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Chapel Planning and Leading: What We Are Learning from Christian Schools

In the unique setting of Christian schools, how do children and young people learn to worship? In what ways do they connect their weekday worshiping experience with their school community and their participation in Sunday worship with their church community? How do we guide young people to move beyond what they “like” or “don’t like” about worship to questions that explore the deeper meaning and purpose of worship? These are a few of the questions that guide the work of the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship as we interact with Christian school worshiping communities.

In the rich heritage of Christian schools, gathering as a school community for worship or chapel has been a regular practice for tens of thousands of students and educators throughout North America. These chapel services differ across school contexts but generally include the basic movements of worship: gathering as a body, listening to God’s word and instruction, responding to God in prayer and song, and sending students and teachers back to the classroom for learning and service in God’s world. At the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, we are grateful for the numerous ways we have connected with Christian schools across North America­ over the past decade —particularly high schools—to listen and learn from them concerning the needs, opportunities, and challenges in planning thoughtful, engaging chapel services. In many cases, we have been able to respond with published resources that promote collaborative worship planning and leading. We have also sponsored training events for students and teachers. And several schools have participated in a process of learning through the Worship Renewal Grants Program (see worship.calvin.edu/grants).

This article identifies some insights about worship that influence our work with Christian schools and shares what we are learning from students and teachers through their experiences of chapel planning and leading. All the comments come directly from feedback we have collected. This collective wisdom is presented in the form of proverbs—wise sayings, or words of advice—in the hope that this will encourage learning over time and across contexts, and spark conversation and further thinking on these topics.
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