Outside the four walls
of the church
As a pastor, Al Worthley
felt strongly about the need to reach his community. His calling
eventually led him to prison chaplaincy, a field in which he served
for 22 years. Worthley ministered at federal prisons in Leavenworth,
Kan.; Texarkana, Texas; and Springfield, Mo.; and eventually served
as assistant director of chaplaincy for the Federal Bureau of Prisons.
Last year he was appointed director of chaplaincy for the Assemblies
of God. Worthley spoke recently with Assistant Editor Ashli O’Connell
about the latest opportunities in chaplaincy ministry.
With the war in Iraq, military chaplaincy has been receiving a lot
of well-deserved attention. Can you tell us what else is going on
in chaplaincy these days?
There are so many exciting things. Our fastest-growing area of chaplaincy
happens to be medical, or health-care chaplaincy. That’s exciting,
especially when you look at the demographics on the aging of America
— a whole segment of the population is moving into gated retirement
communities and assisted-living facilities. That’s a segment
we need to target. Hospice chaplaincy is also an area that is wide
open for chaplains.
is growing as well. Many businesses and industries welcome ministers
to come in and be a chaplain for them for five or 10 hours a week.
What a great opportunity to get outside of the church walls and
have an important impact inside the community.
Police chaplaincy and
fire department chaplaincy are other areas that are very exciting
to me right now. I don’t know a better way a pastor could
learn about his or her community than by working with the police
or fire department as a chaplain.
PE: Must a chaplain
be a credentialed minister?
Some forms of chaplaincy only have chaplains who do what I call
incarnational chaplaincy, meaning they are a part of the particular
culture. Racetrack and motorcycle chaplains, for example, really
could not be effective unless they were part of that culture. I
think a chaplain should be prepared and understand what ministry
is all about. Certainly with the Berean courses that are available,
chaplaincy is wide open for laypeople.
You mentioned some of the unconventional areas where our chaplains
serve. Are there any areas out there that the A/G would like to
I am praying that the Lord would lead people into several new areas
of chaplaincy. One is the entertainment industry. A lot of people
work behind the scenes where there is a lot of tourism, like in
Branson, Mo., for example. There needs to be somebody willing to
bridge the gap and go to them. I would also like to see chaplains
who are willing to go into places the church considers off limits
— the gambling industry, for example. That would certainly
be an unconventional area of ministry, and I fully agree that we
don’t want a lot of our people connected with that industry.
But, since there are people there who Christ loves, we do need the
gospel to get in there, and the best way is with called people who
understand how to minister in a difficult place.
Another area is in leisure.
If a person looks at his or her community they’ll find places
outside the church where people are gathered away from the church
on Sundays — antique malls and racetracks, for example. We
should have people in those places.
PE: Anything else?
is one of the secrets of the Assemblies of God. We have some unique
people — more than 400 of them — who are out there doing
extraordinary work that could not take place inside of a church.
It gives our Movement a great opportunity for evangelism.
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