Proclaiming Christ Since 1972
In 1972 The Chapel on the Campus was new in Baton Rouge. Since few people had ever seen a church like The Chapel, it was more often described by what it wasn't than by what it was. It wasn't traditional or stuffy. It didn't pass out attendance pins or have formal fund drives. It didn't have pews or an organ. Not only did it not have a building, it didn't even have a regular place to meet. Founding members referred to it as The Chapel on the move. According to some observers, The Chapel didn't have a chance of succeeding.
But The Chapel not only succeeded, it has thrived--growing beyond its own expectations and into two permanent locations and an increasing number of college-oriented venues. The success of The Chapel has been its commitment to its founding vision to share the good news of Jesus--without formality or fanfare—on the campus and in the community through ministry and around the world through missions. Chapel leadership has consistently stepped out in faith, confident that God would provide a place for the ministry passion He placed in their hearts. The evidence of God's faithfulness is seen in the two facilities The Chapel calls home and the growing ministry in other countries.
The Billy Graham Crusade had been in Baton Rouge in October 1970, drawing people from many churches to serve as counselors and workers. One member of the advance team, Donald Tabb, became especially close to people in Baton Rouge. In December, Rolfe and Dot McCollister hosted a dinner for Donald. At the close of that evening, Dot told Donald that she believed he would come to pastor an interdenominational church on the LSU campus. Donald, still a member of the Graham team, and his wife Mary moved their family to Baton Rouge. He was preparing for a crusade in Cleveland when a group of six or seven couples asked Donald to pastor this fledgling church.
During the first three years, The Chapel met in many different locations. Realizing a growing church needed a more permanent identity, the current location and sanctuary building was completed in the fall of 1976. Later the first educational building was built. By 1985 a second two story educational facility was added at the rear of the original buildings. The church continued to grow and flourish under Donald Tabb’s leadership until his transition to Pastor Emeritus in 2002.
By 2002 a growing ministry to families made it increasingly obvious The Chapel’s impact was moving beyond the campus. In response the elders initiated the Forward by Faith stewardship campaign to provide funding to revitalize campus ministry and to relocate part of the congregation to a new facility.
Ministry to collegians was enhanced by starting a Sunday evening service called Refuge 7:37 and opening a free coffee shop named Common Grounds. An intentional structure of community groups, leadership training and mission opportunities, helped students mature in their faith and adopt a global mission mindset. College ministry has established ongoing student involvement in China and the Czech Republic and is working with churches near other universities to help them set up effective campus ministry.
As part of the strategy to relocate some of the congregation, a second Chapel location was established at The Dunham School in June 2003. This temporary location found a permanent home when The Chapel received The Oaks Community Church and merged ministries in October 2006. This second location, named The Chapel in the Oaks, offers facilities, including a gym, commercial grade kitchen, football field and classroom space, that make it ideal for community focused ministry. It provides an inviting place for The Chapel's youth ministry and worship arts programs and has opened doors for new ministry through English as a Second Language and Pine Cove Base Camps.
With an ever-expanding ministry to reach more and more people for Christ, The Chapel has changed from the early days when it had no building, no set place to meet and a staff of one. But one thing has never changed—The Chapel’s ongoing commitment to glorify God by introducing people to salvation through Jesus Christ and helping them develop into committed disciples.