Wanted: Sheriff’s office needs more chaplains

Published 7:36 pm Thursday, October 20, 2011

By BRAD GASKINS / Staff Writer

CALERA – The Shelby County Sheriff’s Office is looking for volunteer chaplains to minister to sheriff’s employees and their families.

Began in the early 1990s, the chaplain program typically has 20-25 chaplains. Today, it has 12.

“We need more chaplains,” Chief Chaplain Mac Stinson said. “We’d like to have pastors who have at least five years of experience.”

Stinson, a retired United Methodist preacher, made his comments Thursday after a golf tournament to raise money for the program. The 20th annual fundraiser drew 84 participants and typically raises $8,000-$10,000.

Sheriff Chris Curry said the tournament draws a loyal following of golfers each year.

“The loyalty is key to us,” Curry said. “They recognize the value of the chaplain program to the citizens.”

Chaplains don’t minister inside the Shelby County Jail. There’s a separate ministry for inmates.

“Our ministry is to law enforcement officers and their families,” Stinson said. “We’re there to give support to the deputies.”

When a Christian denomination pastor volunteers, he or she goes through a chaplain training program, Stinson said.

Chaplains are scheduled for on-call shifts, but may not be needed every time he or she is on-call.

“It’s whenever the need arises,” Stinson said. “If you have a conflict with something going on in your church, then the church comes first. We don’t want to put anybody’s pastor ministry in jeopardy.”

Stinson has been with the program since it began. He said some preachers worry they won’t have enough time to volunteer because they’re busy at their respective churches.

Stinson said he understands those concerns, but added that churches benefit when pastors volunteer as chaplains. Plus, he said, it gives pastors a break from their routine schedules.

“It’s not what you’re giving up,” he said. “You’re getting so much.”