Every individual at Vanguard University has a unique experience during their time as a student, but one thing almost all students have in common is chapel credit requirements.
Even if a student applies for a chapel track—a method of lowering the chapel requirements devised for student workers and commuters—they are still obligated to attend 30 chapels by the end of each semester. For many, this is seen as an inconvenience. Some even view it as unfair.
So why won’t the requirements be lowered?
I had the opportunity to speak to Pastor Mike Whitford, the head of Vanguard University’s Spiritual Formation Department. He outlined several reasons why those 30 chapel credits are here to stay.
“The board of trustees, operating in spiritual wisdom, have found that schools that consistently decrease their chapel requirement—or altogether decrease their chapel requirement—cease to be Christian in their mission,” he stated. “It’s called ‘mission drift’.”
He went on to explain that this is the reason many Christian schools have become Christian in name, but secular in their mission and culture. Some of these schools even have chapels as an option, but they no longer make their belief a part of the school’s identity.
According to President Beals, the school board, and the Assemblies of God denomination that our school is closely tied to, the very foundation of Vanguard is the fact that it is a Christian university. Vanguard’s mission statement is “to pursue knowledge, cultivate character, deepen faith, and equip each student for a Spirit-empowered life of Christ-centered leadership and service.” If you apply the concept of a “mission drift” to this situation, it’s easy to see why the school doesn’t see it fit to lower the chapel credit requirements. To deviate from chapel is to deviate from what the school considers to be a core part of its identity.
Pastor Mike also explained that back when he was a student, the only chapels that were offered were Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday mornings, meaning there were only 48 chapel opportunities. The chapel credit requirement was also higher; students needed to attend 35 regardless of living or work situation. That meant that students could only miss 13 chapels a semester, and there was no getting out of it. Chapel tracks didn’t exist.
Comparatively, Vanguard University now offers over 150 chapel credit opportunities per semester, including online and in person options. In addition to the three morning chapels, students can come to Excavate every Monday night and Shine every Wednesday night. This number does not include the small groups, special chapels, or sporting events that also offer chapel credit.
The difference between then and now is staggering. “We are offering far more chapels than have ever been offered, and we’re lowering them, in some regards, when and where people need them,” Pastor Mike points out. “We’ve lowered about as much as you can.”
So what can we, as students, do in order to fulfill these requirements?
The way the university has things set up, the expectation is that undergraduate students attend two chapels per week. This averages out to 30 chapels per semester, so just that alone can set you up for success!
Consider attending one morning chapel per week (Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday morning), along with either a night chapel or an online chapel. Be on the lookout for special events that give out chapel credits, and attend as many Revive Week services as you can, as those typically count for double chapel credit.
If you’re a student living on campus, this is doable if you’re proactive about scheduling. And if you’re a commuter or work several hours a week, you can apply for chapel tracks to lower the requirement. It might not be easy, but fulfilling that requirement—as cumbersome as it may feel at times—is attainable for anyone willing to put in the work.
Ultimately, Pastor Mike says, chapel exists for us students. It’s not about the number; it’s about having an encounter with Jesus. Matthew 18:20 says “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” This is one of the benefits of going to a Christian University; we actually get to grow closer to Christ as a community. As Christians, we are made to worship God with one another, and chapel gives us the unique opportunity to do so.