It has come time for the same sad song that seems to loop on campus at the end of every semester: students’ tears of frustration meld with the screams of anxiety and a lovely chorus of “why did I choose a Christian university?” as students desperately attempt to fulfill their 30 chapel credits.
Students at every college will sing some variation of the song of finals week, but our relationship and time with God should never be an instrument in that.
The majority of Christian universities make it a requirement for their students to attend campus chapels, giving them a minimum and the threat of a hefty fine if they do not complete them. Though there is valid reasoning behind this system, what Vanguard, like many of these other universities, do not understand is that when they force their students to go to chapel so many times a week despite their ever-complicating schedules, they are hurting their spiritual lives more than they are improving them.
I went to a Christian school for 13 years before coming to Vanguard and as per Christian school requirement, I was forced to go to chapels every week. What resulted was students becoming either apathetic to chapels and sermons or becoming so hyper-spiritualized that spirituality became a competition to them. During worship or Bible class these students would try to “out-Christian” the other students. They took on a “holier-than-thou” attitude and completely missed the mark on what Christianity is truly about.
This isn’t just something that I experienced in my old school; this is what is happening right here on our very campus. So much emphasis and pressure is placed on the number of chapels, that the students in chapel, the relationships and community in chapel, have been completely forgotten. We hear sermons about community, about living out what we learn in chapel, yet give students no room to do so.
So many students don’t go to church because they already have to go to chapel at least twice a week and supply that as their “church.” SFD has stated multiple times that chapel does not replace church and that students need to seek that community outside of Vanguard. However, as soon as students try to do so and that conflicts with chapel, they are punished for it. And to think, all I need to do to be counted clean if I am not able make the chapel requirement is pay $350. They are not showing students the difference or helping them branch out of Vanguard’s spiritual umbrella. Students are spread thin trying to juggle the stress of classes, extracurriculars, chapel credit, and all while maintaining a sense community.
Take religion majors for example, since their professors are also pastors, they sit through sermons every single class. They are taking anywhere from three to six religion classes at least two times a week. That means that they are sitting through roughly six to 12 sermons every week on top of the two to three that they are supposed to have for chapel. That is not taking into account the one to two that they have at their own church and even more on top of that if they are preaching in a youth ministry. If they do not get a break, they will end up burning out so quickly or just hating church in general, because you can only take so much spiritual outpouring without taking time to refill.
When we are freshmen, it is fairly easy to meet the 30 chapels requirement, but as we move through college and start establishing our adult lives, we move away from our dependency on the university and our schedules begin to become occupied by outside things. Having the 30 units as a freshman is good, it helps them to discover themselves and their personal relationship with God during their time at Vanguard.
We cannot be expected to continuously mature and become independent of Vanguard if they are not willing to give us the freedom to do so. How can we go forth and make disciples of all nations if we are confined inside the Vanguard bubble for all of college?
What happens to us students after we graduate and have completed our 210 chapels, yet do not know the first thing about finding community on our own because is was spoon-fed to us all throughout college?
Either we were so fixated on getting our credits we have completely missed out on how to find community, or we are so spiritually burned out that we don’t want anything to do with church in general.
We feel like we are being punished for seeking fulfillment in ministries not facilitated by our university. SFD should be helping students practice what they learn and create community instead of trying to hinder them.
As for the discussion on community, community is important, but there is none in chapel. You worship and then sit and listen to someone talk for 30 minutes before rushing to class. There is no encouragement or place to carry on the conversation outside of the sanctuary and develop that community.
And because chapel does not have an actual element of community, people force it, which causes students to try to “out-Jesus” each other in a competition of who is more spiritual or act as if they are devoted but do not practice it outside of the sanctuary.
I am not saying that there is no one who is genuine or having truthful encounters with God in chapel, there are. But when SFD becomes fixated on the number of spiritual moments students have on their terms, they forget about the individual in the community that they are trying to cultivate.
Our relationship with God cannot be measured by how many chapels we sit through. God is not confined to the sanctuary walls and the preacher of the day.
For a university that speaks about God being everywhere, they are sure limiting the “where” he can be.