The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus


Finding common ground between Greeks and God

A student donning his fraternity jersey enters Perkins Chapel on Wednesday night to attend the Wesley Foundation’s weekly service. Groups of campus ministry friends will flock to frat row this weekend and join the party. Is either of these situations odd? Not as much as some might think. 

It turns out that members of SMU Greek fraternities and campus ministries are not so different after all.

Roughly half the students that the SMU Wesley Foundation sees in regular attendance are Greek-affiliated. This pattern rings true in many of the university’s campus ministries.

So if there is a strong Greek presence among campus ministries, what prevents people from realizing it? The answer lies in the numerous and generally erroneous stereotypes that surround both organizations.

“A lot of the general public views fraternities as hazing organizations,” says sophomore Johnny Newbern, “but that’s not the case.” Johnny is an officer in Lambda Chi Alpha.

Newbern believes those on the outside often view fraternities as nothing more than social drinking clubs “that don’t do anything productive for the community.”

By the same token, junior Wesley leader Lindsay Geist asserts that some people assume that students involved in campus ministries do little more than pray, study and judge others. Though she knows many student congregants have strict morals, Geist disagrees with the assertion that “they live in a sheltered box.”

Despite these stereotypes, Greek organizations and campus ministries share many striking similarities. Both are student-led groups with a heavy emphasis on recruitment and membership. Each August, they show strong representation at new student programs like AARO and Mustang Corral in efforts to form relationships with the incoming SMU class.

“New Student Programs are a vital resource for Wesley to form relationships with first-years,” said Wesley Pastor Creighton Alexander. These programs attract many involved students to serve as leaders, and according to the SMU Web site, many of their leaders in recent years have been Greek-affiliated or involved in campus ministry, sometimes both. 

Senior Eric Manglesen, former Lambda Chi Alpha chapter president and active member of Reformed United Fellowship, served as a leader at Mustang Corral last August and understands how important the program is in reaching new students.

“I first came to SMU not really knowing what I believed and basically became a Christian my freshman year,” he said, noting that his involvement with RUF and Lambda Chi, as well as his personal mentors in those two groups, all played integral roles in that decision. 

These organizations also provide a thriving social community for their members through weekly meetings and special events such as parties, concerts and mixers. Often, students can form lasting friendships through this social element.

“Going through the rush process gave me the chance to find a group of people that I could see myself being friends with for a long time,” said sophomore Connor Arras. Arras pledged Phi Gamma Delta in the spring of 2005.

Some campus ministries even host formals similar to the popular “Victory” parties put on by fraternities and sororities in the spring, such as Wesley’s annual “Babes In Toyland” banquet.

“I’ve formed a lot of my closest friendships through Wesley, and we have a great time together,” says Geist, adding with a laugh, “I go out just as much as anyone else.”

Parties are not the only events Geist and her friends attend. In the spring of 2005, she went with a dozen other students to Costa Rica on a mission trip sponsored by the Wesley Foundation. Philanthropy projects and mission trips reflect campus ministries’ and fraternities’ committed belief in serving the underprivileged and living by a high moral code.

Judging from campus ministry Web sites, one finds that nearly all of them sponsor mission trips over spring break to impoverished areas of the world, both near and far.

As the SMU Inter-fraternity Council Web site indicates, fraternities have designated charities to which they donate each year, and each house appoints an officer to head up the chapter’s philanthropy events. This element of service fosters a sense of shared values and accountability. 

     “A lot of my fraternity brothers hold me accountable [both academically and morally],” Newbern said, “and that motivates me to do well.”  

A very similar system of support thrives within campus ministries. “A unique roll of campus ministries is actually allowing people from different aspects of campus to be in community together and learn how to get along,” said Alexander, “and it helps to break down barriers and make friendships across those tight-knit groups.”

First-year student Regan Owen has already seen benefits from both Greek life and campus ministry involvement.

“Leaving high school, you hope to find core groups of friends that are committed to the same ideals and beliefs that you are,” Owen says, adding, “I’ve been able to find that through both fraternity and campus ministry participation.”

As students like Owen seek to weigh these various similarities and stereotypes through their own experiences, can they expect each organization to be accepting of the other?

“Being in a fraternity, sometimes going to a campus ministry, it’s [expected] that you just go to show face and that you’re not necessarily a believer,” says Manglesen, arguing that that is not typically the case.

Alexander agrees that some stereotypes have indeed permeated into the organizations.

“I think there are times when fraternities do a better job of making room for [campus ministry involvement],” said Alexander, a Phi Delta alumnus from Texas Tech University, adding, “I think there are other times when they pressure members to conform.”

So can students genuinely be active in both Greek organizations and campus ministries? In the end, students agree that it comes down the individual student’s ability to make choices and live a balanced lifestyle.       

“I think you can absolutely do both and be a leader in both and be committed to both,” says Owen.

“Life is all about balance,” Manglesen adds. “I think people just need to take a step back and look at it outside of the stereotypical viewpoint.”


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