Volunteer Ministry Program

The Pastoral Care Department at Children’s Medical Center Dallas began a volunteer ministry program in 1999. The genesis of this program was born from a need to reach out to the growing number of patients and families being treated in the Emergency Department and First Care clinic. Children’s sees more patients in its ED than any other pediatric emergency center in the country. Many of these families have long wait times, particularly in First Care. This clinic sees patients who have no primary physician and are here for a non-emergency visit. The volunteers visit in the waiting areas and observation units, providing a ministry of hospitality to patients and family members.

Chaplain volunteers also visit our patient areas, like day surgery, and, in some instances, general pediatric floors. Ministry varies from distributing coloring sheets, crayons, pillows and stuffed animals to children, to calming anxious parents and extended family members through reflective listening. These services help to ensure that less traumatic pastoral needs are not overlooked. At the same time, chaplain volunteers enable resident chaplains to focus on families dealing with crises or facing difficult decisions.

All chaplain volunteers are required to complete specialized training provided by senior chaplains. To date, Pastoral Care has trained over 150 volunteers and, on average, maintains an active roster of 25 participants in the program. Training includes a volunteer orientation through Volunteer Services and an additional 12-hour orientation in the department of Pastoral Care. For quality improvement, the chaplain volunteers meet monthly for continuing education, including content presentations and review of verbatim material provided by a Clinical Pastoral Education supervisor or supervisory resident. It is our belief that the interaction of CPE students with lay volunteers provides an educational enhancement for both groups connecting us to our grounding in the broader faith community.

For more information, please contact Karen Eckenfels at: