the experience

An outlandish idea, really.

Last post, I mentioned how creativity can be jump-started via exposure to various ministry methods and contexts – including (or especially) those different from our own. (Read that post here.)

Today, an example of a recent “exploration” that expanded my own creativity. The example comes from a Christian college, but the idea that I derived from it could apply to any campus. I’ll provide the example today, and you can play the game along with me. You’ll probably figure out my “outlandish idea” for college ministry, but feel free to come up with your own!

Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to springboard from this situation to your own context. Be willing to think crazy; this is just practice. It’s just brainstorming, and it’s like the experience is brainstorming along with us – providing ideas for something we could do in our own contexts.

Here’s the setup:

Earlier this week, I dropped in on Chapel at Calvin College. Located in Grand Rapids, Michigan (which somebody this week called “the suspenders of the Bible belt”), Calvin is one of the better known Christian colleges in the U.S. I attended Monday’s chapel service, and it was great.

I noticed a few things in preparing for and then attending chapel at Calvin.

  1. First, their chapel is actually known as “Daily Chapel” and does, in fact, occur daily. While having chapel each day isn’t unheard of among Christian colleges, it’s certainly not the norm.
  2. Second, chapel on Monday lasted about 23 minutes – and they apologized for running a little late. Most Christian colleges’ chapel services last about 50 minutes.
  3. The chapel is in a pretty accessible location, near enough to classes to make daily attendance “workable.”
  4. The service was definitely a good time. It was simple (as you can imagine, since it’s only 20 minutes) – a song (starting early, actually, but I think their clock was fast), a message, another song. There were a couple of announcements in there, too, I think. But it was all done well.
  5. Fifth, I noticed with surprise that the chapel was pretty full. It wasn’t packed to the gills (it doesn’t actually have gills), but there were a lot of people there. Often, by the end of the semester, students at Christian colleges have figured out how to fulfill their chapel credit requirements and attendance goes down. (More on this issue in a second.)
  6. Finally, the chapel is an octagon shape inside. Like, it really has 8 walls. This isn’t important for the brainstorming (or is it???), but it’s pretty sweet, eh?

But there’s more!

The next day, I had the awesome opportunity to sit down with a couple of peeps in the Calvin community: Andy De Jong, Interim Chaplain, and Amy, a student I knew from ministry in Texas. Both were great chats and covered a lot more than chapel, but I did learn some things that bear on the discussion at hand.

  1. Big news: chapel attendance is NOT mandatory. I had no idea – and certainly assumed otherwise. I don’t know if I’ve run into any Evangelical Christian school before with completely non-mandatory chapel services, although it’s possible I’m just forgetting. It’s certainly not the norm.
  2. HOWEVER, attendance like what I saw Monday IS apparently pretty normal at Calvin. In fact, Daily Chapel sees really high attendance on Fridays in particular, when those 20 minutes are devoted to praise and worship (called “Songfest”). There were 2 or 3 hundred students, maybe?
  3. The “daily-ness” of chapel certainly connects to one of Calvin’s major distinctives. Calvin continues a very strong emphasis on their Reformed heritage. Thus, the idea of all things – and all days – falling under the purview of God pervades the way they look at these things.

So there’s your setup. Just an interesting situation at a Christian college way up in Western Michigan. Could it spark creativity for campus ministry settings?

It’s just practice!

Read that next post here.

Written from Farmington Hills (in the Detroit area)


  1. kaydonthedinosaur

    Haha! The “suspenders of the Bible Belt” is a really creative way to put it! And all this time I was merely calling GR the “upper reaches of the Bible Belt”. Since you posted this from Farmington Hills, have you noticed the big differences between the east and west sides of the state? I’m originally from the Detroit area and attending Calvin and going back and forth between the two gives me whiplash.

    Anyways, good luck on the rest of your trip.

  2. I sure have – it’s funny how a lot of states have their liberal / conservative regions.

    Washington was definitely like that (they point to which “side of the mountain” you’re on).

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