ROGERS, Ark.—On October 14-15, the Arkansas Baptist State Convention (ABSC) Missions Team held a First Responder Chaplain/Peer Support training for current or future law enforcement, fire and EMS (emergency medical service) chaplains and peer support members. Several Arkansas Disaster Relief workers also took the courses. Barry Young of Serving Heroes, based in Independence, Missouri, presented his Level 1 and Level 2 training seminars.

Topics ranged from how to deliver a death message, how to help first responders manage stress, station visits and ride-alongs, understanding and managing PTSD and the family of the First Responder to compassion fatigue and more.   

First Responder chaplains are (mostly) volunteers. Chaplains share what Young calls “care, compassion and concern” to their station’s members and families. Chaplains listen more than they talk. Their ministry of “presence” is invaluable. Just being there and asking the right questions, oftentimes, helps their members share what they are feeling (very important after a traumatic event), which helps the processing of emotions. First Responders see the worst of the worst, and chaplains can provide invaluable assistance in these rough times.   

More and more departments are starting “peer support” and wellness units. Peer support is the training of “peers”—fellow officers, fire fighters and medics—who come alongside their coworkers, especially after a traumatic call or experience. Peer-support-trained coworkers are right there when things happen or get with their peer shortly after an event. They work together with chaplains to bring excellent emotional and spiritual care to their First Responder family. Young notes that stress in these occupations cannot be prevented, “but it can be managed.”   

Departments that choose to use chaplains and peer support members provide powerful stress management tools for their members. Another powerful tool is prayer. Church members all over Arkansas are urged to permanently add the names of their local law enforcement, fire and EMS departments to their prayer lists.  

 The same courses will be offered in Central Arkansas in April 2023. Click here for details.  

This article was written by Bob Fielding, consultant for chaplaincy and national/international missions consultant on the Missions Team of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention.

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