National Association of College
and University Chaplains

A multifaith professional community supporting spiritual and ethical life in higher education

Standards and Guidelines for Chaplaincy

NACUC Standards and Guidelines Revision

Victoria Armour-Hileman, Ian Oliver, Loretta Reynolds, February 2011

NACUC agrees with and endorses the Association of College and University Religious Affairs (ACURA) Principles for Religious Life in Higher Education Statement

Principles for Religious Life
in Higher Education

Nurturing the religious and spiritual life of students is a critical part of the mission of higher education in the 21st century. Our colleges and universities are explicitly committed to developing the whole person, creating global citizens, and promoting civic engagement of students throughout their lives. Finding one's own spiritual, religious, and moral compass is a key component of personal well-being in adult life. At this challenging time in history, it is clear that interfaith understanding is central to the life of the planet. Therefore, it is important to articulate certain principles for religious life in higher education. Specifically, we need to provide resources to promote healthy spiritual and religious development for students, which will keep pace with their intellectual and emotional development in our institutions.

I. Religious life structures:

The institution is well served by an office established by the university or college, dedicated to religious, spiritual, and ethical life. That office and its director will be strategically placed within the university structure so as to promote effectiveness and influence. The office will fulfill a coordinating and liaison function for religious professionals assigned to the campus. It will also create and sustain one or more student interfaith bodies. This office will enlarge its impact on campus through a variety of partnerships. These activities will be funded by the institution at an appropriate level.

II. Access and oversight:

Our universities and colleges are obliged to accommodate diversity of religious expression. This office has both advocacy and oversight functions for our institutions - promoting free religious exercise and association as well as maintaining a welcoming environment that is free from religious coercion. Through its loyalty to the institution and professional expertise, the office enhances religious freedom while also securing compliance with general university policies, calibrated to the particular forms of abuse endemic to religion.

III. Intellectual inquiry and religious practice:

The office brings to bear on faith and religious practice the academic values of inquiry, research, multiple perspectives and critical thinking. Likewise, the office translates beliefs, values, and convictions born of religious study and commitment into the academic arena. The office affirms the compatibility of religious commitment and free intellectual inquiry.

IV. Religious pluralism:

The office advocates for the well being of the entire community with special concern for the needs of religious observance and practice. Encouraging an understanding and respect for the multifaith reality of higher education, while embracing and engaging the particularity of each tradition, is a principal focus. Extending hospitality and meeting the needs of religious groups and individuals, especially under-represented traditions, is crucial. An important dimension of the institutional mission is educating the entire community about religious, spiritual, and ethical life.

(Used by permission from ACURA, adopted 11/01/2005)

In addition, NACUC also affirms:

Chaplaincy and Religious Identity

Public discourse about religious identity and interreligious encounter is integral to liberal education and the university's mission to educate for global citizenship. As part of that educational mission, universities raise private identities, such as gender and race, to public reflection. Religion needs to be one of these examined identities, so that undergirding belief systems are reflected upon in the encounter with others. Chaplains play a unique role bridging the educational process and the religious identities which motivate many students by providing opportunities for intentional action and interaction. Chaplains bring special training and resources to the creation of a civil public conversation that speaks both to these individual identities and the crucial global issues of the day.


The chaplaincy serves the entire university community and therefore should be administratively located appropriately (e.g. reporting to a university-wide office such as the President or Provost). Chaplains have professional training (including a minimum of a masters degree and other training) and should be accorded status comparable to teaching faculty (e.g. sabbaticals, professional development, leaves, and academic freedom).

Educational requirements:

A professional theological/religious degree (a minimum or three years post-baccalaureate) including some specific clinical pastoral training or equivalent education and experience. It is recommended, where possible, that chaplains be certified by a religious movement or denomination which screens and evaluates aptitude and readiness, and provides ongoing evaluation and accountability. These apply whether one is ordained or not.

Terms of employment:

The institution should provide a written job description, dates/term of employment and clear standards and means of evaluation to chaplains, comparable to faculty.


A chaplain is required to respect and to preserve the confidentiality of communications to him or her in a counseling relationship. A chaplain will not reveal confidences, except where required by state law.


Chaplains should be governed by policies equivalent to faculty. NACUC is available to either universities or chaplains for mediation.

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