New leadership and new organization for spiritual life program
Brady Braatz was named new head chaplain in May, after serving as interim chaplain for the Spring 2016 semester. Dr. Kelvin St. John joined Braatz at the end of the summer when he was officially named assistant chaplain. St. John said he will be working with the Spiritual Life Department as he continues to serve as the Professor of Practical Theology in the Department of Christian Ministry and Formation.
Braatz and St. John have instituted a new spiritual life program, which includes different point requirements, offers fewer opportunities for points, has a different fine system and emphasizes community chapel and small groups more than the previous system.
Braatz said in contrast to previous years’ requirement of 40 points for the average student with Tuesday chapels being worth two points and most other opportunities worth one, this year, the average student is required 20 points, 12 of which have to come from Tuesday chapels which are now worth one point.
Point reductions for students were decided based on the input of various departments, such as education and nursing and about what was feasible for certain students, according to Braatz. Students with reductions are not required to attend a certain number of Tuesday chapels.
Opportunities for points fall into one of three categories, what Braatz called opportunities to “Gather, Grow, and Go.” Gathering chapels are community chapels on Tuesday mornings. Growing chapels are Thursday morning Prof Talks, Christ and Culture presentations and small groups. Going opportunities include ongoing campus ministries as well as monthly ministry opportunities.
According to the new Spiritual Formation Accountability PDF on the online MNU portal, the maximum chapel fine a student can receive is $240, compared to the previous maximum of $440.
This year, Thursday student-led chapels have been eliminated entirely and replaced by Prof Talks, Christ and Culture presentations and small groups, opportunities that were previously at other times throughout the week. Braatz said the new Christ and Culture chapels are a way for the community explore a Christian’s response to modern culture.
Braatz said that requiring 12 of 20 points to be from Tuesday morning Gathering chapels is part of his vision to have students grow spiritually as a community. Braatz said since MNU’s community comes from a diverse background of faith, he wants to be more intentional about the explanation of spiritual practices such as communion and worship when as many students are in the same place as possible.
This goal expands to the community as a whole. This is why Braatz said he has been encouraging diverse participation from students in chapel as well as intentionally inviting faculty, staff and coaches to attend and participate.
“We are not saying that corporate worship is more important than anything else we do,” Braatz said. “We’re saying that this is part of being in a community, putting aside personal agenda.”
Braatz said the new program was developed in a series of meetings that ensued after MNU president Dr. David Spittal visited the Spiritual Life Department with a list of questions about their purpose and function in September 2015.
“There were about fifteen questions on there,” Braatz said. “Everywhere from telos and purpose, to pragmatics of where things appear on the website, to measurable outcomes, all those things. I think what he was trying to accomplish at that point was just to do a bit of a map check for us. Are we intentionally doing what we set out to do?”
Braatz said that the original intent of the meetings that followed was not to institute a whole new program, but to assess the previous one in light of the questions raised by the president.
According to Braatz, designing the new system started after a suggestion from Kevin Wardlaw, the head men’s soccer coach. Wardlaw challenged the group to see their discussions as an opportunity to reimagine what spiritual life at MNU could look like if they were to start over and design something new.
Wardlaw said he believes the new system will be beneficial to the whole community, including athletes, because it will help simultaneously diversify and unify the spiritual life program.
“The emphasis on small groups will diversify the content and reach students on a more personal level where they are,” Wardlaw said. “And Tuesday chapel really can be a way to connect what’s happening on campus back to a centralized community.”
Renée DeVaultNews Editor, Managing Editor - More by this author
Renée DeVault ('19) is a Bible Theology and Communications major from Olathe, Kansas. She has been a member of The Trailblazer as a reporter, news editor, and managing editor.She is also the Administrative Chaplain of MidAmerica Nazarene University.