It is a new semester here at Southern Nazarene University, and with it are coming some recent changes inside the chapel services. As of this semester, Spiritual Development is offering voluntary assigned chapel seats.
The assigned seats are reserved for students who have chosen to let the campus chaplains determine a seat for them, and the students are required to sit in that seat for the full semester. The hope for this project is to better improve the chapel worship experience and to build community.
To better understand the reasons for this new service, I sat down with Dr. Blair Spindle, Campus Pastor at Southern Nazarene University (SNU).
The idea started when Dr. Spindle heard about assigned seating at SNU’s sister school, Olivet Nazarene University. Olivet has randomized assigned seating for their entire student body each semester for chapel.
“Their chaplain just raves about how amazing it is for them,” claimed Dr. Spindle. “Because it builds community, you sit with people you don’t know, and so forth.” Dr. Spindle has been trying to develop a system like Olivet’s for SNU’s chapel services.
However, Dr. Spindle explained that the main problem with completely copying Olivet’s system is that chapel at SNU can be a completely different experience based upon where you sit. Sitting in the back of the chapel is not quite as loud and therefore makes it harder to engage in worship.
“There are a lot of benefits to assigned seats, but in that building (Herrick Auditorium) I just felt like we couldn’t do it for everybody.”
Then this past semester, the topic was brought back up for consideration. After much prayer and discussion, the idea for voluntary assigned seating came to fruition.
So, at the beginning of this semester, Spiritual Development offered the new voluntary assigned seating arrangement to student leaders to try out. This system allows students to have the benefits of assigned seating, but also gives others the convenience of being able to chose where they sit.
The one catch would be that students who chose to participate in the program would have to let Spiritual Development pick out where they would sit.
In addition to interviewing Dr. Spindle, I also spoke with a couple students who are going to be involved in this spiritual and social experiment.
“I think I just wanted the opportunity to worship and be around new different people,” said Andrew Marston, sophomore at SNU and a participant in this project, when asked about why he wanted an assigned chapel seat. “This is a great opportunity to be in and grow community.”
“I think that this will be uncomfortable at first for those sitting around the students in assigned seats,” said Abba Flores, sophomore at SNU and a participant in this project. “Students will either make friends with the people in assigned seats, or they will just move seats themselves.”
For more information on voluntary assigned seating, contact SNU office of Spiritual Development or Dr. Blair Spindle at firstname.lastname@example.org.