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New chapel policy levies student schedules

Despite its appearances, the policy change limits the student body’s options and fails to consider key components of the Biola community. | Illustration by Trevor Lunde/THE CHIMES


Relief seems to permeate student reaction to the revised chapel policy, as if 20 chapels and five conferences constitutes a reduction in requirement.

“Our change to requiring 20 [chapels] and five [conferences] is actually an increase,” said Lisa Igram, associate dean of Spiritual Development.

The new policy, in fact, requires more on-site commitment than in the last 30 years.

When Biola created the previous chapel requirements in the 1980s, it allowed students to complete make-up forms for all 30 chapels and eight conferences.

Believing the allowance of all 30 make-ups missed the point of making chapel mandatory, the Spiritual Development leadership limited the number of make-ups to 15 chapels and four conferences in 2007 — still less stringent than the new 20 chapels and five conferences.


Spiritual Development embarked on a two-year journey in June 2013 analyzing data, weathering administrative rigmarole and interviewing students and faculty. The new policy summed up their efforts.

Though I commend their hard work, the decision parallels any choice made by a small group of people not included in the affected population.

For the 41 percent of Biola’s student body constituted by commuters, not to mention those with heavy course loads and students who work in any capacity — not having the option of make-ups or chapel reductions exacerbates stress and distracts from the spiritually enrichening qualities of chapel.

“While 100 years ago it was best practice to require students to go to chapel every day, now, students have to get internships, they have to have jobs in order to pay for college, they have to take extra classes in order to get the Bible minor along with their major so that they can get the job that they need,” Igram said.


In a chapel from Sept. 26, 2011, Todd Pickett, dean of Spiritual Development, shares the department’s desire for intrinsically motivated chapel attendance, but goes on to outline the extrinsic accountability they will impose whether students want it or not.

While it is difficult to criticize such noble intentions of accountability, we cannot ignore the fact that Biola chiefly functions as an educational institution in which biblical knowledge and spiritual formation is bought and sold by the unit. Biola’s responsibility to accountability lies in academics, not spiritual development.


If the university wants to monitor our spiritual development the way they monitor academic performance, let us convert chapels into units: if a student attends 50 minute chapels and conferences a total of 25 times a semester, they will have enough hours to satisfy over two units of class time.

Furthermore, if a student does not not have the flexibility in their schedule for an extra 40 extra hours of chapel this semester, the result is that many pick up extra hours at their jobs to pay for the $375 non-attendance fine.

If the chapels intend to serve students, it should be optional with reward, not required with threat of financial punishment. Increasing chapel requirements without the option of make-ups or reductions discounts chapel’s intent to enrich students spiritually in an environment structured toward academics.

Your Turn.  Post a Comment

  1. Farrin

    From a fellow alumni,
    I understand the stress of being a full-time student with many responsibilities. I was a student with a part-time job, a social life, and was apart of a ministry, but the problem with these arguments about chapel are not enough to warrant less of them. We are children of God and, spending time growing in our Christianity and, spirituality is extremely important. Why should there be some material and worldly reward, for something as important as your spiritual growth as a follower of Christ. The problem is the way you perceive chapels. They should be used to grow as a christian and deepen your bond with your fellow community. This should be the place of letting your worries fall away at the door, because this is one of the places you learn more about God. Yes, there will always be stress of getting everything done, but why are we not handing that stress and worry over to God in the first place. I am sure if it really warranted it, that spiritual development would think about a reduction for people that truly need it, but many of us can be a bit lazy sometimes. Sometimes a bit selfish too, not wanting to give up that little bit of free time for the Lord. Biola has so many opportunities for you to get the chapels in. Many more opportunities then when I was a student. Basically give up your slightly warped perception of what more time growing in Christ with your fellow community means. This is more time with God, more time to learn about Him. Try not to think of it as a requirement, God will handle your stress and worry about everything else. Just take more time to learn of your heavenly Father. There should be no other reward than that, don't let secular culture teach you that you need one. September 9, 2015

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