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As the chaplaincy tries to fill several hundred vacant positions, parachurch missions to the military are supplementing chaplains' activities with programs, materials, and missionaries. Worldwide, Christian organizations on and off U.S. military bases are running youth groups for military kids and welcoming off-duty soldiers into their homes, leading seminars and classes on Christian life, supplying chaplains with literature for soon-to-be-deployed troops, and providing many other services that overextended chaplains cannot.

More than 675,000 soldiers and their families live in the U.S. and abroad. The Army chaplaincy is "the largest young adult ministry in the world," said former Army Chief of Chaplains Gaylord T. Gunhus. With so many military family members involved, chaplains such as Lt. Col. Randall Dolinger can end up pastoring 1,500 to 2,000 people. "There's more ministry that needs to be done than chaplains can do," said Dolinger, a spokesman for the Army Chief of Chaplains Office in Arlington, Va.

Military missions operate with far fewer personnel than the chaplaincy, but organizations such as Campus Crusade still have a broad impact. They disseminate information about the gospel and Christian living through chaplains, train leaders among the troops, and maintain websites designed for soldiers, in addition to sending missionaries to bases.

If some military ministry leaders say they have not experienced the chaplain shortage as a crisis, it may be because the number of chaplains is larger than in the 1990s.

War, however, has strained chaplains and ministries even as they grow. Military Missions Network president Gary Sanders says the greatest need for ministry may be at home—multiple deployments, extended tours (now ...

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