The term "chaplain" refers to a clergyperson or layperson who has been commissioned by a faith group or an organization to provide pastoral care within an institution, organization or government agency. Basic requirements for a chaplain usually include: an ecclesiastical endorsement from an organization or faith group, ordination of commission to function in pastoral care ministry, and theological training.
The term "chaplain" originated with the appointment for personal ministry of a non-parochial cleric to a monarch, ecclesiastical authority or nobleman who owned a chapel. Chaplains then began serving in military units, and later in institutions such as hospitals, prisons, schools, and diplomatic faculties.
Today, chaplaincy is commonly provided by institutions such as hospitals, prisons, schools, colleges, business organizations, and the armed forces. The general activities performed by a chaplain, include crisis ministry, counseling, sacraments, worship, education, end-of-life care, help in ethical decision-making, staff support, clergy contact and community or church coordination.
Although they may be employed on a full-time or part-time basis, many clergy also volunteer their services. Chaplains have been clinically trained to function in their particular areas since the 1920's, and chaplain organizations have been certifying chaplains to function in specialized ministries since the 1940's.