Missing the Mark on Alpha

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Media by Ryan Nelson

When a new year of school begins, that is usually the perfect time to try out some new things. For most people, this new season includes wearing new outfits, jamming to some different music, or mixing up the go-to hangout place on campus. However, at the beginning of this school year at Greenville University, students were given an unexpected change: the replacement of Friday chapels.

In past years, chapel sessions were held on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings, but attending this services was not the only way that students could earn chapel credit. In addition to heading to Whitlock on those mornings, students could also receive chapel credit by attending floor Bible studies that were held by Resident Chaplains, who are usually referred to as “RCs.” While it would be easy to believe that students would take advantage of the multiple ways to earn chapel credit, this was not the case, and the lack of participation led to the change of the typical chapel structure. “Floor Bible studies in the past few years have not had very consistent attendance due to conflicts or just lack of interest,” RC Kait Mathews explains, “so that is why these new Friday chapels were implemented.”

“I was really excited because I have been a part of several small groups at my home church in the past. At first, I thought that Alpha had a lot of potential to be as stimulating as those small groups, so I was more than willing to join Alpha.”    -Alix Hayes

Media by Ryan Nelson

These “new Friday chapels” are actually Alpha meetings. Alpha is a more contemporary version of the typical small group. Led by their RCs, residents that live in the same area meet with each other and participate in conversations that explore the Christian faith. When these Alpha meetings first began, Alix Hayes, who is in her second year of study at GU, was very excited for the big change, and when reflecting on this initial excitement, she says, “At first, I was really excited because I have been a part of several small groups at my home church in the past. At first, I thought that Alpha had a lot of potential to be as stimulating as those small groups, so I was more than willing to join Alpha at the beginning.”

Similar to Alix, many Greenville students were willing to give Alpha a try, but now, the hype has definitely decreased. In fact, while this may have initially sounded like a good alternative to Friday chapels, a lot of Greenville University students have realized that the program is not all that it was cracked up to be. “I don’t go to it anymore,” Hayes admits, “The small group discussion felt very awkward and forced. Not many people wanted to talk, so it honestly ended up feeling more like a group presentation than a discussion on faith.” Hayes is not alone in this evaluation of the Alpha program. Mathews, whose RC position requires her to run one of the Alpha groups for her residents, has realized that students, like Hayes, really are not loving the program. “The attendance is pretty low,” she says, “and I know that my residents do not really want to come because they really just do not like the set-up.”

Media by Ryan Nelson

Even though the common dislike of Alpha may seem like a big problem, it is probable that there is actually a relatively simple solution: bringing back Friday chapels. “I honestly miss Friday chapels, and I know others that miss it as well,” Hayes claims, “I think bringing it back would increase attendance.” Even resident staff members, who run the Alpha program, agree that the return of Friday chapels could be in the school’s and the students’ best interests. “Participating in worship sessions and listening to speakers just brings so much truth into our lives,” Mathews states, “The forced discussions just can’t give that same experience.”

Media by Ryan Nelson

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