Here in Wisconsin and in the U.P. the vast majority of our Law Enforcement agencies are in rural areas, like most in our nation… where many of you live and serve in pastoral ministry. I have the privilege of living and serving in a semi-rural area in NE Wisconsin with reach into some of the most rural areas of the state.
Some officers in these rural areas are solid believers, have solid relationships with other believers and belong to and attend church regularly when their shift work and over-time allows, but many do not have that connection. They will never walk through the doors of a church on their own. They need someone willing to enter into their complicated world to be there for that moment when their heart becomes hungry for hope.
One of the myths out there is that law enforcement officers in rural areas just don’t have to deal with calls as bad as the urban, large city officers and agencies, but that would be wrong. Yes, urban/city areas see more calls per hour and experience more large-scale unrest, as well as more frequency of horrible calls. But where there are people, there is brokenness and evil behavior. For the most part, rural officers must deal with all the things urban officers do: marriages and relationships falling apart, children being molested and abused, jobs being lost and people struggling with poverty, and homes being robbed and invaded.
People are either searching for hope or have given up. They medicate as they can and even commit suicide… or, if they can’t pull the trigger, call dispatch and put officers in the horrible situation of having to do that for them, to stop them from being a further threat to others around them.
Rural officers have at least two disadvantages over their urban blue family:
They do not have as much access to training and support as the urban areas with larger tax bases.
They do not always have assistance nearby (some may be up to an hour away from assistance from another officer).
They do their best. They answer the call. They stand in the gap of the wall between lawlessness and the community. But they also have to deal with the aftermath of the calls they go to. No one is prepared to experience everything they see, smell, hear, prepare for, watch for, position themselves for, and then try to protect their families from, on a scale in which they do. Many of them lose hope in human decency as they handle the worst 3% of society on a regular basis, that most of us never have to deal with, and they have to nip at the heels of the “regular sheep” every day at traffic stops, domestic disputes, divorce and child custody situations, and on, and on, and on… and are lied to by virtually everyone they come into contact with as each one shades truth to protect themselves or attempts to put more blame on others.
They lose connection with the holy… with the body of Christ… with a belief that there is hope for everyone at the foot of the cross. I’ve heard many times, even from “Christian officers” that “some people just need to die”. They lose compassion, because to feel everything all the time… will destroy them. But then, something as important in them gets destroyed along the way as well… their empathy.
When they get back home, they struggle to shift into Husband or Dad mode. Alcohol is utilized more and more to just “unwind” or “relax” or “feel normal”. And many officers find themselves struggling with some of the same enemies that the people they arrest do: alcoholism, perfectionism, anger from multiple stress issues, their families who don’t/can’t understand the internal workings of an officer’s heart or mind… because they don’t know how to, or do not want to, share deeply with another… either because it will hurt again, or they are trying to protect their families from the evils they just saw that night/day.
They need people who will step into their lives, who will make a commitment to gently, competently, compassionately, regularly, & steadily walk into their lives and alongside them through the life and jobs they have, gaining trust, slowly, over a lengthy time for many.
They need Gospel-oriented people who can gently remind them of God’s sovereignty, love, strength, and future plans. They need the truth of where evil comes from, and resides, and what resources they have available through Christ to help them deal with the evil that has tainted them by its ugly stain. They need the regular reminder that God’s love is not quenched and that there is still hope for many… even for them.
They need you.They need Chaplains – pastors/spiritual counselors, friends, and confidants in their law enforcement life, and other emergency services too. They need chaplains who have something worthy to offer: an understanding of law enforcement life, a solid connection to the Source of Life… people with a deep connection to the truth and power of the Gospel and who live it out unashamedly, and who holds their tongue from “preaching” it at them… until a proper time when you have won the right to explain the reason for the hope that you have.
I served as a reserve police officer in Southern California and have been a pastor for about 24 years. I’ve now been a chaplain for law enforcement for over 15 years. The first seven years I did not have training as a chaplain and SO wish I had. Some very basic mistakes were made along the way without it, fortunately nothing serious, since I had some law enforcement background already.
If you are interested in checking out this exciting mission, right in your locale, with law enforcement and other emergency service people, please contact me and I will help any way I can to assist you in starting well, making connections with LE Agencies, and gaining training to be a competent and qualified Chaplain.
There is also a 3-day Chaplain Training Conference coming up in Shipshewana, IN. in mid-March for any of you who would like to get a great taste of what Chaplaincy is all about. The International Conference of Police Chaplains has training conferences each year in each of their regions. We are in Region #4 and I am also the Wisconsin State Rep for the ICPC. They have 12 basic Chaplain classes to get you started. They also provide enrichment and advanced classes each year to provide ongoing learning and honing of your abilities and understanding of ministry to law enforcement. If you are interested in this conference, click on this link (http://www.icpc4cops.org/region/training-seminars/region-4-brochure-and-registration.html ) for more information and to register for the ICPC Region 4 RTS 2021 Conference and hotel reservations. I would LOVE to meet you and see you there as we flood our Wisconsin law enforcement with Gospel-oriented pastors.
I recently partnered with the Law Enforcement Death Response Team recently to provide a Chaplain Training Seminar in Fond du Lac where about 55 people attended, and we will continue to try to supply training in Wisconsin as we can as well, whether in-person or online. Stay tuned.
You can also contact me with any questions you may have about the conferences or to chat about chaplaincy or reaching out to your local agency(ies). Just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org , and we can set up a time to chat that can meet your schedule.
Blessings on you and the ministries where God has placed you and for which He has equipped you.
Archer Leupp, Chaplain
Archer served for more than 24 years in pastoral ministry. While he was a pastor, Archer volunteered part-time as a Law Enforcement chaplain for about 15 years and is currently a master-level credentialed law enforcement chaplain through the International Conference of Police Chaplains (ICPC). He currently serves as Chaplain for five law enforcement agencies. As the current (2019-2020) Wisconsin State Representative for the ICPC, he is being afforded the opportunities of coming alongside any of the up to 400+ LE Agencies in Wisconsin to help them develop their own chaplain programs in their agencies, as well as helping to recruit, train and mobilize qualified and competent chaplains for our law enforcement communities.