Frequently Asked Questions
A. Fire chaplain may be clergy or lay person, male or female, or a firefighter. The chaplain is one who provides spiritual and emotional support to those in the fire service and those affected by crisis.
Normally the chaplain is appointed to the office of chaplain by his or her fire department chief or other emergency service agency. To receive this appointment, one usually needs to have been endorsed by his/her denominational authority, church, synagogue or other religious organization to the chaplaincy ministry. The fire service chaplain ministers to the needs of people from all religious backgrounds. In some cases, the chaplain is a local pastor who volunteers his/her time to minister to the particular needs of firefighters and the community. In other cases, a firefighter feels the calling to be a chaplain to other members of his/her department. Some chaplains receive reimbursement for their expenses, others are part-time or full-time as chaplain. Some chaplains raise their own funds as an independent missionary, relying on local churches and groups to provide funding. Others fund their chaplaincy entirely from their own pockets, with no outside funding whatsoever. Most fire chaplains are volunteers.
When firefighters respond to burning buildings and focus on saving life and protecting property, the fire chaplain responds alongside the firefighters focusing on the spiritual and emotional needs of the firefighters and crisis victims. Victims who have been burned out of their homes and lost everything, need the support of a chaplain. A frightened and confused spouse of a heart attach victim, needs caring support from a chaplain. A mother of a teenager who has completed suicide, needs the compassionate care of a chaplain. Just as firefighters are trained to deal with the varied emergency crises, the fire chaplain needs to be trained and equipped to deal with people being affected by traumatic events. A chaplain is different from a pastor in that the chaplain is a “spiritual “presence across denominational and faith lines, not a “religious” presence of his/her own faith group.
Basically, the fire chaplain is a spiritual presence in a world of fire department and emergency services. One of the titles of a bishop is “servus Servorum Dei” which means a servant of the servants of God -that’s basically what fire chaplaincy is all about, serving those who serve.
If you are interested in becoming a fire chaplain, your first and most important step is to understand a “calling” from God to this ministry to serve others. The next step is to reach out to your local fire department chief and set up a meeting about the need for a chaplain in the department. Check out the website www.firechaplains.org and download the booklet, “How To start a Chaplaincy Program,” The booklet will give you a good birds-eye view of the chaplaincy and how to start a program. Suggest that the chief browse this site, www.louisianafirechaplains.com for additional information about how the chief and his/her department may need a valuable asset as a chaplain. The Resource page on this site also gives you a brief and more detailed sample of developing a chaplaincy program.
Q. Do I have to be an ordained minister to be a fire chaplain?
A. No. Many of our best chaplains are lay person chaplains. Those who experience the call as a fire chaplain, should undergoe the FFC Essentials of Fire Chaplaincy class, join the FFC and their state chaplain organization, take classes in Incident Command, NIMS, CISM group and individual Stress Intervention classes, do on-going training. Fellowship and networking with other chaplains can be a valuable asset to a fire chaplain. One chaplain calls the fellowship of fire chaplains as “the gathering of the eagles.” It cannot be emphasized enough the importance of the fellowship of other chaplains.
However, if you are not ordained, an endorsement to the chaplaincy ministry from your pastor, rabbi, head elder or overseer is required, and should be mentored and accountable to the ordained person. There are needs for chaplains of various faith groups, traditional or non-traditional.
A chaplain, ordained or not, should get the best training he/she can afford, and hold to a very high standard in serving those who rely on us. Get in the Essentials class as soon as it is available to you. Check the Training Events page on this site for next Essentials class.
Q. What kind of training is required to become a fire chaplain?
A. Fire chaplains have various levels of training. Some have PhDs. Others have very little formal education. The FFC and LFCN will help you get the needed education and training to be an effective fire chaplain. A basic training (16 hours) and Advanced Chaplaincy (130+ hours) are available to those who are interested in becoming a chaplain in the fire service. A fire chaplain should have at least the Essentials of Fire Chaplaincy (basic level 16 hour training) and the Essentials of Firefighting or Firefighter I/II Certification before making runs with a fire department. Some states require that the chaplain have the Basic Firefighter Certification. There are many other training opportunities available to you: International Critical Incident Stress Foundation, the American Red Cross, Salvation Army, FEMA and others (See Links page on this site).
