Non-Denominational Spiritual Care Givers and the Development of their Spirituality


  • Nelleke ten Napel-Roos Radboud University Medical Centre
  • Brenda Mathijssen University of Groningen
  • Wim Smeets Radboud University Medical Centre
  • Hetty Zock University of Groningen



spiritual care, non-denominational, spiritual competence, lived spirituality, professionalization, the Netherlands


In the Netherlands, a growing number of spiritual care givers are working without being endorsed by any church or worldview organization. Since 2015, these non-denominational spiritual care givers can undergo an assessment of their “spiritual competence” on top of their Master’s degree in Spiritual Care, which leads to a mandate in this area. This enables them to obtain full membership of the professional Association of Spiritual Caregivers in the Netherlands (Vereniging van Geestelijk VerZorgers, VGVZ), from which they previously were excluded. The VGVZ seeks to secure the quality and professionalism of spiritual care, and full membership is a condition typically required by clients or employers. The VGVZ’s Professional Standard outlines the membership criteria and states that a spiritual care giver needs to have both a certain expertise, derived from a Master’s degree, and authorization, derived from an endorsement or mandate that ought to safeguard their spiritual competence and authentic, lived spirituality. However, as this study illustrates, the terminology used in the Professional Standard is rather unclear. Reference is made to “spiritual”, “worldview” and “hermeneutic” competencies, which are all situated in the domain of substantive, process-orientated and personal capabilities. This article critically examines the notion of spiritual competence as a leading concept in the acceptance and assessment of non-denominational spiritual care givers. By doing so, it offers a novel systematic analysis of the field and sets the agenda for future research.

Author Biographies

  • Nelleke ten Napel-Roos, Radboud University Medical Centre

    Nelleke ten Napel-Roos is a spiritual caregiver and researcher at Radboud University Medical Centre and at Liemerije Nursing Home.

  • Brenda Mathijssen, University of Groningen

    Brenda Mathijssen is is Assistant Professor of Psychology, Culture and Religion at the faculty of Theology and Religious Studies at the University of Groningen.

  • Wim Smeets, Radboud University Medical Centre

    Wim Smeets is Associate Professor ‘Innovation in Spiritual Care’ of the Radboud University and spiritual caregiver/supervisor of the Spiritual Care Department of the Radboud University Medical Centre.

  • Hetty Zock, University of Groningen

    Hetty Zock is Professor of Religion and Mental Health at the University of Groningen.


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How to Cite

ten Napel-Roos, N., Mathijssen, B., Smeets, W., & Zock, H. (2021). Non-Denominational Spiritual Care Givers and the Development of their Spirituality. Health and Social Care Chaplaincy, 9(1), 60–79.