Study: For Service Members in Combat, Bible, Chaplains Increase in Importance With Number of Deployments

PHILADELPHIA — A study conducted by the American Bible Society as part of its 2020 “State of the Bible” report has found that while many in the Armed Forces don’t read the Bible daily, as the number of combat deployments increase, so does the importance of the Scriptures, chapel/the local church and military chaplains as a source of comfort from combat stress.

“U.S. service members and veterans face challenges that other American adults can hardly imagine. When service members deploy to combat zones, both their Bible and their chaplains go with them, providing spiritual and emotional support where families and churches cannot go,” the report outlines.

“When active duty service members return from their deployments or leave the military to become veterans, the Church plays a key role in creating a caring, biblical community of hope and healing,” it explains. “The Church also plays an important role in supporting the families of service members, as they face unique stresses without the resources available to their loved ones serving on active duty.”

In June and July 2019, the American Bible Society surveyed 1,009 active duty, on reserve and retired veterans about their Bible reading habits and the places they turn for comfort from military trauma.

Four out of five of those surveyed, or 83% service members and veterans, were given a Bible while in the military, and 89% kept it. Three out of five service members stated that they actually read it while actively serving: 13% read that Bible “a little,” 19% “occasionally” and 19% “quite often.”

However, the American Bible Society also discovered that Bible engagement appears to increase with the number of deployments. 53% of those who have never been deployed were classified as “Bible disengaged,” meaning that they rarely read it or use it to affect their daily lives.

But 10% of combat veterans are “Bible centered,” meaning that they read it daily and apply it to their everyday life, compared to just 4% of the general military population.

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It was similarly found that more turned to the Bible, a chaplain, or chapel services as the number of combat deployments increased.

“For those who had never been deployed to a combat zone, 38% found comfort in their relationship with their spouse, 19% in the Bible, and 9% from a chaplain. However, when combat deployments increased to four or more, each of these percentages increased significantly: 53% for spouses, 41% for the Bible, and 17% for chaplains,” the report outlines in regard to on-base activity.

Off base, “as combat deployments increased, the comfort received from friends decreased, ranging from 65% for those with zero combat deployments to only 46% for those with four or more combat deployments. [And], as combat deployments increased, so did comfort received from the Bible, the Church, and a pastor.”

The American Bible Society urges churches to consider these statistics and to ponder how they can support active duty members, veterans and their families through their ministry outreaches, such as by organizing a special Bible study group or working to help military members heal from suffered trauma.

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