Q. What is the Essentials of Fire Chaplaincy training?
A. We at LFCN utilize the FFC Essentials of Fire Chaplaincy training for our fire chaplains. Over 30 plus years, the Federation of Fire chaplains has developed a 16 hour intensive, fundamental, basic fire chaplain training that is recognized as the Standard of Training for fire chaplain training world-wide. The Essentials training involves learning about the history of the chaplaincy, who the chaplain is and what he does and does not do, how to start a chaplaincy program, how to minister to firefighters and crisis victims, how the chaplain operates on the emergency scene, an introduction to CISM, how to do a firefighter funeral, firefighter injury and death notification, and other important subjects needful for a fire chaplain: HIPAA, PSOB and EAP.
Experience has taught us that the face-to-face environment of the FFC Essentials training is an unparalleled opportunity to get the best knowledge and skills a fire chaplain needs to be an effective fire chaplain. The Essentials training is led by a certified instructor who has had the basic training, 130+ hours of advanced training, completed a Train-The-Trainer Workshop and has done three student-teacher experiences under a Level 4 Trainer.
The Essentials is the training upon which all other fire chaplain training is built. We normally offer this training once or twice a year in our state.
Q. How do I find out when and where training is offered?
A. Go to www.firechaplains.org and check out their calendar of events. Check out this site www.louisianafirechaplains.com on Training Events for classes offered in Louisiana and the South Central Region. Check out www.icisf.org for CISM events they are offering across the country. Check out www.fema.gov for the many offerings through their Independent Study Institute. Check out our links page for other organizations which offer training.
Q. Is there a way I can study the basics of fire chaplaincy at home?
A. Yes and no. You can purchase a copy of the FFC Training Manual and familiarize yourself with the information in the manual, or download the Fire Chaplain – Who We Are and What We Do (see on Resource page of this site) as a primer to prepare yourself for attending the Essentials of Fire Chaplaincy class. However, over 30 years of experience we have learned that the essential knowledge and skills you need to be a good fire chaplain, is best done through classroom learning in a face to face environment. The Essentials classroom experience is unparalleled in getting knowledge, developing skills and building relationships so valuable to a successful chaplaincy. Therefore, to get credit, you must attend the sixteen (16) hour class in a Regional class or a Pre-Conference Institute in conjunction with the international Conference of the Federation of Fire Chaplains. You may purchase a Training Manual (print copy or by USB stick) via www.firechaplains.org or by mail at Federation of Fire Chaplains,
P. O. Box 437, Meridian, TX 76665.
FEMA has a great selection (including NIMS courses) of training for fire chaplains via www.fema.gov. If you are a Red Cross volunteer you will find some great disaster training classes at no additional charge.
Q. How do I become a member of the FFC and the Louisiana Fire Chaplain Network?
A. To be a member you must be appointed to a fire chaplain by a fire agency chief and be endorsed by your religious affiliation. Then you complete an application, send a copy of your appointment letter and endorsement letter with the proper annual dues. See the Bear Facts of Membership on this website for complete information and a downloadable application. Samples of an Appointment letter and endorsement letter on the Resources page of this site. The benefits of being a member of FFC and LFCN are manifold. Being a member of LFCN gives you an opportunity to keep in contact with those serving along side you in your own state. LFCN holds meetings, sponsors training events, etc. Being an FFC member is a brotherhood of chaplains from around the world. The Annual Conference of the Federation is one of the most valuable benefits of being a part of these organizations – it is a time to strengthen your network, talk shop with experienced chaplains, get world-class training, visit old friends and make new friends for life. The value of being a member of both FFC and LCFN cannot be overrated. It is well worth the investment of $145.00 for initial year and $120.00 a year thereafter to be in this fellowship.