Parents Concerned About Son Joining a College Fraternity

Should a college freshman join a fraternity? Our son is in his first year at the university, and he wants to pledge to a fraternity on his campus. I don't know much about fraternities, and I'm not sure what to think. What is your perspective on this?

This is one of those issues that can’t be settled by an appeal to hard-and-fast moral and spiritual rules. There are no biblical “thou shalts” or “thou shalt nots” that directly apply. Instead, this question calls for the exercise of wisdom and mature discernment. The answer depends on a number of complex and interrelated factors.

For instance, there are different kinds of college fraternities. They exist for a variety of reasons. Some (those of the more traditional type) are patterned largely after old-school “gentlemen’s clubs.” These may be considered almost entirely social in nature. Others seek to bring together students who share similar interests or who are involved in the same academic disciplines. There are service-oriented fraternities, ethnically and linguistically based fraternities, and even some fraternities whose purpose is primarily religious or spiritual. The list goes on and on.

Before we could even take a stab at answering your question in a definitive way, we’d have to know a lot more about your student, the college he’s attending, and the kind of fraternity he’s hoping to join. Is he a Christian? If so, do you consider him a firm, grounded, and committed believer, or simply a “churchgoer”? Does he know his own mind, or is he easily influenced by others? Is this a secular or a Christian university? Is the atmosphere on campus studious or “party-like”? Is the fraternity in question spiritual, academic, or purely social in purpose? If you don’t know, sit down with your son and find out.

It’s worth adding that there isn’t necessarily anything wrong with membership in a social organization. But we all know that many college fraternities have a reputation for wild behavior and crazy parties. That’s not to mention the peer-group power they wield. It can have a huge impact upon an impressionable freshman living away from home for the first time in his life. The Bible tells us clearly that “evil company corrupts good habits” (I Corinthians 15:33). There’s no good reason for a young believer to expose himself to unnecessary temptation. If that’s what joining a fraternity would mean for your student, then of course we would advise him to avoid it.

One last thought. If your son is looking for loyal companions and lifelong friends, there are other ways to do it besides joining a fraternity. It’s fine to establish friendships and connections with fellow students who don’t share his faith. But his closest comrades should be his brothers and sisters in Christ. Unless the fraternity he’s considering is specifically Christian in character, he probably won’t be able to cultivate spiritually based relationships there. Better to look for friends at church or in the context of a Christian fellowship like Campus Crusade or InterVarsity.

If you think it might be beneficial to discuss your son’s situation at greater length with a member of the Focus team, our staff counselors would consider it a privilege to speak with you over the phone. Call our Counseling department for a free consultation.


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