Chapter 23: Qualifications of Clergy Staff Members in Community Mental Health Programs by J. Obert Kempson

Community Mental Health: The Role of Church and Temple
by Howard J. Clinebell, Jr., (Ed.)

Chapter 23: Qualifications of Clergy Staff Members in Community Mental Health Programs by J. Obert Kempson

While the qualifications of a clergyman functioning in a mental health setting may be determined by his peers, professionals from various disciplines, or other persons, his ability to rise to these standards will be influenced to a considerable degree by his motivation. His own involvement in bringing the qualifications into living reality will determine the quality of pastoral care he can offer.

Motivation is a form of anxiety or discontent, as Thomas W. Klink pointed out.( Thomas W. Klink, "Relating Objectives and Educational Procedures toward Motivation," an address. Seminar on Adult Learning, Syracuse University, 1967.) It is a disquiet about things, which, when constructively organized, can prompt a person to enter and pursue the process of learning, and also to actualize his insights. It is recognized that heightened anxiety can be destructive, while mobilized discontent can be creative.

Some motivational questions need to be raised as one looks at an individual’s qualifications, as these relate to effective pastoral care in a mental health setting:

How does a pastor feel about himself, what he knows, what he wants to learn, and what he does?

Is he motivated to accept emerging pastoral care responsibilities?

Thomas W. Klink, "Relating Objectives and Educational Procedures toward Motivation," an address. Seminar on Adult Learning, Syracuse University, 1967.

Do his pastoral care opportunities generate new insight, new ideas, new attitudes, and new skills?

Are his concepts and work patterns flexible and adaptable? Does his pastoral care concept recognize individual potential and enhance it?

What is the pastor’s tolerance for change?

Can he grow in the awareness of his limitations and accept them?

Will his pastoral care perception transcend the immediate situation?

Can the growing edges of the pastor be sustained and nourished?

Does he have flexibility which enables him to change goals?

Why does he want to be a pastor in a mental health setting?

These questions might suggest that if a clergyman renders service in a community mental health setting it can be an awesome responsibility. However, if the pastor clarifies his motivation it can lead to a more effective expression of his person and therefore to more meaningful pastoral care.

Motivation then is a factor for change. It prompts one to be involved in the learning process. At least three levels of change goals are recognized by Edgar W. Mills for effective learning:

1. Change in personal characteristics of the minister: e.g., changed attitudes, greater self-acceptance, growth in insight or knowledge, etc.

2. Change in ministerial role performance: better preaching, counseling, other skills; improved relations with laymen, more effective use of community resources, etc.

3. Change in the social systems of which the minister is a part: e.g., better leader development in the church, closer bonds among clergy in the presbytery, better mental health in the community.( Edgar W. Mills, "Relating Objectives and Evaluation," address, Seminar on Adult Learning, Syracuse University, 1967.)

Such change goals fused into the pastor’s motivation can renew and strengthen his ministry. New vistas will be opened. He will become involved not merely in meeting the qualifications of his position but in enhancing his own growth and pastoral care effectiveness.

Certain minimal qualifications may need to be set as a base pointing the way for the minister’s growth and pastoral care. For the past quarter of a century efforts have been made to establish and clarify such qualifications. The matter has remained in a fluid state, though there has been general agreement in certain areas. This apparently indicates a healthy policy that qualifications are never permanent but are continually in the process of becoming.

The Association of Mental Health Chaplains ("Newsletter," Association of Mental Health Chaplains, 400 Forest Ave., Buffalo, N.Y., Vol. 21, No. 1, p. 8.) has approved standards and a certification process for clergy functioning in mental health facilities. The Association for Clinical Pastoral Education ("Standards," Association for Clinical Pastoral Education, Suite 450, 475 Riverside Dr., New York, N.Y. 10027. pp. 2, 5.) is a certifying and accrediting organization concerned with the proficiency of its training supervisors and with the quality of clinical pastoral education conducted in mental health and other settings. Program objectives and procedures have been established to determine effectiveness. Also, standards for accrediting training centers have been provided. The American Association of Pastoral Counselors ("Manual and Directory," The American Association of Pastoral Counselors, Inc., 201 East 19th Street, New York, N.Y. 10003. pp. 8-10, 22-27.) is similarly concerned with the training and certification of clergy as pastoral counselors, and accredits counseling centers.

These three organizations in a cooperative effort prepared and endorsed "Recommended Guidelines for Clergy Serving in Comprehensive Community Mental Health Centers." These qualifications were formulated in consultation with the College of Chaplains, Division of the American Protestant Hospital Association; the Department of Ministry, the National Council of Churches of Christ in the U.S.A.; the Jewish Chaplains’ Association; and the Division of Chaplaincy Services, United States Catholic Conference.

Recommended Guidelines for Clergy Serving in Comprehensive Community Mental Health Centers

The Mental Health Act of 1963 launched a bold new approach toward meeting the community mental health needs of our citizens.

