It was the first chapel of the year. It was warm and inviting and made you excited for what was to come. Then Associate Director of Chapel and Discipleship Bryan Rouanzoin got on the stage and said, “We at Spiritual Formation have been pretty lax… we have allowed some of your experiences at chapel to suffer behind sweeping problems under the rug,” He paused, “Things are going to have to change around here.”
What Rouanzoin was referring to was the classic “scan and jam”, “the slide and glide”, most commonly known as ditching. In response to so many students simply scanning their IDs and walking out on chapels, Spiritual Formation implemented a new system. One that would promote honesty and spiritual growth. It is their job, after all.
The new system includes, scanning in and out of chapels, with an option on myVU to track your chapel attendance. This allows students to take accountability and not have to hunt down that wrinkled manila envelope to see how many credits they need to squeeze in before the semester is over. Rouanzoin says, “Instead of relying on us to get what you need to know, we’re placing it in the students’ hands to keep track of their responsibilities.”
There is also a new 50/50 option. Meaning: if you know you can only attend 15 chapels, you can make up the other 15 by listening to recorded sermons and responding to them in a 1-page essay. If you fail to complete your papers, there will be a $350 charge to your account, similar to Biola’s chapel policies. You will also not be able to pay penance by buying your way out of chapels for $10 a service.
However, if you have not met your requirement within the semester, you will not be punished by having your class-load limited to 12 units the next semester. In the same vein of personal consideration, chapel petitions require a face-to-face interview so the Spiritual Formation department can help students get what they need both inside and outside of chapel.
The priority, Rouanzoin says, is “…to have people meet Jesus in this community of worship where people can be safe and comfortable expressing their struggles and their triumphs. We want students to feel like they are seen, and they are cared for by this community at Vanguard.” This initiative can only be accomplished by keeping people in their seats.
As with any change, there are some kinks to work out. One of the loudest complaints is the 5-minute wait to scan out. The other problem is the massive overcrowding in the Newport Mesa Sanctuary. We are packed to maximum capacity in the renovated sanctuary! Often times there are those sitting on the floors and others are standing in the back.
Solutions include the purchasing of more scanners to speed the process along. Speakers have also agreed to limit their presentations, allowing ten minutes for students to scan out of chapel. In the meantime, students who have classes right after chapel can leave the service a few minutes early through the front double doors, or the “express lanes” to make sure they get to class on time.
Faculty have shown their support by being gracious and appreciative towards the Spiritual Formation team. “A lot of our,” Rouanzoin says, “professors were concerned about the amount of people ditching. They could see around finals time the toll it was taking on some of their students. So they’ve really worked with us while we figure this out.”
There are still the few, the proud, and the cranky, who resist the changes despite the good intentions behind them. Bryan Rouanzoin has received a few indignant voicemails and emails explaining the great strain a student might endure by being where they say they are.
In essence, Spiritual Formation is asking us to have integrity. When a person scans in, they say ‘Yes, I went to this chapel.’ And if in truth you did not, it stands to reason that that would be less than honest. These chapels are meant to bring us together, and the only way to accomplish that is to be present in services.