Students step up to plate for campus worship

Chapel starts at 11 a.m. Mondays with music by the all-student Worship team. (Photo by Ralph Freso)

“If you build it, he will come.”

Baseball fans recite those words with reverence when they discuss “Field of Dreams,” the movie that made Dyersville, Iowa, a popular vacation destination.

The famous quote needs only a slight alteration to reflect the trend in worship services at Grand Canyon University:

“If you build it, they will come.” 

Dr. Tim Griffin speaks during Chapel last spring. (Photo by Ralph Freso)

There. Home run. Building those worship services isn’t as fantastical as creating a baseball diamond that lures the ghosts of legendary players to magically walk out of a cornfield. But the long lines of students cruising into campus venues isn’t unlike the as-far-as-you-can-see line of cars that forms at the end of the flick.

“Our students love to worship,” said Dr. Tim Griffin, Vice President of Student Affairs, Dean of Students and University Pastor. “They really do love to sing and to participate versus sit and have a passive experience.

“So the more engagement and elements to the experience of worship we can provide, the better. I think a lot of students are looking for an opportunity to participate.”

The 2021-22 academic year was a testament to that:

  • Chapel, the largest regular student gathering, consistently drew big crowds to GCU Arena at 11 a.m. Mondays. (See fall semester speaker schedule at bottom of story.)
  • The Gathering, at 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays in Antelope Gymnasium, continued to be a hit with a new format – focusing on a particular book of the Bible. This fall, it will be the book of Exodus.
  • Sanctuary, in Sunset Auditorium at 31st Avenue and Camelback Road, proved so effective with its more reflective service, it will be weekly at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays rather than once a month.
  • The spiritual formation workshops, an opportunity to peel off into small groups and discuss the Word of God, packed ’em in at 2:30 p.m. Mondays in the Prayer Chapel.

The four-part series was so successful, the Office of Spiritual Life has added two new events to it:

  • Faith in Your First Year, an introduction to all these worship opportunities, has been added to the Welcome Week schedule. It will be from 2 to 3 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, Aug. 30-Sept. 2, in Sunset Auditorium.
  • ALPHA groups, for students new to the faith, will meet at 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays in the Prayer Chapel. The experience should be similar to what students get out of the popular life groups on campus.
Kelsie Doan leads a spiritual formation workshop in the Prayer Chapel. (Photo by Ralph Freso)

It all is built around what students have indicated they want.

“Students bring a certain sense of value and interest in a certain experience when it comes to spiritual life and spiritual formation,” Griffin said. “Last year, it was very dynamic.”

To keep it dynamic, Griffin and his staff have sought to keep it simple. Griffin liked what a pastor told him in a recent lunch meeting:

“Don’t over-program. Give them room to figure out what they want to do and how they want to invest themselves, and they will.”

He also liked something he once heard another pastor say:

“If you haven’t struck oil within 20 minutes, stop boring.”

Those thoughts are reflected in the tight time window for Chapel. It usually lasts about 45-50 minutes – 25-30 minutes for the music by the all-student Worship team, then 20-25 minutes of a talk by a GCU leader, a pastor or a spiritual leader.

“I think Chapel should be, ‘We sing to God. We worship Him. We listen to His Word. We’re done,’” Griffin said.

Another famous “Field of Dreams” line is, “Go the distance.” Chapel will aim to go the distance in the fall semester – featuring these speakers and links to their most recent Chapel talks or a brief description of why they were chosen. First-time Chapel speakers are marked with an asterisk (*):

GCU President Brian Mueller (Photo by Ralph Freso)

Sept. 12: Brian Mueller, GCU President

Sept. 19: Brian “Head” Welch*, Death 2 Life

  • Griffin calls Welch “a unique person on our platform – unlike anybody we’ve ever had.” But he also says Welch has “an unbelievable faith testimony,” based on his transformation from a rock star with Korn to a Christian musical artist and preacher. Welch will talk about his passion for suicide prevention. 
Chris Brown (Photo by Ralph Freso)

Sept. 26: Chris Brown; North Coast Church; Vista, California

Oct. 3: Dr. Tim Griffin, GCU Vice President of Student Affairs

Jeff Dyer (Photo by Ralph Freso)

Oct. 10: Jeff Dyer, Heartfire Missions

Oct. 17: Wendell Vinson*; Canyon Hills Assembly of God; Bakersfield, California

  • He and his wife, Lynda, helped found CityServe with Dave Donaldson. He’ll talk about the mission that GCU has embraced.
Jodi Hickerson (Photo by Ralph Freso)

Oct. 24: Jodi Hickerson; Mission Church; Ventura, California

Oct. 31: Steve Carter*, Mission Community Church

  • Another dynamic new Chapel presence. His website explains his message.

Nov. 7: Musical Worship Chapel

John Talley III (Photo by Ralph Freso)

Nov. 14: John Talley III, Roosevelt Community Church

Nov. 21: Online Chapel (Thanksgiving week)

Noemi Chavez

Nov. 28: Noemi Chavez; Revive Church; Long Beach, California

Dec. 5: Christmas Chapel

Contact Rick Vacek at (602) 639-8203 or [email protected].


Related content:

GCU Magazine: Impact of students' faith felt in nearby churches

GCU News: Seniors worship together for final time at Chapel


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