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December 6, 2023

Is There Weekly Chapel at NSA?

NSA has a number of interesting distinctives—we offer a single undergraduate degree in the liberal arts, we take no federal money, etc. But one that often surprises people is the fact that, although we are a Christian college, we do not offer a chapel service for our students. Why?

The main reason is that we do not want our students to confuse us with their church. If we started offering a weekly chapel service, it would be very easy for a student to start to think that attending chapel could stand in for involvement at church. And no matter how great our chapel service might be, it would be a poor substitute for being a part of a local church.

I can remember as a University of Idaho college student how I used my involvement with a campus ministry as a substitute for attending church. During my first several years of college, I hardly ever left the college campus. I lived in the dorms, ate in the cafeteria, and worshiped in a U of I classroom on campus on a weeknight. And while I have a lot of gratitude for the spiritual discipleship that I received in those days, when I finally showed up at a local church, I realized how much I had been missing.

When I finally showed up at a local church, I realized how much I had been missing.

College students are in the midst of being introduced to adult life. But when we sequester them on the college campus for these years, we leave them mentored almost entirely by people who are barely older than they are. I can remember, as a nineteen-year-old, thinking that twenty-one-year-olds were really mature. My frame of reference for Christian maturity didn’t go very far beyond that. But when I stepped into a local church, my frame of reference expanded to married couples, couples raising a gang of little children, and elderly couples. It was strange how much that expanded scope of people changed my understanding of who I was and who I wanted to be.

For instance, when your whole frame of reference is that of eighteen to twenty-two-year-olds, your aspirations for what you are looking for in the opposite sex tend to be restricted to nothing more than a desire for a date.

But when you are living inside the broader body of Christ and seeing families from the early years to the latter ones, it changes and ennobles your aspirations. You start aiming a lot higher.

The same happens to your aspirations for your career. And you start to see the local church as the place where you want to belong and where you want to serve. 

So, at NSA, we tell the students that we are not their surrogate church. And then we tell them that they are required to be a part of a local church in Moscow. We don’t say which one. But we want them worshipping every Sunday with the body of Christ. I think that this has a profound effect on them during these very formative years.

Our graduates overwhelmingly continue to attend faithful, evangelical churches long after graduation.

At fifteen years after graduation, about half of the male alumni are serving as church officers.

It is not as if NSA doesn’t spiritually mentor students. For instance, the freshman Lordship class is fairly well known for having a profound effect on the faith of incoming freshmen. And, with Dr. Jared Longshore and Dr. Joe Rigney both teaching it, this year is no exception. In fact, there are countless hours of informal spiritual mentoring going on every week in the halls and offices of NSA. But I still think it is important that on Sunday mornings, our students worship in a local congregation, gathered with saints of all ages.