Many alumni of Christian colleges remember chapel services as an obligation, a required function to check off their weekly list.  That may even be true of some ACU alumni.

When ACU alumnus Grant Botma (class of 2005) was recently asked to speak at ACU’s chapel, he recalled, “To be honest, I wasn’t overly excited about it. I remembered my days as a student. There were times when I stayed up too late the night before and I’d be quite tired. During many chapel sessions, I struggled to stay awake and often wished I could go back to my dorm to take a nap.”

Grant is not the only college student who has struggled with chapel engagement. These days, at chapel services across the country, many college students are more likely to be on their smart phones than in their Bibles.

But not at ACU.

Starting in the Fall of 2022, ACU Campus Pastor Travis Turner tried an experiment.  He called it “Testimony Tuesdays,” and carved out five minutes from each Tuesday chapel to allow a student to share how God had transformed their lives.

“As students shared their stories, I watched people put their phones down and saw their heads turn up,” he said.  “Our students want to hear from each other.”

That experience inspired Pastor Travis to invite students to take on an even larger role in planning and implementing ACU chapel services.

“Students were leading worship already . . . why not invite them to speak from the platform as well,” Turner states.  “I sensed God leading me to get out of the way and let them lead.  My vision became ‘fan the flames – don’t pull the reigns.’”

So, he looked for a student who had the character and ability to lead the process.

“I found a young man named Reggie Robinson who loves the Lord and has a sweet humility about him,” he recalls.  “I chose him as our first student chapel coordinator.  Within weeks, he had put a committee together and they selected the book of Matthew as the focus for the upcoming semester.  From the platform, over the course of the semester, students led the student body (line-by-line) through the Sermon on the Mount.  It was extraordinary.”

Then, the following semester, Reggie and other student leaders taught each Tuesday through all the parables in Matthew.

To prepare their chapel messages, students meet with ACU’s Bible professors to discuss the scripture from which they are teaching and then they rehearse their presentations with each other.

Praise God

This year, Reggie and the chapel committee continued to fine tune and improve the chapel experience. Starting in the fall, they decided that services on Tuesdays would continue to feature a student speaker, while chapel services on Thursdays would feature an ACU alumnus.

One of those alums was Grant Botma. And although Grant confessed that he wasn’t initially enthusiastic about speaking at chapel, his experience surprised him.  “Throughout my sermon, I saw engaged faces and focused eyes,” he recalled. “The students audibly responded to my questions, laughed at my bad jokes, and took notes. They were genuinely interested in God’s word and eager to be there.”

He continued, “I initially accepted the request (to speak), thinking I was doing my college a favor. But the truth is, they did me a favor. It was an absolute blessing to be on campus and worship the Lord with enthusiastic and energetic students.”

Reggie Robinson and his team have also initiated a few more chapel traditions that have resonated with the student body.  One of them is to close each chapel with the singing of the Doxology.

It was clear this new tradition had taken hold when, during a recent chapel service, a visiting worship band who was unaware of the custom did not close the service with the Doxology.

The worship music stopped, but nobody moved.  You could hear a pin-drop.  Unscripted, a lone student in the crowd began to sing,

. . . and the entire congregation of students, staff, and professors joined in singing the Doxology acapella.  “It gave me goosebumps,” Pastor Travis recalled.

Reggie explained, “we do these things out of reverence for God and His Word.  We sing the Doxology after worship . . . and we all stand for the reading of the Bible.  It’s the very least we can do.”

Movements of the Holy Spirit can’t be planned.  They are often expressed through young people, sometimes on college campuses.

Something is happening at Arizona Christian University.  “They (students) have done something exceedingly wonderful and more than I expected,” stated Pastor Travis.

Editor’s note:  Alumni, parents, and friends of ACU are encouraged to attend chapel services on campus. Please join us on Tuesday and Thursday mornings at 10 a.m. (during the school year).