How to start a chaplaincy

The process of starting a chaplaincy varies from one institution to another. The best way to get started is to contact an institution’s religious life department or some equivalent if they have one. Ask if the institution has a formal process for adding chaplaincies, and ask if they have any guidelines for chaplains, like ordination requirements and level of commitment.

Usually the religious life department would need evidence of  some minimum amount of affiliated students or members as well as a mission statement that shows how the proposed chaplaincy would differ from those already established. After these are submitted, the chaplaincy would possibly enter a provisional period and later be evaluated for its success. After this first provisional period, the religious life department will usually take one of three actions: a) the chaplaincy is approved, b) the chaplaincy is rejected, or c) the chaplaincy undergoes another provisional period.

Humanist celebrants and chaplains endorsed by the Humanist Society should meet ordination requirements in most cases. For more information on the Humanist Society and celebrant certification, visit

Once a chaplaincy has been established, chaplains should be prepared to reach out to the campus community and develop relationships with other campus chaplaincies. Great places to get started might include on-campus student involvement fairs, established secular student groups, periodical chaplaincy meetings, and internet research through a chaplaincy website. Chaplains might also want to consider starting alumni groups, which would help former students stay involved after graduation. Alumni can also help support the chaplaincy financially, but care must be taken not to violate any university rules about soliciting alumni for donations.

Universities might differ in their chaplaincy programs. Research your university for more specific requirements and additional guidelines.

If you are interested in starting a humanist chaplaincy at your school, contact the American Humanist Association by filling out the form below

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