Yes (Peter McMurray):
Currently, Chapel is required for Northwest students—sometimes. The average student must attend a certain number of chapel events per semester—unless they are non-traditional, busy, or have some other excuse for not going. Doesn’t that defeat the purpose of making chapel mandatory? It’s basically sending the message that seeking after God in community with fellow believers should be a priority in your life…unless you’re really busy. Then don’t worry about making time for it.
I thought that chapel was mandatory as a means to teach students to make time for God and community. Ideally, all students would want to go to chapel three times a week on their own. But when the end of the semester rolls around, there will be kids studying for finals and putting God-time on the shelf. Thus, mandatory chapel gets students to include church into their schedule.
But if plenty of kids get to duck out of chapel because of other existing busyness, then it sends a mixed message.
I understand that there are students who are in the nursing program who are required to be at hospitals at certain times, and there are those who work off-campus who need their jobs. But perhaps there should be a better system so that these students can be as actively involved in chapel. The new Life Group program is probably a step in the right direction, but we’ll see how well it plays out. As it stands, I think all we’re saying is that attending a church is important unless you have other things to do, then don’t worry about it.
No (Zachary McGuirk):
Life in the dorms and student apartments is different than life off campus. Students who make the switch find themselves piled in bills, responsibilities, difficult commutes, and often have to pick up demanding jobs to make their payments. Life off campus is, put simply, life as true, independent adults. Forcing off campus students to attend chapel on campus is an attempt at filling a need that doesn’t need filling, and potentially gets in the way of their lives.
The target demographic of the average chapel is plain to see. Sermons are usually addressed to students in their early twenties living in the dorms, and more often than not seem most applicable to young adults new to the college experience. The average commuter does not fit this demographic at all, being much older and experienced than a new college student.
Lets face it: If you’re an upperclassman moving off campus or a thirty-something year old Christian returning to earn a degree, you’ve probably heard everything chapel has to say a thousand times. You’re also probably established in a home church already, and a reliable mode of transportation to get you there.
While chapel serves a great purpose in the lives of students in the dorms and apartments who may not be able to make it to church every Sunday, it is an unnecessary time sink for many off campus students who have lives and responsibilities to manage outside of school. While the school’s attempt at building unity through chapel is admirable, it’s time for them to start thinking about how they can help their students address their actual needs.