For many people, the call to ministry comes not when they are just leaving the "nest" of home as a young person, but later in life. Because it can be hard to uproot yourself (and your family) to go to seminary, many theological schools are developing distance learning programs for future pastors and chaplains. Below are some ideas on how you can combine distance learning with local clinical pastoral education opportunities.

Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE)

Clinical pastoral education trains people in offering pastoral/spiritual presence to others in times of crisis. Clinical pastoral education takes place in structured, supervised programs within institutions such as hospitals, mental health centers, nursing homes and hospice.

Chaplains and Educational Requirements for Chaplaincy

A chaplain is someone who provides spiritual/pastoral care in an institution, such as a school, hospital or prison, rather than at a house of worship, such as a synagogue or church. Each religious body will have its own requirements for chaplaincy education, which will include academic training in theological subjects and counseling. Most will also require at least four hours of CPE, which matches the requirement of the Association of Professional Chaplains.

Chaplaincy Education Via Distance Learning

Some seminaries and ministry training schools offer distance education options for their students. Typically, however, there will be some requirement for students to visit campus for short, intensive classes or retreats. CPE, on the other hand, requires that students be active and present in the institutions in which they work.

Combining CPE With Distance Learning

Chaplaincy students who take their academic coursework via distance learning will need to find an approved CPE site in their area. Check with hospitals and health care services to find out of they have a CPE program.

How to Find CPE Opportunities Locally

Finding a local CPE opportunity while enrolled in a distance learning chaplaincy program can be challenging, as your instructors and school administrators may not have relationships with your local CPE sites. Start your search for a site early so you can make arrangements between your school and the site.

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