Sharing life with students
by Adam Yeager
What is school chaplaincy? After nearly nine years I am still trying to answer that question.
The life of a lay chaplain in Lutheran schools can be wild and varied. Whether it is kicking a footy with Year 6 boys, tackling questions about science, history, philosophy and theology with Year 12s or supporting staff through seasons of grief and doubt, chaplaincy is rarely easy and never boring.
My vocation is to journey with staff and students through the daily routine of school life. I have sat with students struggling with their sexual and gender identity, strapped students into waterskis though they didn’t have a clue what they were doing, and led countless chapel services – all with the aim of sharing life with students and reminding them, through word and deed, that they are loved by God.
We live in a time when family and community connections often break down, leaving young people desperate for something that explains what’s happening in their world and in themselves. The idea of a stable community rooted in a local church is a foreign concept to most students. They are more likely to connect with young people in a different country through online gaming than with those in a local community of faith.
This is where school chaplains bring something countercultural into the lives of young people. As students share their lives with us, we share the love of God with them. They are loved, regardless of how popular, sporty or intelligent they try to be. We journey with them, regardless of what they believe, through the good days, the bad days and the often-boring milieu in between. A school chaplain can be a theologian, a counsellor, an administrator, an executive, a coach, a mentor or whatever we are needed to be. The words of Paul resonate for me:
‘I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings’ (1 Corinthians 9:22–23).
To the diehard Taylor Swift fan, I become like one who likes her latest single (though I don’t think it’s very good); to the boy who can’t focus in class and acts out because of his insecurities, I become one who empathises and never judges; to the principal wrestling with teacher-performance issues, I become a listening ear and a voice of comfort.
In an age in which the dynamics and demographics of Lutheran schools are drastically changing, chaplains serve to keep our schools anchored in the gospel – one collegial cup of coffee (or juice box) at a time.
Adam Yeager has been serving as College Chaplain at Faith Lutheran College at Tanunda in South Australia. Later this month he takes up the same role at Unity College at Murray Bridge in SA.