18 Inches: A Measurement Or A Faith Group?

Spoiler alert: it’s a faith group!


Lashley Bitting

Some leaders of 18 inches with meeting attendees.

Josie Talley, Staff Writer

The name “18 Inches” was inspired by the belief that there are 18 inches between your head and heart, but it turns out that this isn’t true. 


18 Inches is a faith group that meets every Wednesday at 8v p.m. in the R&R Realty Building in West Des Moines. The group is led by mentor Jimmy Becker and Senior Leaders Andrew Robey, Will Bussey, Lashley Bitting, and Lydia Cleghorn. As it turns out, the name of the group is a bit of a misnomer. 


“It was supposed to be 8 to 10 inches, but we just say 18 inches,” Robey said.


Students listening to Jimmy discuss the night’s topic (Lashley Bitting)


Bussey mentioned the idea that there are figuratively 18 inches between heaven and hell. However, the focus of the group is to help students bridge the gap between their head and heart. 


“The idea is that you go from knowing things about God that you can learn in religion class or in school, so those facts are the things that you can know in your head, to having a personal relationship and you know God in your heart,” Robey said.


The group works to accomplish this goal through deep discussion and questioning what the faith really means. Previous meeting topics have included a debate about whether goodness is objective or relative and relationships as a Catholic. Cleghorn shares that the meetings involve Becker asking questions about the topic followed by small group discussions that lead into large group discussions. 


“It kind of just goes wherever the Holy Spirit takes us,” Cleghorn said. 


Praise and worship following the meeting (Josie Talley)


In addition to discussion, meetings always start with prayer and sometimes end with praise and worship. Even if a person isn’t particularly faithful, they can still come to the meetings and get something useful out of them. 


“I come out of it with life advice more than faith advice. But it’s all about how we can sort of intertwine the two,” Bussey said.


Attending meetings brings participants closer to both God and their peers. Cleghorn shared that, by learning more about Jesus and having faith questions answered, a person inevitably grows in relationship with Christ. Similarly, Bitting said how 18 Inches has brought her closer to others. 


“I love the people here and it’s a good group of people that throughout the school day you might not necessarily see, but then you get to come here and grow in your faith which I think is the most intimate way that you can make friendships and learn about people,” Bitting said. 


The group 18 Inches actually began as an UtFidem group involving these graduated students: Parker Jameson, Joshua Stanfel, and Michael Wunn, among others. Bussey said that the group went public last year and Jimmy Becker, who had led the UtFidem group, continued to lead as mentor for 18 Inches. 


“When the senior leaders left, then Jimmy proposed us being the new leaders because we were consistently coming,” Bitting said. 


Bitting first came to 18 Inches after her Kairos when some of her fellow retreatants extended the invitation. Bussey first came because of a girl he was interested in. What is more important than why they initially came, however, is why they continue to come today.


“I felt joy after every meeting, so I thought ‘Why not just keep on going?’ ” Bussey said. 


For Robey, every week he is challenged more to grow in his faith.


Bitting finds it meaningful to learn about what the faith truly means and how to include God in her life. 


Cleghorn, on the other hand, views it as a way to challenge her faith.


“I come to 18 Inches because it gives me an opportunity to ask questions about my faith and to become more rooted in what I believe and why I believe it,” Cleghorn said.


If interested in coming to 18 Inches, a person is welcome to come to meetings on Wednesdays, follow the Instagram account @dchs18inches, and/or contact any of the senior leaders. 


All the cool people go to 18 Inches on Wednesday nights”

— Andrew Robey


The “cool people” of 18 Inches (Lashley Bitting)