Guest / Limited Access /
Church Leaders Are Reshaping Ministry for 1 Million Returning Vets
California National Guard / Flickr
Church Leaders Are Reshaping Ministry for 1 Million Returning Vets

When Staff Sgt. Brandon Hill came home from his third tour in Iraq last year, he expected his wife and young daughters at the welcoming ceremony. What he didn't expect were the pastors, secretaries and members of their Assemblies of God church to be there, too.

"It was awesome—the fact that they would give up their time to come see us back," said Hill, who is stationed at Fort Sill, an Army installation in Lawton, Okla. "It really shows that they really care."

Denominational leaders and chaplains with years of military service are calling on more churches to find ways to minister to the men and women who have recently returned from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Chaplain Keith Ethridge, director of the Department of Veterans Affairs' National Chaplain Center, said about 1 million military members have returned to civilian life—with some continuing in Guard or Reserve forces—after serving in Iraq or Afghanistan.

While some churches, especially those near military installations, might advertise themselves as being "military friendly," Ethridge and other leaders are trying to expand that universe to other American congregations.

"What we try to do is encourage, in general, a supportive atmosphere," said Ethridge, whose center is in Hampton, Va. "We want our clergy and our churches at large to be aware of how they can make referrals when they have friends or loved ones in need of support."

In recent years, the VA has ramped up training, including in rural areas, for clergy to learn more about veterans' issues and how they can refer former military members facing physical and spiritual health challenges. It held eight training events for rural ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Support Christian thought journalism. Donate to our nonprofit ministry today.
Read These NextSee Our Latest
Current IssueSeven Boring Ways the Church Can Change the World
Subscriber Access Only
Seven Boring Ways the Church Can Change the World
Honestly, it’s nothing radical.
Recommended
Subscriber Access Only Christianity and the Civil War: Did You Know?
Little-known or remarkable facts about Christianity during the American Civil War
Trending‘Worst Year Yet’: The Top 50 Countries Where It’s Hardest to Be a Christian
‘Worst Year Yet’: The Top 50 Countries Where It’s Hardest to Be a Christian
Islamic extremism now has a rival, according to 2017 World Watch List.
Editor's PickCompassion Has 'Very Little Hope' for India, Sets Deadline to Shut Down Sponsorships
Compassion Has 'Very Little Hope' for India, Sets Deadline to Shut Down Sponsorships
About 145,000 children have already lost its assistance with food, education, and health care.
Christianity Today
Church Leaders Are Reshaping Ministry for 1 Million Returning ...
hide thisAccess The Archives

In the Archives

November 2012

To continue reading, subscribe now for full print and digital access.