Volunteer Disaster Chaplaincy Training

National Disaster Interfaiths Network and Episcopal Relief and Development

Now more than ever, communities across the United States are facing unprecedented natural and human-caused disasters. Spiritual first-aid is an essential part of response and recovery, and volunteer chaplains are on the front lines in delivering disaster human service operations and disaster site operations.

The Beecken Center—in partnership with the National Disaster Interfaiths Network (NDIN)—invites clergy and lay spiritual caregivers of all faiths to take this disaster chaplaincy training on the beautiful campus of the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee, July 15–17, 2019. Participants who complete this certification can volunteer in their own diocese or faith community, or with NDIN and its national partners. NDIN can also assist unaffiliated volunteers in finding disaster spiritual care volunteer opportunities in local communities across the United States.

The training will be divided into two parts. The first, Engaging Faith Communities in Disasters, is a religious literacy and competency course focused on why and how to engage faith communities during disasters and public health emergencies.

The second part prepares clergy, laypersons, religious leaders, or spiritual care providers to volunteer as disaster chaplains in mass-care settings, or to serve as disaster chaplains within their house of worship, religious community, or professional institution. Led by a team from NDIN, participants learn about disaster response operations, spiritual care, mental health, and self-care. Strategies to promote recovery and resiliency are also covered.

Emergency managers and disaster mental health professionals may also take this course to develop their knowledge of best practices in disaster spiritual care.

When: July 15–17, 2019
The University of the South, Sewanee, Tenn.
Lodging is not included with registration.

Tuition: $570

Tuition includes breakfast, lunch, and all training materials. Lodging is not included. A discounted room rate will be available for a small block of rooms at the Sewanee Inn on a first-come, first-served basis. Details will be sent with your registration confirmation. For nearby accommodations other than the Sewanee Inn, visit our accommodations page.

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The training will commence at 8:15 a.m. (CST) on Monday, July 15, and will conclude at 4:00 p.m. on Wednesday, July 17. Download a schedule here.

Prior to the training, all participants must complete FEMA Incident Command System (FEMA IS 100) training.

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Trainees at the Sewanee Inn, Aug. 2018Disaster chaplain trainees in Sewanee, August 2018

Part One: Engaging Faith Communities in Disasters

This section is divided into five modules, which demonstrate how diverse religious and cultural practice and collaboration increases partner capabilities and builds whole-community resilience. The course offers tools (tip sheets & a field guide set) and foundational skills to competently engage religious leaders and congregations in the field. 

Course Modules

  • Faith Communities as a Cornerstone of Whole Communities,
  • The Value, Landscape, and Language of Faith Communities in Disasters,
  • Ten Field Skills for Successful Engagement,
  • Engaging Faith Communities through the LEADER Process,
  • Tools & Resources for Engaging Faith Communities throughout the Disaster,
  • Building a Databank of Local Faith Communities,

In Modules 4 and 5, those responsible for engaging faith communities will learn a cohesive, six-step process for successful engagement, utilizing real-world examples from several response and recovery efforts throughout the United States. A Field Guide, Tip Sheets, and other resources are also provided. In Module 6, participants will be exposed to a comprehensive strategy for developing a databank of all faith communities in a disaster-affected area. This module utilizes a hands-on, step-by-step approach for participants to gain experience using the best available web-based resources.

Field Guide Set

  • 5 Mass Care Tip Sheets;
  • 26 Tip Sheets For U.S. Religious Leaders;
  • Field Guide;
  • Religious Literacy Primer.

Part Two: Volunteer Disaster Chaplaincy Training

Course Curriculum

Operations & spiritual care: General principles; interventions; sites and specifics

  • Emotional and spiritual phases of the disaster "life cycle;"
  • Spiritual first aid: Presence, Connect, Assessment, Intervention, Develop Plan of Care (PCAID) as an intervention appropriate in any phase of a disaster;
  • Disaster human services operations and disaster site operations;
  • Practice in applying principles of spiritual and emotional care in various disaster scenarios.

Mental health: Introduction, impact of disaster, response, and reaction

  • Phases of psychological reaction to disaster and impact on behaviors, thoughts, & feelings;
  • Psychological First Aid as a basic intervention that does not require professional training;
  • Indicators that referrals for professional mental health care may be appropriate.

Self-care: The need and techniques; individual and community resilience

  • The need for caregivers to develop effective self-care practices;
  • Practices that minimize compassion fatigue ("the cost of caring") and other stresses related to providing care in times of crisis;
  • Strategies to promote recovery and resiliency, especially through support systems that monitor, nourish and maintain self-care for individuals and communities.

A portion of the material within Engaging Faith Communities in Disasters was developed for the Emergency Management Institute (EMI) through a collaborative training partnership between FEMA's Center for Faith-based & Neighborhood Partnerships, DHS Science & Technology Resilient Systems Division, DHS’ National Center for Risk and Economic Analysis of Terrorism Events (CREATE) at the University of Southern California (USC), the USC Center for Religion and Civic Culture (CCRC), and the National Disaster Interfaiths Network (NDIN).

The Volunteer Disaster Chaplaincy portion of this training is solely licensed to NDIN and was originally developed as a multi-faith training course following 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina by New York Disaster Interfaith Services and an editorial board of 19 disaster spiritual care experts in partnership with Episcopal Relief and Development.


Participants must be endorsed for this training by the senior religious leader who has jurisdiction over their ministry; or a credentialed religious caregiver or leader; or the senior executive to which they report; or registrants must currently serve as a chaplain. Emergency managers and disaster mental health professionals may register using their agency affiliation. Registrants must provide a signed endorsement to complete registration (PDFs preferred).

This course is compliant with National Incident Management Systems (NIMS) and incorporates FEMA Incident Command System (FEMA IS 100) training. Registrants must complete FEMA IS 100 training to attend. It also complies with the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD) Points of Consensus for Disaster Spiritual Care.

For more information, contact the Beecken Center via e-mail, or call 800-722-1974. The training will commence at 8:15 a.m. (CST) on Monday, July 15, and will conclude at 4 p.m. on Wednesday, July 17. Download a schedule here.

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