the brainstorming: chapel on campus?

What if your college ministry held a short “chapel service” during the class day, in a space near the middle of campus?

That’s the outlandish idea I had in mind last week, as I wrote about experiential brainstorming – something I believe is surprisingly useful for building creative collegiate ministry.

You can read the first post, describing Experiential Brainstorming, here. Meanwhile, the second post described a ministry experience that catapulted me toward this outlandish idea. The hope from this series of blogs is to provide an example of how Experiential Brainstorming happens.

After finding a daily chapel taking place at Calvin College, in which hundreds of students showed up to worship and listen to a message, I got to thinking. Could that happen at a secular school? (Hang with me – even if you find that to be an outlandish idea.)

Remember that Calvin College, as a school in the Reformed Christian tradition, focuses particularly on God’s interaction in all of life. Providing a space to worship as a community helps students key in to a day of Jesus-following. It’s sort of a “corporate quiet time,” the opportunity to STOP

…just for a second. To be encouraged and to be exhorted and to refocus, before heading right back into class.

In other words, Daily Chapel at Calvin pushes students toward the school’s great motto: “My heart I offer to You, Lord, promptly and sincerely.”

Christian colleges regularly make this kind of space for their chapel services. But for us at secular campuses, we don’t have that luxury. We do a lot of nighttime ministry, and except for the occasional lunchtime Bible study, little happens during the day. And that makes sense – after all, students do have classes and naps to take.

But what if ministry DID take place during the daytime? What if even ONCE a week, students had a 20-minute opportunity for worship in some unused classroom near the major foot traffic?

It might help students prioritize Christ during their day. It might give extra space for quick but powerful ministry. Students might realize that every day should include some space for God, even if it’s by themselves.

Sure, some students couldn’t make it. But if you stuck this “chapel service” in between classes – 10 minutes before one class period ended to 10 minutes after the next one started – plenty of students could come to at least half of it, right?

You could also try this at lunchtime. Or before the class day even started!

Instead of once a week, you could also hold “Chapel” daily for one week – like at Easter Week, or just as a special emphasis.

Of course, you could also do this “Chapel” thing every school day, all year long. Calvin College does. So do plenty of Catholic student organizations – often called Newman Clubs – which hold regular daytime Mass services. And lots of campuses have occasional “special services” in the daytime: for See You at the Pole, for Easter Week, for National Day of Prayer.

Sure, not everybody can show up to these daytime opportunities. But they’re beneficial for those who can. And in a lot of cases, these ministries are student-organized and student-led.

“Chapel” could be student-organized and student-led, too.

Like you, I can think of LOTS of reasons this “Campus Chapel” might NOT be a good idea. But “potential negatives” shouldn’t keep us from exploring outlandish ideas like this. Sometime, on some campus, in some way, a daytime “Chapel” service could be PERFECT.

What about yours?

Written from Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, Illinois

3 Comments

  1. Shelly Webb

    Hey Benson;

    Jones Junior College BSU in Ellisville MS has had a “morning watch” 30 minutes before the first class session service every day for years ( I served on staff during seminary 94-97). Yes its the buckle of the Bible belt, yet even on a commuter school. It was a huge part of our ministry and would regularly average 40ish students.

    Frank Porter is the director, it’d be worth a phone call at least…

    Shelly

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