Starting as a school chaplain

Starting a new job is a daunting task… There’s so much to get your head around!

Chaplaincy in a school is so unusual because you’re employed by one organisation to work in another. You’re probably the only one doing this job. And on top of that some people don’t really get what you do.

When I started as a school chaplain, I’d worked in schools and I’d worked with young people. But chaplaincy was a whole new ball game!

It was all about connecting with people, building community, developing programs and creating a service that would still be standing long after I moved on.

Since then I’ve helped hundreds of school chaplains begin their career, or take it to the next level. I’ve got a good idea what it takes to do this job well.

If your journey in youth work is well under way, then check out my resources on working with young people, including my free eBook – Thrive.

But if you’re just stating your career and want to get set up for success, then my Getting Started Workbook is there to guide you.

welcome to the chappy lab

So what better way to start as a school chaplain than to do it in company?

I’ve set up The Lab as a space where you can experiment as you settle into your new job. I’ll be there to give you a hand.

Every week for 10 weeks you’ll get an email with links to some of my best articles and a video series. You’ll pick up lots of great tips on how to build a sustainable chaplaincy service from the start.

It’s all free. There’s no catch. All you have to do is download a copy of Getting Started. It’s my free workbook for people starting their journey in school chaplaincy.

I’ll automatically join you up for my Chappy Lab, but you’re welcome to opt out at any time if it doesn’t work for you.

So if you’re keen, sign up today and download your copy of the Getting Started Workbook.

What’s in the workbook?

There’s 10 chapters to work through. Just what you need to get you prepared for your new job:

  1. What’s your “why”?
  2. Where to start
  3. What should my first days look like?
  4. Connecting with others at school and in the community
  5. Making the most of your workspace
  6. The paperwork
  7. Planning
  8. Promoting yourself
  9. Getting feedback
  10. Staying fresh

Then there’s the weekly resources

Your first days

We look at making the most of your first week at school, building connections and checking you’ve got the important stuff under control.

Getting to know people

Connecting with key people in your school, building relationships and getting an idea of what you’re expected you to do.

Identifying priorities

Working out a plan for your first term. What programs or services you’re going to run and how you’ll spend your other time. This is about being intentional in making a great start.

Setting up your space

Not every chaplain gets an office, but you still need to work out where you’ll meet young people and where you’ll work when you need to tackle your paperwork. We talk about issues like privacy and confidentiality here too, to make sure you’re meeting your obligations.

Connecting with the community

The best chaplains have great networks in their communities. They work hard to connect with their local churches and other community services. You can start this from the beginning!

Handling the paperwork

Yep, like every job there’s tasks you’ll have to do that involve writing. In this week we’ll talk about what systems you need to follow in your school to record and store client notes, dealing with disclosures and what systems you can use to stay on top of the paper trail.

When people don't like you

There’s usually one person in a workplace who is slow to warm up to you. I’ll unpack how to connect with prickly people and what to do when someone doesn’t like you. We’ll also look at the difference between influence and power.

Identifying opportunities

Running programs is the bread and butter of most school chaplain’s work, but you need to make it purposeful. Let’s look at how to review programs and services and target needs when designing new ones. I even share the story of my program that didn’t go all that well but still met it’s objectives.

What have you learned?

It’s great to stop every term and have a think about what you’ve learned, but what you’re missing too. We’ll look for gaps between your studies and this role and talk about professional development that might help plug that hole.

Taking care of yourself

Self-care is an essential part of school chaplaincy, so we look at how to keep your batteries recharged. We’ll also talk about balance and look at what you could change next term to take better care of yourself.

Other articles you might find handy

Little things that make a big difference to the mental health of young people

Youth mental health is a big issue, but for parents, youth workers, families and friends, the little things you say and do can make the biggest difference.

Managing mental health in the last year of school

Finishing school carries a lot of stress for teenagers. Where they’ve had some depression, anxiety or other mental ill-health, Year 12 can be too much.

Making self-care work: 10 things you can do right now

What started as a weight loss goal became a journey of self-care. 20kg later, and its not just my body that’s changed, but my whole life.

The simple guide to beating burnout

Burnout is part of the job in the helping professions. School chaplains and youth workers need to be vigilant in spotting the signs.

40 coping skills for stressed out adults

Coping skills are those things we do to manage stress and anxiety. Sometimes they help us and sometimes they don’t. The trick is to find strategies that not only help you cope with a crisis, but carry you to through it as well.

Making the most of a midlife crisis

A midlife crisis sounds like a rite of passage, about the time we face the emptying nest and menopause. But there are points in life when circumstances force us to look deeper at what we do with our time, energy and money. And rather than having a crisis, it might be time to pivot.

5 things that will strangle your passion in youth work

Youth work is the outworking of a passion or “why”. But if you don’t deal with the five dangers lurking in the workplace, you might lose it.


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