When the pews in campus chapels aren’t filled with students every Sunday, institutional officials may question the best use of the space.
Research from two Florida institutions found that less than 2 percent of The University of Tampa students and only 6 percent of students at nearby Eckerd College attended religious services in campus chapels.
About half of the students from both campuses say they’ve visited a chapel, but usually it’s for concerts or other secular activities, according to the “Chapel Use on College and University Campuses” study. About a third of students reported observing no religion.
Both Eckerd and UT have fairly new or renovated chapels on each of their campuses, which is partially what inspired the study, says co-author J. Patrick Henry, a sociology professor at Eckerd. With religion and traditional worship services becoming less important for students, colleges might want to reconsider before building or renovating chapels, he says.
The research “does clearly show a sign of a shift in religion among the millennial generation,” Henry says. “But this doesn’t mean college chapels have to become obsolete. Students still need a space to explore their spirituality and beliefs.”
Students can meditate in chapels or hold meetings for their organizations and clubs. Some chapels also host guest speakers and concerts, Henry says.