Do You Like Chapel?

By Hannah MacDonald, Global Issues Division Head, and Katrina Schell, Performing Arts Division Head.

Over the past few years, LCA chapels have shifted dramatically. Chapel has been given a fresh, new block after break on Day 2, and the candle burns bright once again. Additionally, the content and style of chapel has evolved into message-based teaching, now including a game to begin the sermon and increased audience engagement. But does the LCA community approve of this change?

According to a school-wide survey, most of the LCA community seems satisfied with chapels this year, with only 39% of students being unsatisfied or indifferent. Over 70% of students like the chapel games, and about half of the student body is engaged during chapels. With satisfaction and engagement levels high, chapel seems to be doing its job. Some complaints from previous years have been lack of engagement, and more recent chapels have explicitly addressed this issue. Mr. Lane aims his chapels towards conversations, referring to his personal chapel style as “camp” services; he wants to get as many people as possible engaged and open, which most of the student body recognizes as successfully achieved. Yet, overall support for new chapels may not tell the whole story.

Although nearly all of the student body is able to understand what chapels this year are teaching at least part of the time, most students do not express that they are learning much about the Bible. The general sentiment reflected in the survey is that not much more was taught during chapels than is taught during Bible classes and regular Sunday school. While some people enjoy the take-aways that accompany every chapel, and the stories and audience interaction is engaging, not much deep learning is provided in chapels according to survey results. However, the LCA student body still generally seems to approve of more engaging chapels.

A few chapels this year have already been capitalized on as a time for secular topics. In particular, one chapel about dress code took away time from religious teaching for a regular announcement. Some students have pointed out that dress code is important, but it can be discussed in homeroom or advisories. Chapels about mental health and other deeply personal topics can be related to the Bible, but it is difficult to justify dress code as a Biblical topic unless it is pointed towards modesty—which this year’s student handbook has intentionally omitted. As one student stated, “having these topics spoken about… without an attempt to center it around God just doesn’t make sense and kind of takes away chapel’s meaning.” Perhaps the utilization of chapels as secular hours is due to the noticeable lack of respect for chapel time, as less than half of the student body rated LCA’s respect of chapel time above a 3 (on a scale of 1-5, with 1 representing complete disregard and 5 representing utmost respect).

Chapel this year has also altered from previous years due to the Calvin Grant. This grant has blessed LCA with the ability to incorporate new and diverse methods of worship into our regular chapel; in our first semester alone, chapel saw an actor and a rapper, and second semester has already welcomed Mary Kocol and the improv students. In fact, half of the chapels so far this year have been conducted by outside guests. Mr. Lane sees this as a great opportunity to promote participation. Chapel band has led the pack in terms of student participation, but, with an even more diverse portfolio of worship, he hopes that students become more open to leadership and making chapel engaging for wider student population.

Overall, the survey results demonstrate that chapels this year have succeeded in engaging a significant portion of the student body, but have lost a bit of substance in that battle. Many returning students have noticed a decrease in overall strictness of chapel, but those students mostly did recognize the importance of engagement. Mr. Lane’s “camp” chapels provide lots of opportunities for student involvement, and they are really aimed towards conversations between classmates; LCA now has an exciting second semester of Calvin grant-funded worshipping to look forward to.