Ministry Health Care Earns Accreditation to Train Pastors, Seminarians and Chaplains

Chaplain Sue Kruger, BCC, a Chaplain at Ministry Good Samaritan Health Center in Merrill, Wisconsin, is leading a wonderful success story at Ministry Health Care.

Ministry recently became fully accredited in ACPE (the Association of Clinical Pastoral Education), a program that Kruger is coordinating.

ACPE is an experience-based theological training for pastors, seminarians and chaplains to improve their skills with patients, families and staff. They attend a structured, rigorous program with a certified supervisor that involves reflection and inquiry on their work, themselves, and their openness to gaining new skills.

What’s exciting about the model is that people can enter it from a variety of different places. For example, pastors might need to return for one unit of training so they can be ordained as an elder in their church. It’s a model that truly fits spiritual caregivers wherever they are, on their own personal path.

“We have our own staff members who want to improve their skills and we have young people that need to earn their credentials in order to become ordained,” said Kruger. “The exciting part is that Ministry became accredited in May as a center to provide this theological education. That’s huge, because it’s going to allow us to build the program, and it sets a standard of excellence. It’s the standard-bearing measurement for theological-based training.”

Ministry offers two quarters of training a year and has hired 12 full- or part-time chaplains for its facilities since it started the training program in 2010.

“We’re not just creating a pool of people to hire; we’re sending them into the world with skills,” said Kruger. “It’s a community resource for theological training in north central Wisconsin.”

The current Ministry program which is nearly complete has three returnees, two newcomers, and Kruger as a supervisor-in-training. Four members are employees of Ministry. Another session will begin in mid-May.

The current supervisor of the program, Kate Sullivan, has been involved in the group training and supervision process since 1986, and Kruger is currently training for a supervisory role, a position she hopes to attain within a few years.

“To become a supervisor is a long, rigorous process,” said Kruger. “I have been observing Kate and the group and the next step is to co-facilitate with her in 2014. In time, with the approval of the ACPE certifying team, I will then supervise. We also plan on incorporating long-distance video training, where an experienced CPE coordinator will be watching interaction with the group.”

The journey for those pursuing training in clinical pastoral caregiving is anything but easy.
“There are many steps in the process before you are allowed to supervise people on their spirituality,” added Kruger. “It requires standards of behavior, theology, educational theory, and ethics. You have to become self-aware enough that you don’t get in the way of the patients’ and families’ needs.  This whole journey is about increasing your self-awareness so that you can be a more effective spiritual caregiver. Being a good listener is extremely important.”

According to the Association for Clinical Pastoral Education, Inc. (ACPE) website, ACPE is “a multicultural, multi-faith organization devoted to providing education and improving the quality of ministry and pastoral care offered by spiritual caregivers of all faiths through the clinical educational methods of Clinical Pastoral Education.” To learn more, please visit

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