Whether as a hospital patient, a visitor at a nursing home, a member of the armed forces or in some other setting, one in four Americans have interacted with a chaplain at some point in their lives. Although many who have interacted with chaplains aren’t religious themselves, most Americans who have ever been served by a chaplain report that the interaction was valuable.
These findings come from an in-depth survey about Americans’ experiences with chaplains conducted by Gallup for the Chaplaincy Innovation Lab at Brandeis University. For the March 2022 survey, chaplains were defined as “clergy or other religious guides or spiritual caregivers who serve people outside of churches or other houses of worship, in settings such as hospitals, the military, prisons, or institutions of higher education, to name a few examples.”Among the 25% of U.S. adults polled in March who report that a chaplain assisted, counseled or visited with them at some point in their lives, either in person or virtually, 7% said it happened within the previous 12 months. Another 7% said their encounter had occurred two to five years earlier, while 11% said it happened six or more years ago.
Half of those ever meeting with a chaplain say the encounter occurred in a healthcare setting, such as a hospital, palliative care facility or hospice. The next most common context is the military, mentioned by 11%, while a variety of other settings are each mentioned by less than 5%.