14-Year-Old May Become Youngest Church of God Chaplain

A 14-year-old boy may become the youngest person to become a certified Church of God chaplain.

Brian, whose last name is undisclosed, completed 27 hours of chaplain training and passed a test to receive a certificate of completion in November. He and both his parents are in the process of becoming a chaplain.

"We had one other chaplain, a female, who trained last June. She was 13," said Dr. Doc Williams, training coordinator for the Church of God Chaplains Commission. But, "she never became certified."

Williams is a retired air force chaplain and has served in the full-time ministry for 30 years. As far as Williams knows, if Brian is approved to minister in his community, he will be the youngest ever certified associate chaplain and the first ever youth chaplain in the nation.

The 14-year-old first caught Williams' eye when he entered chaplain training class in Roanoke, Va., a few months back.

"He looked very young and I guessed he was probably just visiting the class," said Williams, describing the first day Brian attended class. "I was very wrong."

Brian and his parents, Brian and Esther, all attended training together and received their certificate of completion on Nov. 4, 2006.

Upon discovering Brian's age after he had already passed the chaplaincy test, Williams recognized that the Church of God was "making history again and breaking new ground."

As an associate chaplain, Brian will minister to youth in the hospital and to his Church's Royal Rangers youth group.

With that, Williams hopes that Brian's ministering will peak the interest of other youth to join the Chaplains Commission. Seeing a young boy like Brian supporting peers as a chaplain "gives youth an avenue to develop their [own] calling to ministry," Williams noted.

And the parents assured Williams that Brian understood what he was getting into and that he was ready for the ministry.

"Brian is setting a very high standard for Church of God youth. He has heard the voice of God calling him into ministry, answered the call, presented himself for training, made application for certification as a Church of God Associate Community Service Chaplain and will go forth into chaplaincy ministry with his church's blessings and prayers," said Williams in a statement.

The Chaplains Commission does not have an age limit for applicants but Williams said the Commission probably would not go lower than 14 years old for obvious reasons.

The groundbreaking youth chaplain comes at a time when the Commission has been seeing an explosion of chaplains, according to Williams, with over 5,000 people trained worldwide and ministries "beyond the gates" of the local church, including correctional facilities, hospitals, and even the race track.

"I tell the class that their ministry can take whatever shape that God says it can," Williams explained.

As Brian and his parents await certification, Williams called the event "amazing."

"We get people who are retired or wanting to retire, and then you get the very young," he said. "It's a pleasant surprise."