When I joined Pi Beta Phi as a freshman, I expected the typical sorority experience. I would go to tons of formals, mixers, and date parties. And I would live in the chapter house with my best friends. When I went to my first chapter meeting as an initiated member, these ideals quickly fell away. You see, we had a special guest at Chapter, our Grand President! Without going into too many details, the summary of this visit was that we were in extreme debt because of low membership. We were placed on probation and the terms of our probation were: we would have to move out of our chapter house after the year ended and we would have to improve our recruitment numbers or face losing our charter.
We simply had to be more intentional about our time with our sisters
As you can imagine, this was a very difficult time for Pi Phi. We were able to meet our recruitment goals but we still had to move out of our house at the end of the year. Our chapter moved across the street from our old house into a set of townhomes. And to add insult to injury, another sorority moved into our house. Our chapter was pretty demoralized. We couldn’t even plan many social events or sisterhoods because we didn’t have the money! I remember that our semi-formal was in a seedy bar called Papa Pete’s, sounds a little sketch right?
During this time, one of my Pi Phi sisters, Melissa, and I were praying together regularly about starting a chapter ministry. When we found out that we would have to move out of the house, Melissa and I were crushed! How would we be able to build community with our sisters and lead a thriving ministry when we didn’t have a house? Yet the more we prayed, the more we were convinced that God was working and moving in Pi Phi. Melissa and I decided that we simply had to be more intentional about our time with our sisters.
Even though we didn’t have a housing requirement anymore, Melissa and I committed to living with Pi Phi sisters. Even though we weren’t all living in a chapter house, by simply living with our sisters we were able to maintain a bond and build trust.
One semester, I joined a Pi Phi study group that met at a local coffee shop each week. This turned into a time where our sisterhood really grew. After the first hour of studying for our classes, we would wind up talking and catching up. After a month or so, I suggested to the group that we could do a Bible study together. I was surprised at how interested everyone was. This turned out to be an amazing experience! A simple study group turned into a place where sisters grew closer together and eventually, to God!
Even though my time in Pi Phi was non-traditional, I still got to experience all the benefits of deep sisterhood. I will never forget when one of my Pi Phi sisters approached me and said that despite the limitations on organizing sisterhoods and formals, and not having a chapter house, she experienced sisterhood through our chapter ministry. In a dark time, that was a place of hope for her.
Despite not having a chapter house and being on probation, our sisterhood deepened and thrived.
But it didn’t “just happen” for us; we had to work at it. Here are some quick tips on how to build community in your chapter if you don’t have a chapter house:
1) Be Intentional
Invite people over to your dorm or apartment. Host sisterhood/brotherhood events where you live. Invite individual members of your chapter to meet on campus for lunch. Don’t expect people to just come to you.
2) Be Strategic
Where on campus do your brothers and sisters hang out? The library? Student Union? Maybe you have a chapter lodge where you host your chapter meetings. Plan get-togethers in common places to your sisterhood/ brotherhood.
3) Be Creative
Your brotherhood and sisterhood doesn’t have to and shouldn’t look like everyone else’s. Find out what your brothers and sisters are most interested in and go from there. Don’t try to make something work that simply won’t work for your chapter. Do chapter members like to volunteer? Volunteer together in the community. Do you have a lot of people who are athletic? Join intramural teams together. Form interest groups that will bring together members of your chapter. Maybe it’s a yoga group, a study group, or a favorite TV show group (Game of Thrones anyone?). Offer to host these at your apartment or dorm.
My encouragement to you is that God wants to be part of your sisterhood and brotherhood, no matter your chapter’s circumstances. He will meet you in your Greek chapter, do you trust him and are you willing to step out in faith?