King's students oppose mandatory chapel, survey reveals
Author's Note: The survey used in the article was originally created for an op-ed in Professor Paul Glader's Persuasive Writing and Speaking class on whether or not King's should implement mandatory chapel. The Google survey consisted of five questions and within two hours over 60 people responded. 24 hours after that, the number of participants doubled and that's when it became apparent that this would be more of a feature story. This is the first time the results of this Google survey are being released. The King’s College is not a typical college. It’s a liberal arts college of less than 500 students located two streets over from iconic Wall Street. And it’s a Christian college.
However, King’s isn’t typical among conservative Christian schools either. While King’s requires professors to sign a statement of faith, students are not required to be Christian in order to attend. Unlike schools such as Grove City College, Harding University, and Wheaton College, King’s doesn't mandate spiritual life by means of a required chapel service. Students are encouraged, however, to attend a church in the city and participate in spiritual life at King’s through Tuesday prayer, House Bible studies and the bimonthly worship gathering known as Refuge. It is mandatory for students to take several Bible courses.
Should King’s implement mandatory chapel? According to the recent Google survey conducted via Facebook, King’s students’ overwhelmingly oppose mandatory chapel.
Results of the Survey
The survey conducted on Feb. 24 asked students five questions:
- Do you think that the King's college should require weekly chapel service?
- Would you have chosen King's if Chapel was required?
- Would you stay at King's if chapel was required effective next semester?
- Do you think that the school provides enough of a spiritual atmosphere?
- Which of King's spiritual options do you find most effective or encouraging?
The survey allowed students respond only once to each question. Students were not required to answer all five questions. The survey was available on Facebook from Feb. 11 to March 24 and 139 students participated overall, although not all students answered all questions. It was posted twice: once on Feb. 11 and again on Feb. 24. The survey was designed to not only retrieve "yes" or "no" answers from students but the degree to which they say yes or no by offering answers such as “absolutely no” and “doesn't matter.”
Ninety two percent of the 139 students who participated in the survey opposed a required weekly chapel service. Six percent voted “maybe,” while two percent of those students voted in favor of mandatory chapel.
“To require chapel would form King's into something antagonistic to its mission of developing us into leaders,” said Rosalind Mirabito, President of the House of TenBoom. “One way [the college does] that is by giving us the decision rights to find and invest in a church, helping us form our own authentic faith.”
While the Presidents of the Houses of Reagan and Truth, Reese Evans and Carey Bustard, agreed with Mirabito, Cooper Crouch, President of the House of Barton, wasn’t as strictly opposed to chapel.
“I wouldn't protest chapel being mandatory once or twice a month,” Crouch said.
When students were asked if they would have attended King’s if chapel had been required when they applied, nine percent of 138 students said "yes," while 35 percent said that it wouldn’t have changed their choice. However, 28 percent responded “no” and 27 percent said “absolutely no.” This means that 55 percent of students surveyed wouldn’t have come to King’s if chapel was a requirement.
President of the House of Anthony, Bethany Hennigh agreed to the idea of a bimonthly chapel service. “If we were to have chapel, for the sake of gathering as a whole school and striving for solidarity, then yes,” Hennigh said.
“I probably would've come anyway,” said Bustard. “However, one of the things that I really valued about the school was that they didn't make us go to chapel.”
But how does the idea of chapel affect students already attending the college? To the question of whether or not students would stay at King’s if chapel was required beginning next semester, 48 percent of 139 students said that they would stay, 29 percent said that it "doesn’t matter" and 23 percent said they would leave.
Although the survey shows that less than one fourth of King's students would leave the school if mandatory chapel was implemented, Hennigh thinks that overall the student body would be adverse to the idea and there would be some pushback if it went into effect.
“To go from nothing to mandatory chapels would be difficult,” Hennigh said. “King's treats and expects its students to act as adults. There is support and plenty of opportunities to be involved, to be held accountable, to grow in leadership, whatever it may be, but they put the responsibility and the choice on the student. Mandatory chapel strips that privilege from the students.”
Evans agrees. Speaking of the members of the House of Reagan he said, “They would be hesitant. Anyone forcing someone to do something they may not want to do won't end well. I think some guys in my House would love this, but the majority of them would feel unsure about the reason why this is now mandatory.”
Overall the students at The King’s College are content with the current spiritual atmosphere, according to the survey. Seventy seven percent of 138 students reported that they are content, while 14 percent said they are not and 9 percent said they "don’t care."
According to the Vice President of Student Development, Eric Bennett, “[The college] is focused on urging students to get involved in a local church. It’s easy to mistake a college for church. My first and foremost desire for students on this matter is that they get involved with a local church.”
When asked which spiritual options they find most effective or encouraging, 52 percent of 121 students chose the House system, 14 percent chose Refuge, one percent chose Spiritual Life and 19 percent chose “all of the above.”
This last question purposefully left out choices such as church, small group or Bible study in order to discover which specific King’s affiliated options are most common. Although this question was answered by the fewest number of students, it received the most feedback via personal messaging and Facebook comments. Many of the messages and comments stated that students seek their spiritual fulfillment through their churches and the relationships there.
For the time being, King’s students need not worry about the prospect of mandatory chapel. When Dr. Johnson, Assistant Professor of Biblical Studies, was asked whether King’s is in the process of establishing mandatory chapel he replied, “Not that I know of.”
Bennett confirmed Johnson’s response saying, “We are not implementing mandatory chapel.” However, he did say that the school will increase the number of All-Campus Gatherings to once a month next year.