Dear Prospective Fraternity Pledge,
I still remember sitting on the couches during formal recruitment in the house where I eventually pledged. It was the second round of rush and the actives knew they had a room full of people they intentionally invited to be there. “Look around,” the president told us. “These guys sitting next to you will be groomsmen in your wedding one day.” It was a pretty lofty promise, but they were telling the truth.
I still remember waking up at 5:15am to make it to the house by 5:45am for our 6am “pledge study hall.” I was dorm room neighbors with one of my pledge brothers and we made sure we never left the dorm without one another. They said that pledgeship would be the most fun you never want to have again. It was as much a threat as a promise, but they were telling the truth.
I still remember spending hours in the dining room eating piles of wings on Wing Wednesday celebrating last weekend’s football wins, listening to party stories, and having conversations with people who wanted to know why I was so serious about “that Christian thing.” I was skeptical when they called it a “brotherhood,” but in many ways, they were telling the truth.
And yet, I still remember two somber evenings at the house, grieving the loss of our pledge brothers who had taken their own lives. I have yet to have to do something harder than speaking in front of those groups, trying to offer the hope of Christ in such times of despair. They said that fraternities were nothing but parties and licentiousness. Well, they lied.
To the high schooler wanting to join a fraternity when you get to college, there are a few things you need to understand and consider before making that decision. If you are on the fence, there are a few things you need to consider.
First, a warning: Do not be deceived. If your image of fraternity life has been shaped by the TFM (“Total Frat Move”) or “Old Row” social media accounts, you are only seeing half of the truth. It is true that a large portion of fraternity culture does revolve around drugs, sex, and alcohol. You have access to, and are even encouraged to indulge in these things to excess. At the same time, however, the pictures, videos, and stories do not convey the depths of loneliness and brokenness that plague the hearts of those people you are seeing.
With this comes a two-fold idea to consider. On the one hand, if you have romanticized the “frat” culture, then it will consume you. It offers you the bait that you can have anything and everything you want, but hides the hook of depression, anxiety, self-medication, and emptiness behind a façade of fulfillment.This fruit is desirable to the eyes but poisonous to the heart.
But, on the other hand, consider that there are broken people in these houses that need the gospel. The life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ offers hope to those who have had their fill of the world and find themselves still in want. You would be amazed at the opportunities fraternities offer to impact others with the hope of the gospel. Never again will I be in such close proximity to so many people who need the love of Christ as I was for those four years.
If you are thinking about rush, I urge you then to consider your heart, its desires, and your vision for your college experience. Fraternities offer an opportunity to be a light in the dark parts of campus and offer hope to those who are hurting. But be warned that the influence pushes hard the other way too. If you are not a tree planted firmly by the streams of living water, then the whirlwind of fraternity culture will blow you away like chaff.
Second, a challenge: view your college experience with eternity in mind. For many people, college is the natural next step in their education and the last stop on the road towards their careers. While I am not saying that college is less than this, I challenge you to consider it to be more than this.
Consider that God has appointed your college years from before the world began. Consider that he is not surprised by your decision to go to the college you chose, or even your decision to rush a fraternity or not. Consider that maybe these next four years are about more than making good grades and building a network to catapult you into your career. Consider that college offers you a unique opportunity to leverage your time and resources for the Kingdom of God.
A campus minister told me my freshman year, “The man you are in college will largely be the man you become for the rest of your life.” And while neither he nor I are discounting the fact that God can change any heart at any point, his statement turned out in so many ways to be true in my own life. He was challenging me to be intentional in how I spent my college years. So, I urge you to think deeply now about the type of man you want to be and begin to take faithful steps towards those goals. With the freedom that college awards you, you will be able to set up habits and postures that will follow you though the rest of your life.
On that note, I’m not here trying to argue that rushing a fraternity will make you a better adult. Instead, I am hoping to shine light on an often scoffed-at portion of the college experience. If you do decide to rush, know that developing those habits will be against the grain of those around you. That’s why many Christians will tell you not to rush. But from my experience, fraternities offer an utterly unique opportunity for ministry.
Fraternity ministry taught me how to show grace to those different from me. It taught me how to persevere in the face of opposition. It taught me how to love those who are hurting. It taught me how to immerse myself in the world but, by God’s grace, not be overcome by it. It taught me how to relate to people with vastly different beliefs and convictions from mine.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that I would not be the man I am today without those four years in the fraternity trying to love and minister to my “brothers.” Are fraternities problematic? In many ways, yes. But on the flip side, consider that they may be some of the most fertile ground to do ministry during your time on campus.
A guy still following Jesus on the other side