 20 Nov 2013, 03:00 PM Agree 0
    Since I was the one who started this conversation, maybe I should add a little if I may.I think JD is right there is a total misunderstanding of the role. First of all let me say that I am a qualified counsellor, I have written staff manuals for the workplace,am qualified in WH&S and actually do the staff training programme. I never broach religious issues unless the person indicates that they are a person of faith, and I always refer people to specialists when appropriate. This is the regular practice of chaplains world wide whether in the police, army, surf-lifesaving, school or workplace. I think when a workplace has a chaplain it shows that management cares about its people and I have been well received. In any case, every employee has a choice as to whether they use this service or not.
  • MrD | 20 Nov 2013, 03:12 PM Agree 0
    Religion should never enter the workplace or schools.

    In schools, children should be educated on the facts and should be free to make a choice regarding whether they seek advice from a person of faith, or a legitimately qualified professional. The idea of making chaplains readily available in schools, but not also making qualified professionals as easily accessible is incredibly frustrating. What happened to separation of church and State? The government shouldn't be funding such a program. It's not as easy for children to see someone if they need help, so I understand the need to have support services within schools, but services should not be based on religion, and if they are then equally accessible non-religious options should be available.

    The workplace is a little different. We are all adults and have the means to seek advice outside workplace. Organisations should keep a free EAP available for staff as a neutral means for all staff to seek assistance. If an employee wants assistance from a religious source, this is free and easily accessible as there are religious institutions on (what seems like) every street corner.
  • MM | 20 Nov 2013, 04:01 PM Agree 0
    Maybe we should just stop using the word "Chaplian". It is obvious that this word causes the greatest angst - people seem to attach a lot of personal baggage to that word instead of remembering what the role is for in a workplace. Why not just call the person part of the the Employee Assistance Team? The assistance being care, consolation, comfort, a listening ear, emotional support.... with others on the "team" providing financial, legal etc support
  • John Attwater | 20 Nov 2013, 04:37 PM Agree 0
    Great to see so much passion and divergent thought on this one!
    I think you're right MM. The word 'Chaplian' rightly brings with it the persons views of what they are likely to get. Dictionary definition = "a Christian clergyman attached to a private chapel of a prominent person or institution or ministering to a military body, professional group, etc". Some of the definitions state the likelihood to find Chaplains in prisons also....but I'm sure we could never draw any comparision there to some places we've worked :-)

    For many people, a christian ministering to them is just not what they would be looking for...whether that is the reality of what is offered or not.
  • kevin | 20 Nov 2013, 05:04 PM Agree 0
    I wonder if those who have commented so far would have even had the courage to make a comment if the subject was about possibly have a Mufti to provide support to muslim employees.
  • John Attwater | 20 Nov 2013, 05:15 PM Agree 0
    Yes Kevin, I would. The Christian nature of a chaplain service is not the problem, the religious nature of it is. That's been reflected in a number of posts.
  • J.D. | 21 Nov 2013, 01:38 AM Agree 0
    It is good to see a healthy debate on this subject. I would like to continue on some trains of thought that I am seeing from the threads. Again, please do not think that chaplains are not trained to handle situations or circumstances. Many, many chaplains have spent the majority of their experience in the workplace sector. So they understand the unique dynamics between management and employees. They have also had ongoing training to sharpen their skills. By that I mean not just prayer or their theological positions. I am talking about training in "anger management," "addictive behaviors," "proper boundaries," etc, etc. These are very valuable to the individual that is seeking support to overcome these situations in their life. I still would like to reiterate that EAP's have their place, but there are many people that want to confide in someone they can at least put a face to instead of an impersonal individual that has no relationship to them at all. As to the question about muslims (or any other religion for that matter) coming to a chaplain in the workplace for support. There should be no problem with that. They are people too. They have some of the same needs we all have. If they wanted someone of their faith to represent them or talk to them, that's easy. There are many Imams and synagogues that a chaplain could call on their behalf to honor their wishes. Also, chaplains provide a service that "trained counselors" can't. Death of a loved one or a funeral. Look forward to hearing everyone's comments on the subject more!! Have a great day!!
  • Anonymous123 | 21 Nov 2013, 09:14 AM Agree 0
    MM - then what would be the point? You'd just have the neutral qualified professionals of the EAP available.

    Kevin - I think you may need to re-read the comments. It's the religious nature as John pointed out that is the problem. Also, if a company offers a service that has a Christian nature(or Muslim, Jewish, etc), then wouldn't it be fair to represent all the other religions? This could get out of control.
  • Bernie Althofer | 21 Nov 2013, 11:49 AM Agree 0
    So I stood chatting to a Chaplain about a range of issues and shared stories whilst he had a smoke, talked about having a drink, workplace culture and a range of other matters. There was no mention of religion and no pressure being exerted to join him. It was more like to men having a chat about the world in general. Sometimes this is what happens when one talks with a Chaplain.

    Just as some organisations have an EAP or EAS, some also have Chaplains from a range of denominations. Not everyone will access the services that are on offer. However when the chips are down and the fur starts to fly, some people do look for support from a range of networks be they internal or external.

    The world and workplaces are constantly changing, as they change, individuals change and so to do their needs and wants. The provision, access and services provided by Chaplains may depend on the workplace culture, the actual structure of the organisation and whether or not, executives see value in having Chaplains and an EAP/EAS.
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