Organization emphasizes Christianity for UI greeks


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University of Iowa senior Jim Niemann patted his drum gently as roughly 20 other UI greeks sang along to the song "Mighty to Save."

The group came together at the Danforth Chapel on Wednesday night for the weekly meeting of Greek 1:16, the UI's first greek-only religious organization.

"It's group of students who are living a very Christian lifestyle inside a very secular society," said Niemann, a cofounder of the group.

He and several other fraternity and sorority members thought of the idea for Greek 1:16 last spring because the greek community lacked a route to the Gospel, he said. UI officials recognized the group this fall.


"It's a great way to meet other greeks who have the same pull of Christianity in their lives and want to make God their center," said UI sophomore and Delta Zeta member Paulina Kennedy.

Niemann said he envisions Greek 1:16 as a support group for other Christians living in the fraternity or sorority, noting stereotypes of greek members can make a Christian lifestyle difficult.

And research shows all college student religious engagement — religious-service attendance, Bible reading, praying, etc. — slows during college years, said Alexander Astin, a professor emeritus of higher education at UCLA.

"Many students are away from home for the first time, and the home environment continues to encourage religious engagement," Astin said. "And so if you are away from the home, you are less likely to have that influence."

In 2003, Astin conducted a seven-year study measuring change in college students' lives and how school life may or may not affect spiritual and religious development.

"You're often more likely to begin question your faith [in college]," he said. "You get a lot of a encouragement to engage in critical thinking in general."

Students are encouraged to figure things out more for themselves instead of just accepting and not questioning ideas, Astin said.

"But if you happen to be a member of religious organization, that tends to slow down the decline," he added.

Greek 1:16 members said the organization also helps bridge the gap between fraternity and sorority life.

"We leave our letters at our door," Niemann. "When we meet, we try to make it a family and not so much segregated houses."

Overall, Niemann said the group's desire is for greeks to feel comfortable with their faith.

"It's a little easier for greeks to go to a greek ministry as opposed to a church that doesn't have a greek influence," the 22-year-old said.

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