The chapel staff recently organized a retreat for Airmen to focus on religious accommodation, individual spiritual wellness and of course to have fun.
During a classroom session of the retreat, we divided 30 Airmen into three separate groups to role play as commanders, first sergeants, and frontline supervisors.
We openly discussed their various responses to the question, “how would you accommodate a short notice religious observance request from a troop who asked to take off work during an exercise?”
It was a fun lively discussion watching the Airmen ages 18-27, and in ranks from E-1 to E-4, emphasize the rationale behind their responses. Most had very well thought out responses, and we were pleasantly surprised to see how the Airmen took over the discussion, as they determined what was fair, if given a short-notice religious request, during a base exercise.
The second half of the classroom session focused on spiritual wellness and the entire chapel staff received another surprise to learn what young Airmen viewed as spiritual wellness for themselves. We used a ball cap and collected 30 anonymous responses on each Airman’s personal spiritual wellness and practices. We wanted to know what they looked to, during tough times, outside of themselves for spiritual wellness. We asked if they looked to a higher power, specific deity or practiced a personal form of spiritual resiliency.
One of our religious affairs Airmen tallied the responses and wrote them out on a board. The results showed five Airmen enjoyed time alone by a body of water, 14 described some form of hiking or being on trails, eight others preferred time alone with nature (parks, forest preserve, woods, etc.,), one practiced Buddhism and meditation, one went to church and enjoyed bible study, and one sheet was left blank.
We learned that spiritual wellness, at least for this group, was predominantly non-traditional, not structured, and was linked to nature and the outdoors.
This information fueled our ministry planning and chapel focus for the entire tour ... what an eye opener. The Airmen’s feedback helped us design our chapel programs effectively and subsequently increased our participation.
Interestingly enough, the traditional chapel worship services attendance did not increase but volunteerism at the chapel increased along with programs and special event participation. We partnered with Outdoor Recreation and developed more events associated with the outdoors and nature.
The events were cost effective, well attended and received positive reviews. This was a great and new way to support and provide spiritual wellness and resiliency activities for our Airmen.
It also was a great lesson for the entire chapel staff to think outside the box, collaborate with our Airmen, and to remember spiritual wellness results may be acquired through non-traditional methods.