The Only Constant Is Change
By Danielle McCraney
IThree years ago, our family started the adventure for which God had been preparing us: life as a military chaplain’s family. Mark and I have loved the military since his time as an Air Force civil engineer at the beginning of our marriage. When he separated from the Air Force and was ordained as a Free Will Baptist pastor, we knew it was God’s plan at the time. But we wondered how God might use our military experience later in our lives.
One way was through the kinship we felt with the many people in the churches we served who were former or active members of the armed forces. We found we were able to relate to people and minister to them in unique ways because of our shared experiences in uniform. Another way to minister to military personnel was through sponsoring cadets from the Air Force Academy (Mark’s alma mater) when ministry led us back to Colorado. We were able to offer these young people a “home away from home.”
When the time came for our ministry to change, entering the chaplaincy was a family decision. Though Ethan was only a year old when Mark began pastoring full time, and Lucas was born a few years later, we always tried to instill a great love for our country in our boys. As a result, they’ve always loved the military and were so proud their dad had served. Our family’s love for military service members, love for serving others, and strong burden to be the hands and feet of Christ to this sometimes-forgotten field made the decision to take on the new ministry an easy one.
A few years later, we asked our boys the difference between a pastor’s family and a chaplain’s family. They smiled and said, “It’s really not that different. The main difference is that we know we will be moving every two-three years.” In most pastorates, the length of a church stay is dependent upon the Lord’s leading. In chaplaincy, the matter is still in God’s hands, but He uses the military to move chaplains regularly, along with the people to whom you are ministering. As the old saying goes, “The only constant is change!” This definitely creates both opportunities and challenges to our ministry.
The congregation we serve is different from the typical church. The average age is much younger, families are always in transition, and people bring experiences from all over the world. Many of them have not lived near family since joining the military, so the military becomes their family. Because of the variety of jobs represented, the diversity of prior assignments, and the ability to integrate quickly into new settings, a military congregation consists of an amazing group of people.
Though the congregation may be different, ministry is essentially the same. Our congregation is full of people who need Jesus and want to know Him more. The boys and I are known as “the chaplain’s wife and sons” on our small base in Rota, Spain. Most people know who the chaplains are, so we still experience the expectations of any pastor’s family. Spouses are not required (or expected) by the military to be involved in the ministry, but I’ve found the congregation enjoys spouses taking an active role.
Ministry has always been a family affair, and this hasn’t changed since joining the Navy. The boys are actively involved in the chapel, helping with VBS, setting up for events and participating in youth group. I am the pianist and serve on the board for the Protestant Women of the Chapel, which offers Bible studies for ladies during the week. Our family enjoys the opportunities the military offers, and we are grateful to minister to the men and women who serve our great nation.
About the Writer: Danielle McCraney and sons Ethan and Lucas currently serve alongside their husband and dad Mark McCraney, a chaplain in the U.S. Navy. The family is stationed in Rota, Spain. Learn more about the chaplaincy: www.fwbnam.com.