The need for hospice chaplains is growing, say endorsement officials and chaplains. They attribute the growth to a number of factors - aging baby boomers, the growth in for-profit hospices, and changes in federal regulations.
"The greatest need for chaplains is still the military, particularly the Army, because of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, but we are seeing an increase in endorsements for hospice chaplains, too," said the Rev. Tom Carter, director of Endorsement and Pastoral Care, United Methodist Endorsing Agency, General Board of Higher Education and Ministry.
In 2008, UMEA endorsed 16 hospice chaplains, out of a total of 100 endorsements in all settings. In 2007, 21 hospice chaplains were endorsed out of a total of 105 endorsements. Carter attributes that to the number of aging Baby boomers, "Hospice adds dignity to death. Chaplains can connect the person's life story to the end of life, helping family say goodbye and helping resolve conflicts, if there are any," he said.
The only setting with more endorsements was hospital chaplains. UMEA endorsed 32 hospital chaplains in 2007 and 33 in 2008. The need for hospital chaplains is always present since when chaplains retire, replacements are being hired, Carter said.
A new area of endorsement in the United Methodist Church is life coaching, approved in March 2008. UMEA endorsed four chaplains or pastoral counselors for that service from January 2008 to January 2009.
Life coaching is a partnership between a coach and an individual who wants to make positive life changes. The Rev. Jim Robey, a United Methodist elder endorsed as a life coach, views the process as a way to help a person move into the "fullness of life" which Jesus offers.
Coaching sessions are usually done by phone, and provide a method of accountability and support for making life changes. A session might focus on reporting of actions that had been agreed upon, Robey said.
To learn more about United Methodist chaplains, visit www.gbhem.org/chaplains.
Vicky Brown serves as an associate editor and writer in the Office of Interpretation, General Board of Higher Education and Ministry.