On Wednesday, April 12, Indiana Wesleyan University held its annual induction into the Society of World Changers. An event anticipated greatly by the university, the induction ceremony took place as one of the chapels mandatory for the IWU student body. However, the attendance in comparison to last year dropped 27 percent.
This year’s inductee was Richard Stearns, the president of a Christian humanitarian organization by the name of World Vision. Stearns and his team have traveled to over 40 countries, working as a light within impoverished communities.
“Today, Stearns is known among both Christian and secular audiences as a trustworthy voice illuminating the critical issues that affect the world’s poor, and urging those who can to make a difference,” Indiana Wesleyan University’s World Changer page says. “He is also the author of two books: The Hole in Our Gospel and Unfinished. The books address the importance of living out the whole gospel and brining the good news to a hurting world.”
All things considered, the committee that selected Stearns, and the university itself, thought very highly of both the inductee and the ceremony that took place during chapel. The Society of World Changers is, essentially, the product of IWU’s mission, to change the world through character, scholarship, and leadership. Although there was great emphasis placed on the importance of the event, a small amount of the student body attended.
According to John Bray, dean of the campus chapel, there could be several factors that attributed to the low attendance percentage. He said the timing of the ceremony was later than normal. With the school year almost over, he said students could be using their chapel skips that they have left. Also, Bray said it is a fact that convocations tend to be less attended than normally scheduled chapels.
“IWU was honored to have a significant world changer in our midst and we were disappointed by the attendance,” Bray said. “We believe Dr. Stearns is a man worthy of honor and that IWU students could have learned from him.”
Bray highlighted the university does not want to guess on the other criteria to why students did not attend, so in response to the situation, a mass email survey was sent out to the entire student body last week. The email, sent by Ian Slater, associate dean of student engagement, addressed this question: what dramatic (or little) changes would make the World Changer chapel meaningful and engaging for students?
“I guess we (admin) thought a champion for social justice and a man of God like Richard Stearns would be a home-run World Changer in the eyes of students… but by attendance, it looks like some students didn’t agree,” Slater said.
The survey responses are anonymous, and will be looked through by both Slater and Brandon Hill, part of the life calling and integrated learning team. Then, they will be presented to President Wright.
“At this point we are in the process of discovery,” Bray said. “We haven’t begun creating remedies. Will (the World Changer convocation ceremony) ever be mandatory? That’s not been part of any discussion I’ve been involved in.”