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Behind the Podium: The Selection Process of Lipscomb’s Chapel Guests

Feature photo courtesy of Kristi Jones

Lipscomb’s chapel, known as “The Gathering”, has hosted an array of guests, from the  Grammy-winning band King and Country to number one New York Times bestselling author Karen Kingsbury.  

 The Australian brothers Joel and Luke Smallbone, known as King and Country, moved to Nashville to pursue their music career. They performed for Lipscomb during their visit. 

Karen Kingsbury, renowned for her bestsellers such as the “Baxter Family” and the “Redemption” series has also spoken at chapel. Many of Kingsbury’s novels have been made into feature films on Hallmark. 

Assistant Dean of Vocation and Spiritual Formation, Brent Roe Hall provided insight on the process of inviting guests to speak at chapel. Hall said, “We have a list of just potential themes and topics for the next four years kind of laid out just sort of already generated that live places. I say that enough to fill the next four years. They’re not scheduled or anything like that, but we have ideas already generated and sitting there and ready to roll. So we’re thinking pretty far in advance about what we’re going to do.” 

Guests like King and Country and Kingsbury are driven by different purposes. Hall said, “There are groups of people that want to be in front of our students. And there are groups of people that just want to be connected to the mission that we’re advancing.”  

With King and Country’s new film releasing, the duo wanted to connect and promote to a Christian audience. “We just have great connections to the college of entertainment and the arts, for King and Country has connections to several people in that world. Such that whenever they were going to be promoting their new film, they were doing a big tour of promotions, and they asked us if we’d like to be included on the list and we said, ‘You bet.’ ” 

Karen Kingsbury speaking at The Gathering. Photo taken by Kristi Jones.

The same goes for Kingsbury and her upcoming film. “Same for Karen, they’re promoting her movie right now. And so she’s out and about and visiting various locations to promote her film, and approached us and asked if we’d like to host her. And we said, ‘You bet.’ ”  

Lipscomb’s Nashville location provides additional opportunities. “Those are the unique opportunities that don’t just appear in front of every Christian University, we’re in a unique place, because we’re in Nashville. And because we’re the kind of school that we are, and because we have a reputation that we have, so I cannot take credit for either of those, I can take credit for just saying yes, at the right time.”

Speakers also know Lipscomb’s reputation of being committed to faith. “I hear this often enough from these kinds of people, is that I think there is also something really compelling about what we’re doing and how we’re doing it. As a university, as an institution, as a community, to think really well about how to be engaged Christians in the world, to join God’s work in the world, to to think faithfully about all kinds of work and industry and to be salt and light in the world.”  

Making sure students are connected is also part of the planning process. Executive Vice President, Matt Paden said, “I believe that ‘The Gathering’ now is in a place where more students are connecting to what is being offered.” Faculty is taking note of what students want more of in chapel all while keeping Church of Christ traditions. Paden said, “We’re trying to be thoughtful and respectful to the nature of our students and who they are, where they come from. But we also tried to honor and respect our Christian heritage, and the theological basis that is at the heart beat of Lipscomb University. And we try to package all that in a way that will help students.” 

Looking ahead, students can expect more special guests. Hall was unable to disclose  who but he said, “We’ll see if it works out for their schedule in the fall. It may have to be spring at this point. We have run into some issues with schedules even this far in advance. So, that tells you she’s a big name person who I think students will be really thrilled to have on campus.”