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Chapel services define day at Lutheran high schools

The best memories students often have concerning their high school experience are related to activities outside of the classroom. These can be sports, music, theater, or academic clubs.
Students at Minnesota’s Lutheran private high schools have an additional choice for the favorite part of the school day. Most Lutheran high schools in this state offer daily chapel.

Like most Lutheran high schools, Mayer Lutheran High School, Mayer, Minnesota, offers a daily chapel service for its students. Photo provided by Mayer Lutheran High School

This environmental change has limited the distractions in chapel noticeably, so that the focus can increasingly be on the message.

“We have alumni that don’t have the benefit of daily chapel anymore,” explained the Rev. Jon Leach, campus pastor at St. Croix Lutheran High School in West St. Paul, Minnesota. “They let us know how much they appreciated it.”
That is one of the reasons St. Croix began streaming its daily chapel services. (The live stream or archived editions can be found at “We encourage alumni to watch,” Leach told Metro Lutheran.
“We also have a student body that represents the world,” he continued. “We reach out to connect everyone in the St. Croix family together globally.”
The format for daily chapel at St. Croix is fairly consistent — devotion, prayer, and a song or hymn. Leach provides oversight for these services, but students are involved. “Students are especially involved as participants in the music,” Leach said. “And students inclined toward pursuing ministry or who like to share a message with fellow students are provided opportunities.”

Putting aside other things

Mayer Lutheran High School in Mayer, Minnesota, also offers daily chapel. It is set between second and third periods and is scheduled to last 15 minutes. “Third period can be affected when a speaker goes a little longer,” explained principal Kevin Wilaby.
A chapel coordinator oversees the daily event at Mayer, and speakers can include faculty, visiting missionaries, or local pastors or youth workers.
“The main focus of chapel [at Mayer] is a time of worship,” Wilaby said. “It is good for all of us to have a time in our day to be with God, to put aside everything else.”
Chapel is required at Mayer, which could lead to passive resistance. But, a year ago administrators made a decision to adopt “a more pragmatic” approach. “When students enter chapel, we want to help them make the change from the rest of their day to focusing on God,” Wilaby said. “So now, when the acolyte lights two candles, they know it is time to ‘flip the switch.’”
This environmental change has limited the distractions in chapel noticeably, according to Wilaby, so that the focus can increasingly be on the message.
Mayer uses an annual lectionary series to help center the worship experience. Even if the speaker for the day doesn’t use the assigned text, a student reads it. Students are also involved in the contemporary music praise band.
Concordia Academy in Roseville, Minnesota, also includes students in the music aspects of the chapel service, which is offered on Mondays and Thursdays each week.
“We have a fantastic worship team … that is coordinated by Dean Dunavan, but is almost entirely student led,” explained Sophie Humphries, administrative director. The worship team uses both material from new, up-and-coming Christian musicians and some classic hymns.
“It is great for the entire student body to come together for worship,” Humphries added.
Concordia Academy will soon begin podcasting its worship services. Occasionally, the service is recorded and put up on YouTube.

From normal time to sacred time

Faculty and staff at Oak Grove High School in Fargo, North Dakota, have an on-going discussion about whether a longer chapel service once a week would be more effective than a brief daily chapel. But, at this point, according to Matt Cordes, director of campus ministry, the school still has a 20-minute service between the third and fourth periods of the day.
“I am in my fourth year, and I appreciate the routine of daily chapel.” He says that students, including his own daughters, often say how much they appreciate “the mandatory break from what they are doing to focus on Jesus.” Chapel is a stabilizing force in the day.
Cordes is intentional in helping students move “from normal time into sacred time.” Once he says, “The Lord be with you,” and receives the response, students know the service has started.
Students from an elective class help to lead worship through music on “Worship Wednesday.” The other days chapel is primarily spoken word.
Each year a thematic verse is selected. And each month a different part of that verse is emphasized. II Peter 1:5-7 is the verse for the 2013-14 year.
St. Croix also has an annual theme. This year it is “Living to Soar,” from Isaiah 40:31. “Emphasizing the theme gives students an opportunity to deepen their relationship with Jesus over a year,” explained St. Croix’s Leach.
St. Croix Lutheran High School is affiliated with the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod. Mayer Lutheran High School and Concordia Academy are affiliated with the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. Oak Grove Lutheran High School is affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

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