Improving workplace chaplaincy.
Subject: Chaplains (Analysis)
Health care industry (Management)
Work environment (Management)
Author: Nimon, Kim
Pub Date: 03/22/2010
Publication: Name: Annals of the American Psychotherapy Association Publisher: American Psychotherapy Association Audience: Academic; Professional Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Psychology and mental health Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2010 American Psychotherapy Association ISSN: 1535-4075
Issue: Date: Spring, 2010 Source Volume: 13 Source Issue: 1
Topic: Event Code: 200 Management dynamics Computer Subject: Health care industry; Company business management
Geographic: Geographic Scope: United States Geographic Code: 1USA United States
Accession Number: 222558228

Just before Christmas last year, Spirituality, Inc." Religion in the American Workplace was published, adding another dimension to the workplace spirituality literary landscape. Of particular note to readers of the Annals of the American Psychotherapy Association is the chapter, "Team Chaplains, Life Coaches, and Whistling Referees." In this chapter, Lambert (2009) reviewed the tradition of workplace chaplains from the time of the industrial revolution through today and identified the current trend of American companies to contract with corporate chaplaincy providers in lieu of hiring their own chaplains.

Consistent with my own research findings (Nimon, Philibert, Allen, 2008), Lambert identified the overlap in services that are likely to exist between corporate chaplains and employee assistance program counselors (i.e., addressing mental and emotional health issues) as well as the unique services that a workplace chaplain may provide (i.e., presiding over weddings and funerals). I was unfamiliar with Lambert's reference to a 1996 article from the Journal of Pastoral Care that cited a study reporting that "for every dollar spent on workplace chaplaincy, an employer recouped four dollars because of reductions in absenteeism, accidents, psychological and medical treatment, and costs associated with drug and alcohol abuse" (p. 128). Imagine my disappointment when I found that the cited study was from an unpublished, undated document that appears to be a corporate chaplaincy ministries question-and-answer column (cf., Hummer, 1996). Lambert's research quantifying the benefits of corporate chaplains appears to mirror my findings that virtually no peer-reviewed empirical data exist.

In response to this void, I would like to put out a call to action to individuals who are employed as workplace chaplains or whose job relates to workplace chaplaincy to participate in or conduct research to assess and improve the practice of pastoral care in the workplace. Although standards of practice for workplace chaplains may not have a specific requirement for research, the call for research involvement is somewhat implicit in certifying organizations such as the National Institute of Business and Industrial Chaplains (NIBIC). The NIBIC Web site (2009) indicates that members are involved in research to measure effective work and share their findings through mailings and The Journal of Pastoral Care & Counseling. Chaplains certified by the American Psychotherapy Association (APA) whose work takes them into business settings might consider NIBIC's outlets as well as the outlets offered through APA.

When considering professional chaplains who serve outside the workplace, the call for research is more explicit and warrants consideration as the field of corporate chaplaincy advances. For example, the Standards of Practice for Professional Chaplains in Acute Care published in Chaplaincy Today (2009) contains a standard for research which is distinct and separate from continued professional development. As indicated in Standard 12, "The chaplain practices evidence-based care including ongoing evaluation of new practices, and when appropriate, contributes to or conducts research" (p. 14). The following measurement criteria are outlined in the standard: * Demonstrates familiarity with published research findings that inform clinical practice through reading professional journals and other materials.

* Critically evaluates new research for its potential to improve clinical practice and integrate new knowledge into practice.

* Contributes through collaboration with other researchers of various disciplines, or if appropriate, initiates research projects intended to improve clinical practice and publishes the findings (p. 14).

The interpretation of the research standard indicates that chaplains in the health care industry can no longer rely on their own sense of effectiveness and are being asked to follow other health care disciplines in basing their practices on research evidence and demonstrating that they make an explicit contribution to health care.

Given current economic constraints, one can expect that accountability systems in corporate America are also likely to trickle down to workplace chaplains. While the measurement criteria being established for health care chaplains would require modification to be appropriate for chaplains in the workplace, it seems likely that the field of corporate chaplaincy would advance by the adoption of a similar standard and measurement criteria. I invite readers who are interested in engaging in research to evaluate and improve the practice of workplace chaplaincy to visit my blog at I look forward to your participation.


Lambert, L. (2009). Spirituality, Inc.: Religion in the American Workplace. New York : New York University Press.

National Institute of Business and Industrial Chaplains (2009). Functions. Retrieved January 19, 2010 from System/details.asp?id=47362&PlD=707421

Nimon, K., Philibert, N., & Allen, J. (2008). Corporate chaplaincy programs: An exploratory student relates corporate chaplaincy activities to employee assistance programs. Journal of Management, Spirituality, & Religion, 3, 231-264.

Plummer, D. B. (1996). Chaplaincy: The greatest story never told. The Journal of Pastoral Care, 50, 1-12. The Standards of Practice Acute Care Work Group (2009). Standards of practice for professional chaplains in acute care: Second draft of the consensus document. November 1,2009. Chaplaincy Today, 25 (2), 2-16

Kim Nimon, PhD, is an assistant professor at the University of North Texas where the main tenet of her research agenda focuses on improving human performance through the practice of workplace spirituality. She became aware of corporate chaplaincy programs during her doctoral studies and began researching how they fit within the larger context of workplace spirituality. Her research on workplace chaplains has been published by the Journal of Management, Spirituality, & Religion and the International Society for Performance Improvement.
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