I tested a variety of ideas with those who work on chapel closest with me. Jo Beth Petty Murphree has done a great deal of research into student attendance and chapel registration process. And I’ve been able to examine the pattern of what we’ve offered the past several years to better understand how our chapel program has grown and developed.
Last year a doctoral dissertation study by Allen Thompson evaluated Belhaven’s chapel and the chapel programs at three other Christian Colleges. His findings were very helpful in this summer’s evaluation. His primary findings were that students are most responsive to chapel when they:
- hear the same speaker multiple times rather than too many different voices during a semester,
- feel the speaker is accountable to the campus (not speak and run),
- trust the speaker.
He found those characteristics were even more important than “how good” the speaker was.
Out of this summer’s comprehensive analysis of chapel, I am making a number of changes to chapel for the coming year that are based on a clarification of chapel’s purpose and structural changes to make chapel more consistent.
- Above all, I want students to experience worship and hear God’s word during Chapel. Chapel should not force students into a requirement that feels overwhelming; I’d rather students not be as pressed about the demands of the requirement and be more receptive when they do attend.
- With the recent change of our academic calendar to equalize the number of weeks in the fall and spring terms, we now have 13 weeks for chapel services on Tuesday mornings – the same number of weeks during both semesters. From this summer’s research I am convinced it is important we have the same number of chapels offered during each semester so the requirement feels more equitable, and so students can more clearly anticipate the structure. We have sometimes had as few as 12 services, or as many as 16 opportunities available during a semester, and often, not the same number of offerings during the fall and spring terms of the same academic year.
- We will keep the attendance requirement at 70% of the offerings. Last year we had 14 credit opportunities each semester and students were required to earn 10 chapel credits (14 services during the fall, but the spring offered only 12 services plus 2 credits for our MLK service day project.) As outlined above, going forward we will have 13 chapel services each semester and students will be required to attend 9 chapels.
- We have tended to sometimes offer “additional” chapels on Thursdays when we have had a special emphasis. But because we’ve grown so large and complex with many other important activities scheduled 11 am to noon on Thursday, we will no longer schedule chapels for credit on Thursdays. Thursday chapel services might be offered during special times of emphasis, but they would not be for chapel credit.
- Our Martin Luther King Day Service Project is an important part of our campus experience, but does not fit with chapel credit since we have many other service projects during the year for which we don’t give chapel credit. Also with us not offering Thursday chapels in the fall, it confuses the requirement by making the number of chapel offerings unbalanced during the spring semester if we continued to give two credits for MLK Service Day. So starting this year, we will not be linking that Service Day to chapel credit, and trust that students will want to serve voluntarily.
- We will implement a new attendance software package that will now allow students to track online how many chapel services they have attended, so they can better plan their semester’s schedule. In the past, they were unaware where they stood with chapel credit unless they called the student life office, and we had scores of students coming up short for their chapel requirement.
- Many students have not realized they were enrolled in chapel because our registration process does not automatically include chapel in the enrollment cart of full time students. We’ll be working with the faculty to help students specifically enroll for chapel so we don’t have so many students unaware (or pretending to be unaware) they needed to attend chapel.
- We believe a significant group of students who are falling behind in chapel attendance because the time between the end of chapel and the next class period does not allow students to eat lunch. Missing lunch before an afternoon of practice, rehearsal, or lab is not healthy. We are making several adjustments to help ease this problem:
- Chapel will be 5 minutes shorter – 11:00 a.m. to 11:45 a.m.
- The next class period will begin 5 minutes later – 12:20 p.m. instead of 12:15 p.m.
- Food service will be adding an additional serving line on chapel days.
These changes should allow students 5 minutes to scan out of the building, 10 minutes to walk to the dining commons, 15 minutes for lunch, and 5 minutes to get to class. Even with that additional time, it is good they are young.
Below is the chapel schedule for the fall. I will be speaking more than I have in the past and have invited several other speakers who are already familiar to our students.
I trust you’ll join me in praying the Lord will bless these chapel services, and these changes will help enhance this worship experience for our students.
Belhaven University Chapel Schedule—Fall Semester 2013
27 Dr. Roger Parrott, President of the University
3 Opening Academic Convocation – Dr. Al Chestnut, Professor of Biology
10 Dr. Roger Parrott
17 Dr. Roger Parrott
24 Dr. Roger Parrott
1 Dr. Jerry Young, Pastor, New Hope Baptist Church
8 Dr. Jerry Young
15 Fall Break
22 Dr. Roger Parrott
29 Mr. Chris Heuertz, Founding Partner, Gravity
5 Dr. Lou Campbell, Founding Chair, BU Theatre
12 Rev. Morris “Mat” Taylor, Senior Pastor, Fondren Presbyterian Church
19 Ms. Martie Kwasny, Director of Joni and Friends, Jackson
26 Annual Faculty Christmas Card – Miss Bettye Quinn and the faculty