Friday, April 3, 2009

High School Chapel

In light of our life changing Spiritual Life Emphasis week, a number of people have been talking about High School chapels in general. And a couple comments have surfaced that surprised me. So I will share our view of chapel and then address some misconceptions.

The typical chapel at the high school is on Wednesdays from 10 am to 11 am in the Lindner Theater. When we have block schedule, the time shifts to 9:30 to 10:30. Occasionally the day will shift to accommodate a guest speaker or some other anomoly in our schedule. Parents are welcome to visit and we ask that guests use the top two rows of the theater.

Chapel is community time. It is the one time each week we are all together. Usually we open with a few announcements. Occasionally we have short videos (typically student created) to highlight an upcoming event, show the topic of the day, or provide a lighter moment. We then have a time of corporate worship through song, and then a message to challenge our students to grow in Christ. Mr. Salkil, our chaplain, does a large portion of the speaking but other faculty also share. Outside guests make up the rest of the speakers.

It is our desire that chapel is a time when all of our students, no matter their background, can be challenged to think about Scripture and what following Christ in today's world could look like. We deal with the issues of the day. Students appreciate authenticity and the last thing we want to do is present them with a Gospel message that seems canned or cliche. At the high school, we often talk about how we want to present the Christian life to our students in a way that engages the head, heart, and hands. Chapel is the center of the "heart" piece of that equation. Chapel is a time to encounter God in meaningful ways, through worship in song and the Word.

Something that I hear occasionally is that high school chapel is optional. I want to be clear--that is not and has never been the case! Last year we tried something new. For some time we have struggled with the musical worship portion of our chapel. A number of reasons exist for this. 1) While some denominations use music extensively for worship, in some traditions the singing of praise music is very foreign. Other traditions might sing for 30 minutes to an hour to prepare the worshipper for the preaching of the Word. Our community has students from both ends of this spectrum. 2) Some churches use music more for performance than participation. People listen to those singing but do not join in. We are no longer a culture that regularly sings. If you do not attend a singing church,when was the last time you sang? A birthday party? Christmas carols?

So we had a community where many got little out of the musical part of worship but for others it was a significant way to connect with God. Those who were disinterested, would use it as community time, talk with neighbors, and distract those who were wanting to worship. To find a way to meet the needs of all our students, we divided the chapel time. We divided it into two parts. During the normal chapel period, we had one song and the message. Then at the end of the day, we had options: musical worship, prayer, chapel discussion, or studyhall for those who were not at a place where worship was something they were interested in or able to engage. We used that schedule for most of the fourth quarter last year. We created a schedule to use that option occasionally this year, but due to a new level of engagement, we have not had the need. I could speculate reasons for this. But I won't.

Another comment I hear occasionally that troubles me is when a parent or student mentions that they do not go to church because chapel is "their church." Chapel is a great opportunity to find spiritual nourishment during the week and a way to hear from God. A Christian school like ours--with its Bible classes, Spirit-filled teachers looking to integrate a Christian worldview into every discipline, and a "vibrant senes of community"--can be a powerful environment for a Christian. But we must never confuse ourselves into thinking we are a church. Our work as a Chrisian academy supplements the work of the Church. We can educate and develop young people which will make them more dynamic church members. But the Church has a function and a role in the Divine economy that CHCA will never have. Therefore, our students need to know the life of participating and serving in church. When students graduate and leave for college, if this school is their only faith community, it is much less likely that they will find a church while in college. And if they do not find time to connect with a body of believers in college to share life with, life post-college will only get busier and more hectic, making such a commitment even less likely. God calls us to live a life of faith in community. Our school gives us glimpses of what that life looks like. But that does not replace the important role of the local church.

As our year comes to a close, I relish the few chapel times we still have together before we send our seniors out into the world! See you Wednesday!

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