By Robert Barnes, BCC
The theme for our May 17-20, 2014, NACC National Conference is “Gateway to Compassionate Leadership.” As chaplains we understand well what it means to be compassionate. It is the heart and soul of God. It is the essence of the Paschal mystery. And it is the foundation of our ministry.
But leadership? In what way are we leaders? I think this is a question many chaplains wrestle with. Leadership is not just a function of job title. All chaplains are called to be leaders. We provide leadership through prayer and our commitment to honor the dignity of all. We are leaders in the areas of ethics and mission. And we lead through our presence and witness.
I didn’t always understand the often subtle ways in which we are seen as leaders. Several years ago our CEO stopped to talk while I was on a break in the cafeteria. He said something I have never forgotten, “I appreciate talking to you. Everyone else sees me only as the CEO. They’re always on edge and trying to figure out what they think I want to hear. When I’m with you we talk like real people.”
At our best we bring that spirit of authenticity to our interactions with others. In a world of rapidly evolving professional relationships and new settings for ministry, chaplains have unique gifts to offer. As stated in the theme description for the conference, chaplains are called to exercise compassionate leadership:
- From a renewed spirit – we will explore the diverse ways we connect with and refresh our bodies, minds, and spirits for the work we do, including self-care, support and collaboration with each other, and prayer.
- In new settings – we will explore the diverse settings to which we are called, from clinics to home care, from outpatient specialized services to hospice centers, from palliative care to preventive care.
- With new partners – we will explore the diverse partners to which we are called, from the interdisciplinary care team to the spiritual care role of all employees, from mission leaders to the quality and safety teams, from religious community representatives to church leaders, from professional researchers to the next generation of chaplains.
- Through new services – we will explore the diverse services we must become skilled at providing, from e-chaplaincy to video-conferencing, from training care team members to do spiritual screenings and referrals to becoming skilled at translating spiritual issues into clinical terms, from effective charting to care plan development and implementation, from being an educator to acting as an advocate for the underserved.
Come away to St. Louis to reflect on how we bring our style of leadership, compassionate and Gospel-centered, to our colleagues and organizations.
Robert Barnes is chair of the May 17-20, 2014, NACC national conference in St. Louis, MO. He is also staff chaplain at Essentia Health at St. Mary’s Medical Center in Duluth, MN.