Two semesters after the Office of Student Development initiated Spiritual Formation Event Credits, the number of students involved in community service more than doubled.
In Spring 2015, about 90 students participated in community service, but the number of students rose to 260 in spring 2016, according to data released by the Office of Student Development. Called Faith in Action, volunteer work which students can get credit for includes, Meals on Wheels, Treadaway Kids, REACH, World’s Backyard, Seekers of the Word and other service ministries.
“We want students to go to things that they’re invested in,” said Mark Jackson, co-director of Chapel Programs, “Our hope is to push students that way, to things that really matter to them, not just a checkmark.”
Spiritual Formation Event Credits allowed students to get credit for various activities outside of Moody Chapel. This caused a 54 percent increase in weekly small groups from spring 2015 to spring 2016. Although long events like Summit no longer counted for two credits, the number of one-time SFE opportunities also increased by 54 percent.
“The first year when you make any sort of changes can easily be challenging,” Jackson said. “As years go by our hope will be that even more students will participate or create with a faculty sponsor more opportunities.”
“Gatherings of the whole ACU community take place usually Monday and Friday in Moody Coliseum,” Jackson said. Small groups of 5-20 people can allow for more discipleship. Students can no longer get credit for things like work meetings, because Jackson said the focus is on seeking Christ and spiritual formation.
“Small groups allow for that really to take place,” Jackson said. “We want it to be more than just a meeting, more than just informational. It’s really seeking Christ throughout those 20 to 30 minutes that the group meets together.”
Jackson said his goal is to see more opportunities for SFE credits at other times of the day besides 11 a.m. Some church groups debate over whether or not to offer credit because that can take away from the purpose of the event, but Jackson said in the case of Midnight Worship, the group found most attendees came because they really valued it.
Jan Meyer, dean of Leadership Development and executive director of Christian Service and Leadership, said small groups now have a total of 155 faculty sponsors because faculty and staff are more aware of the process this year. Her goal is to streamline the process with the purchase of a new mobile app.
“There’s a few issues and we’re trying to answer those just to make it easier for students and easier for faculty and staff to keep track of attendance,” Meyer said.
The app, originally created by Oklahoma Christian University for their chapels, will allow students to “check-in” to an event and get immediate credit. Students can see a list of SFE options and add the ones they want to attend to their own personal cue. Hosts of events can update times or put cancellations on the app so students can know event details. Meyer said she plans to test the app in May and June to have it ready for the fall semester.
“We’ve got a number of things to test but we’re always looking for ways to improve the student experience cause the point is not checking in or out,” Meyer said. “The point is being a part of something that’s moving you forward in spiritual formation.”