From the very beginning, Ashley and Emma Johnson intentionally fostered a dynamic campus environment for students, which included performing arts, extracurricular activities, chapel, athletics, and more. Early advertisements, as well as the catalogue, boasted of the fine nature of student life—encouraging potential students “to know, to work, and to grow” through a holistic process including classwork, student organizations, and athletics.
Throughout the years, students have participated in choirs, plays, musicals, art shows, bands, and ensembles. Student theatrical performances have ranged from Broadway musicals to a full Madrigal Dinner. In 1971, Wilbur and Linda Reid created “New Encounter,” a student travel group which presented special services and music at churches, camps, and meetings. This was followed by tour choirs and camp teams. The Creative Arts Council, formed in 2014, seeks to promote the arts on campus through special events, productions, and initiatives. One of the most popular events on campus in recent years has been “Coffee House,” which features music, poetry, spoken word, skits, and more.
The first student organizations were “Literary Societies.” These groups served as the mainstay of student life and entertainment on campus, meeting weekly for debates, readings, productions, special presentations, and conversation. Johnson’s campus has been home to numerous clubs and groups throughout the years. In 1952, the Student Council, later renamed Student Government, was formed with the stated mission to “represent the student body in the governing of the school.” Students have long enjoyed the opportunities for outdoor recreation provided by Johnson’s proximity to the southern Appalachian mountains, including hiking excursions in Great Smoky Mountain National Park. Off campus, students have worked with jail ministries, children’s homes, homeless shelters, and more. In the spirit of the founding of the school, Johnson students have long served congregations in the local area and beyond through weekend ministries, interim ministries, and fill-in preaching.
Communal worship has always been a foundational element of student life at Johnson University. Because of the limitations of travel, in the early years of the school most students attended Sunday worship services on campus. “The Church on the Hill,” as it became known, also formed the ordaining body of many graduates. Although the chapel has moved physical locations throughout the years, corporate worship remains one of the most fulfilling parts of student life on campus.
Ashley and Emma Johnson believed that a holistic education included emotional, intellectual, spiritual, and physical growth. Although not a member of the National Christian College Sports Association until 1976, student teams would play exhibition matches against other local colleges. In addition to NCCAA sports, Johnson has also hosted a growing number of club and intramural sports. Intramural groups, like Floor Hockey (formed in 2003) and Ultimate Frisbee (formed in 2013), have become a staple of student life.