Discussion Questions

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Educators may also be interested in:

Chaplaincy and Spiritual Care in the Twenty-First Century book

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  • Interactive case studies in spiritual care
  • eBooks on a range of topics including resilience, chaplaincy education, clinical pastoral education, and more

← Back to Spiritual Care: The Everyday Work of Chaplains

Spiritual Care: The Everyday Work of Chaplains asks who chaplains are, what they do across the United States, how that work is connected to the settings where they do it, and how they have responded to and helped to shape contemporary shifts in the American religious landscape. The following questions may help discussions among students, chaplains, educators, and others interested in learning about the work of chaplaincy and spiritual care. A PDF, including more in-depth questions and additional ideas for student assignments, is available here.

For discussion:

  • How and why did the people Cadge interviewed come to be chaplains? What are the two things she argues all chaplains do?
  • In what setting or sector did Cadge find and interview a chaplain that was most surprising to you? Are all of those doing the work of chaplaincy and spiritual care doing something similar enough to be described using these same terms and titles?
  • In the United States, chaplains are required in the military, federal prisons, and the Veteran’s Administration. How does Cadge understand these requirements given the American separation of church and state? How does whether chaplains are required or optional in specific settings influence their daily work?
  • What does Cadge argue about how chaplains work around issues of religious diversity? Racial diversity? Others aspects of difference? What does she argue about the racial and religious diversity of chaplains? Of the people they serve? What are Cadge’s recommendations to further diversify the profession? What are yours?
  • What does Cadge mean when she calls some chaplains religious entrepreneurs? What is it about religion in the United States, that she argues, allows for this kind of entrepreneurism?
  • What does it mean to talk about chaplaincy from the “supply side” and from the “demand-side.” Cadge calls for a “demand-side approach” to chaplaincy going forward – what exactly does that mean?
  • In the conclusion, Cadge outlines two very different futures for chaplaincy and spiritual care. What are each of these possible futures? What factors does she argue will have the most impact on where chaplains are and what work they are doing twenty years from now? What do you expect to see and why?

Assignment ideas:

Below are a few ideas that might inform class assignments related to the book. Resources on the website of the Chaplaincy Innovation Lab can help. We are eager to hear about your findings and class projects with the broader Lab community. Write to us!

  • Compare and contract how chaplains in two different settings do their work. How does what you find compare to what Cadge argues? Draw examples from the book, from the This is What a Chaplain Looks Like project or by searching “chaplain” in your local newspaper.
  • Listen to a podcast or read a blog written by a chaplain since the pandemic started. How do the experiences of this chaplain relate to what Cadge finds in the book? Which differences are related to the pandemic and which are not?
  • Several of the Lab’s current projects are focused on what they call the demand side of chaplaincy. Explain what this means and summarize recent findings from these projects. How do these new findings change the conclusions Cadge draws in this book, if at all?

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