This approach envisioned a comprehensive and inter-disciplinary involvement of the total community, including the religious sector, to enable people to meet the complexities and stresses of modern life.

In order that the resources of the religious communities be fully utilized, many comprehensive community mental health centers have already employed clergymen on their staffs. In addition, numerous requests have been received for guidelines for the employment of qualified clergymen. The following guidelines are offered to be of assistance to comprehensive community mental health centers, and to clergymen seeking such positions.

I. Suggested Titles: Coordinator, Pastoral Services; Pastoral Consultant; Director, Pastoral Services; or Mental Health Specialist in Religion.

II. Functions:

A. Pastoral Services: to facilitate traditional pastoral functions in the context of the relationship of religion to illness and health; these may include but not be limited to religious services, pastoral counseling and religious education.

B.Consultation: to provide a religious specialist on the staff of the mental health center to serve as a consultant to the center staff, local clergy and the religious communities.

C. Education: to foster education in the following areas:

1. The larger community -- community groups, workshops, seminars and sensitivity groups in order to help persons understand principles of coping with life and thus enable them to better maintain health and prevent illness.

2. The clergy -- to utilize sound pastoral care and mental health principles in developing and enhancing their pastoral care and counseling skills.

3. The clergy -- to provide clinical pastoral education for them.

4. The center staff -- to share in the "in-service training" for members of the center staff.

D. Administration: to participate in the administrative concerns of the center as they relate to the religious community and to implement and coordinate the pastoral services and the consultation and education programs.

III. Skills:

A. Ability to maintain his pastoral identity in a setting where there is a great deal of overlapping of roles and functions.

B. Ability to work with troubled individuals and families as an integral part of the staff in terms of diagnosis, conferences, referral and support.

C. Ability to listen, understand and formulate the real needs of persons and structures from all areas of the community.

D. Ability to work creatively with persons of diverse religious backgrounds and religious structures.

E. Ability to work with persons and organizations of different social backgrounds.

F. Ability to participate in and help mobilize community structures for essential social change through a working knowledge of the nature of communities and community structures.

G. Ability to establish and maintain intrastaff relationships and to relate to the various mental health disciplines, i.e. to understand their professional languages and to speak effectively to their concerns. Central to this task will be the interpretation to the professional staff of the various religious resources, concerns and phenomena.

H. Ability to establish and maintain training programs for clergy and laymen in religion and mental health including, where appropriate, accredited clinical pastoral education programs through the possession of educational and supervisory skills.

I. Ability to plan, project, actualize and evaluate relevant programs.

J. Ability to discover and utilize the best religious resources of the community in the overall care of persons and families who come to the center.

IV. Qualifications:

A. College

B. Seminary

C. Ordination or denominational equivalent

D. Continuing ecclesiastical endorsement

E. Three years of full-time pastoral experience

F. One year (4 units) of clinical pastoral education in community mental health, or its equivalent as defined by national certifying clergy organizations professionally concerned with community mental health and community action.

G. Where possible, special teaching credentials, supervisory certification or advanced degrees.

V. Implementation:

It is recommended that representatives of the inter-faith community be consulted in the planning of the service and in the selection of the clergyman.

The primary criterion for a staff person would be his credibility in the community in which he works. This means, not only his identification and common background with the people in the community, but the skill to render technical assistance and his basic commitment to "mobilize community structures for essential social change."

In addition to the mental health specialist clergy described in the guidelines, centers should also consider community clergy without specialist training who do have background and skills to work with the community. There is a critical need for community persons without professional accreditation to be members of the staff of community mental health centers because minority groups have been inadequately represented in the mental health professions.

These job specifications for the pastor in a community health ministry emphasize three primary categories for role development. The staff clergyman would provide consultation for the community minister about pastoral care of persons in crisis, about his counseling process, and his pastoral care of families. The community minister would be recognized as a consultant on occasion to the staff clergyman and to the center’s other professionals.

A second function would be educational. The staff clergyman would offer such opportunities in pastoral care, counseling, and related areas. In some centers he would plan and supervise approved clinical pastoral education. Other similar efforts would involve him in educational efforts with churches, schools, and agencies on the community level.

A third major function focuses on pastoral services for which he would be responsible and/or in which he would participate. Such pastoral services would include worship services, pastoral visiting, intensive counseling, occasional contacts with relatives, and appropriate group work. He would encourage the community minister to provide pastoral services following the parishioner through his crisis experience whether in the home, mental health center, or institution.

In three-fourths of the plans for mental health reported from all the states in a national mental health planning effort a few years ago, the clergyman was listed as a significant helping person. It was noted that little was offered about using of his resources, little was mentioned about the educational opportunities necessary to release his potential, and few qualifications were suggested for a staff clergyman in mental health facilities. The trained, qualified clergyman can contribute out of his uniqueness in the healing community where, with other trained professionals, he assumes a vital role in crisis care to the troubled person.