Just over a year ago, Army Chief of Chaplains Major General Thomas Solhjem gave me and scores of new chaplains and chaplain candidates some excellent advice. I jotted down his three key pieces of advice. As I look back over this, a year into the chaplaincy, I see and understand the wisdom that he offered us.
1. Get to Know the Army. Chaplain (MG) Solhjem advised us to learn the three legged stool of the Army. We need to understand it institutionally, operationally, and develop ourselves to serve it effectively. Having served in the Army more than 13 years, there is definitely a culture to the Army. Chaplain Soljem urged us to adapt to it, but not lose our pastoral identity in the process. He told us, “Be where it sucks the most.” That line has really stuck with me. This advice is the way of Jesus. Be a servant. Lead by serving the Soldiers you are assigned to. When we serve others we grow as leaders, because shepherding and serving is how Jesus defined and embodied leadership.
2. Understand the organization’s mission and purpose and ask the question, “How do I fit in?” Assess the organization as it relates to the larger Army mission and determine how you can best serve and meet needs.
3. You are a communicator and will communicate at all levels (Brigade commanders, battalion commanders, command sergeant majors to privates, specialists, and everything in between. You will be irrelevant if you can’t master communication.
Because we change assignments about every 2-3 years in the Army thru permanent change of station (PCS) moves, we will constantly need to evaluate and acknowledge each organization’s mission and purpose and determine how to fit into it effectively. But the other key takeaways are equally important. We can never lose sight of the fact that we have more to learn in our roles and must steward the positions God entrusts to us. As leaders, we should always strive to improve our communication skills and this includes internally (within the Unit Ministry Team and chapel key leader teams) and externally (sacred communication, teaching, training, etc). I encourage you to apply this advice to whatever work setting you find yourself within. I have no doubt it will help you contribute and improve your team.