BOLIVAR—In an Internet age of social media, YouTube, Google searches, and online merchandising, college students are used to having all kinds of choices.
Now at Southwest Baptist University (SBU), when it comes to graduates accumulating the necessary 200 points in mandatory chapel, a new discipline called Community Life+Worship will take center stage Aug. 22.
“I think it’s meeting the needs of our students who are looking for multiple ports to receive information and everything else,” said Kurt Caddy, SBU director of university ministries who has been over chapel activities for 14 years.
The new approach takes the foundation of mandatory chapel, which occurs Monday and Wednesday in Mabee Chapel, and builds on it with four other components. The idea is to make life more interesting and spiritually satisfying for students who in the past have complained that they “just come in, punch my card, and go.” Now they will be taking on more responsibility in how they earn their chapel points by choosing from among various options that include small groups, mission involvement, community service, and special interests.
The basic question that Caddy and other top SBU leaders are seeking to answer starting with the 2011-2012 school year is, “How do I grow spiritually?” The answer, like the world in the Digital Age, can be complex yet enjoyable.
“We’re giving students multiple opportunities to say, ‘This is where I do it best,’” Caddy said.
Early feedback has been positive. Students have told Caddy, “I like the idea of being able to put my schedule together, what I want to be involved in. Even though it’s mandatory, you’re still giving me some choice and the format that I best want to choose.”
Spiritual formation has been the focus of SBU leaders who have tried to make chapel more engaging over the years. They have settled on an attempt to rely on chapel speakers on Monday and try for more of an equipping type of chapel service on Wednesday. The equipping focus originally seemed overwhelming, Caddy said, due to a perception that as many as 100 small group leaders would be needed; now, however, under the new small group component, there may be 20-25 groups in the fall.
“We’ve got a pretty good eclectic group of people who are now going to be able to engage with our students at a level they’ve not been able to do so before,” Caddy said.
“It’s probably the one component that has the most opportunity for real growth. What I’m excited about is it’s students getting involved with their professors and faculty members at a different level—going to their homes. I think it’s going to create some accountability, it’s going to create some nurturing. I think it’s going to be extremely good for our faculty. They’ll get to engage with students at a different level.”
The mission part of chapel credit gives students 10 points through the Center for Global Connections. Two hours of volunteer work at various community service outlets will earn a student one point, and an assortment of theater and worldview projects in the special interest category offer more opportunities to pick up single points.
Contrary to rumors, chapel is not being eliminated at SBU. A student must accumulate 25 chapel points per semester and 200 total to graduate.
The new chapel points system is being implemented in a newly remodeled building. Mabee Chapel was dedicated May 9 after a $1.5 million renovation effort. Students are able to start the new points plan in a Pike Auditorium that now contains 1,323 seats—all sturdy and efficient, none missing or broken.
ALLEN PALMERI/associate editor