Celebrate and Study the Bible at the Fellowship House


INDIANAPOLIS — Imagine 475 college students — all members of fraternities and sororities across the country — flooding a hotel for a weekend. Imagine next Sunday that no noise complaints were filed, no chairs were broken, no beer was staining the carpets, and the hotel housekeeper said, “What a nice bunch of kids. .

Unlikely, but that’s exactly what happened recently when an evangelical Christian university group, Greek InterVarsityheld a regional conference here to develop Bible studies and Christian recruitment into fraternities and sororities in traditional universities.

Why would college students who don’t drink or believe in premarital sex, and who read the Bible for entertainment, want to join groups often known for partying, violating drinking and hazing, and having relationships? casual sex? Many said they enjoyed the companionship a house could provide and enjoyed having friends of different or less ardent faiths. But many also said they relished the opportunity to spread the gospel.

“Our goal is to help students lead a Christian life within the Greek system, as contradictory as that may seem,” said Eric Holmer, director of communications for Greek InterVarsity.

The group is battling a long-term decline in students who call themselves religious, as well as a downward trend in church attendance during college. But he still sees fertile ground: In a 2007 national survey, 20% of junior college students identified as evangelical Christians, according to Alexander W. Astin, professor emeritus at the University of California, Los Angeles.

The organization, a branch of a nondenominational campus ministry, is located in 60 universities across the country, with 50 full-time staff members organizing on campuses. It has about 2,800 active members from 367 Greek houses.

The conference here last month drew students from Purdue, Wisconsin and Michigan, among other institutions, and dozens of well-known campus houses like Alpha Tau Omega and Kappa Alpha Theta.

Students heard sermons from a pastor who easily went from “U2 – I love this band” to “I love Jesus” and explored their feelings in small group discussions about challenges to faith and how start a Bible group in a fellowship or sorority. .

Leaders urged members to stay at the heart of Greek social life, rubbing shoulders with sinners.

Jesus turned water into wine “to get the party started,” said a young woman from Willamette University in Oregon, adding that the holidays were a time to show that Christianity could be fun. After intense discussions, punctuated by Christian rock songs and an emotional evening in which dozens of people rose to signal that their faith was reborn, the members danced.

Kurt Skaggs, a junior at Indiana University, considers himself a kind of missionary. “Some people go to Africa or South America,” he said, explaining his decision to join. Sigma Phi Epsilon. “I can go to my fellowship, where my sole purpose is to glorify God and share the gospel.”

Ten of the 110 members of the house have joined Mr. Skaggs’ Bible group. He said that while a few of his fraternity brothers “don’t like” his opinions, most had a respectful, live-and-let-live attitude; he was even elected president of the house. He said he tries not to preach, but is not shy about confronting other Christians by profession if they start drinking too much or having casual sex.

Along with other students, Mr. Skaggs just hopes to start the Christian conversation. “People open up to you when they’re drunk,” he said. “They ask, ‘Why are you so excited all the time?’ ”

Christians who join fraternities or sororities can feel like outcasts in mainstream Christian communities, University of Cincinnati student Kaitlyn Boyce said of why she was drawn to Greek InterVarsity. “People have these stereotypes and make assumptions about you.”

Mrs Boyce had yet to make the chilling decision to stand in front of her sisters at Delta Delta Delta come forward and call to a Bible study group. “It will be nerve-wracking,” she said. “These people mean a lot to you, and you don’t want them to think you won’t be fun anymore.”

At parties, she says, she tries “to take care of her friends as much as possible, trying to minimize the damage” by, for example, telling a sister that she has had enough to drink.

Joe Grotheer, member of Delta Phi Gamma at DePauw University in Greencastle, Ind., said some Jewish brothers objected to Bible study in the common area, so he and others moved the sessions to a bedroom.

Several students said they had to struggle with fear of rejection or ridicule when they first proposed an in-house Bible group. Perhaps no one has felt more intimidated than Todd Siegel, a Northwestern junior and member of Zeta Beta Tauwhose members across the country are largely Jewish.

Mr Siegel, who was brought up as a Christian, said that in his first year after joining the fraternity, “he drank a lot and met girls, typical college stuff”. In his second year, he said, he felt a spiritual void and struggled to come to terms with his behavior. Given the circumstances, he stood up at a fellowship meeting to not offer a Bible study but rather a larger forum to discuss the role of faith.

Twenty people showed up for the first meeting. About 10, many of them Jews, continued to meet.

Of the Indianapolis conference, Mr. Siegel said, “It’s fun and inspiring for me to see other people on fire for God.


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