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To close out my “Summer Lovin'” series, here’s a Fridea I first presented a couple of years ago… and it’s one that may be way, way outside the box for some of us. But if we’re dedicated to “doing life” with and among our students, shouldn’t we be doing things at least like this?

When’s the last time you took a young collegiate couple on a double date with you and your spouse?

That might seem like an awkward idea – and no doubt there would be some awkwardness – but I can’t think of a better way to teach college students to date well… and marry well, too.

Along the same lines: whether you’re married or not, I hope college students get to hang out with you at your home on occasion. I hope they see you in your “work life,” too, even if that’s simply some behind-the-scenes college ministry work. I hope they rub shoulders with you in your other ministry habitats, too – like your church, your neighborhood, and your city.

Letting students into our lives is a chance to show them what they should aspire to – aspire to as adults, as spouses, as family men and family women, as employees, as church members. And even what they can aspire to in dating relationships.

We recognize that students both need, and are drawn to discussions of dating relationships, the lure of sex, and related topics. Obviously, there are plenty of “ditches” our students fall into along this line… and also lots of promise in this area, too. Plus, these things are on students’ minds a lot – why not scratch where they itch?

But while not everybody is dating, all of your students are presently dealing with friendships. And what’s more, many of them have roommates. And if those two areas aren’t vital for building great future husbands and wives, I don’t know what are!

Both of those spheres are laboratories for learning the very skills students will take into marriage someday. And of course, there’s huge opportunity for students to become better in those actual relationships – friendships and “roommateships” – right now.

Are we letting those areas serve as labs for marriage, while training students to glorify God in those relationships presently, too? Do students see the connections?

Chances are, some of your students are in – or will soon be in – that “seriously dating” stage of their romantic relationships. Even though many people are getting married far past college, plenty of collegians are still on the threshold of engagement or marriage as they approach graduation.

While I know that the Dating & Relationships topic is often one of the most-used arrows within a college ministry’s quiver, those messages (at least in Large Group Meetings) are usually presented for a variety of audiences:

  • those who have dated very little (or none)
  • those not presently dating,
  • those presently dating,
  • and/or those seriously dating or engaged.

But most of our “Dating & Relationships” series likely focus more on the first three groups. So it’s that last group I’ve been wondering about: Are you facilitating the deeper training of those seriously dating or engaged?

Are you providing (or pointing them to) training on conflict and communication, household finances, purity and (eventually) sexual intimacy, handling each others’ families, and so on? Are they hearing marriage theology and not only dating theology?

If this sounds like the classic “Pre-marital Class,” then you’re right – except that it’s vital that we recognize that much of this discussion happens best before engagement. (And some would argue that such topics should be shared with singles and the newly dating, too!)

The other thing to note is that WE don’t necessarily have to provide all of this. Maybe there’s a church in town, or married couples who could mentor student couples, or… something. But don’t we have to help this group, too?

How are students in your ministry finding training beyond the three-week series you offered last semester?

Continuing my series on how we teach dating and relationships within our ministries, a post from last year about thinking toward the future, not just their present “felt needs” – in relationships and some other areas.

It’s likely you’ve talked to your students about dating well.

It’s likely you’ve encouraged them to sacrifice so they can give to important causes right now.

You might have taught them to be academic students “as unto the Lord.”

But though they’re better boyfriends and girlfriends because of your ministry, will they be better husbands and wives?

Will they be generous with their resources – even sacrificially – ten years from now, when the money is far more plentiful (but also far more necessary)?

Even if they’ve been taught to be Christian students, will they be full-time employees “as unto the Lord,” too?

We certainly should be impacting students with instructions for glorifying God in all aspects of their present lives. But if we’re not diving down more deeply into principles… and if we’re not preparing students for decisions and roles they will have in the future… then we’re not discipling them for a lifetime.

Even if our students will have good churches and good ministers and other good ministries when some of those roles are lived out, we still have some impact to make here. We should be preparing them. We should be raising them up.

Are you making good wives, good rich people, and good employees? What other future roles do you need to be discipling your students for?

Toward the end of our rehearsal dinner a couple of weeks ago, I shared with our crowd how God had pushed me – from early high school days – to trust Him about finding love. Like most guys, girls were on my mind – a lot – but I think my personality is particularly ill-suited to resting in the Lord’s sovereignty. So God has had to push me, convict me, encourage me time and time again over the past many years.

For lots of your students, a key issue of both these days and future years is trusting the Lord about even getting dates – not to mention finding a mate! Of course, TRUST applies far beyond our romantic lives… but for me (and I’m sure many others), that’s been one of the easiest places in which God could teach me about trusting His goodness, provision, wisdom, and timing. For most of us, our romantic hopes feel awfully poignant… and awfully out of our control. So it’s a very personal place in which God can form some major character!

How is your work facilitating a very basic, very foundational TRUST within your students? How well will your students trust God in the years beyond college – about relationships and everything else?

In light of my recent nuptials, I’m discussing how we teach our students about relationships. Today, a post from a couple of years ago that looks at what we say about their present status – which is very likely to be their status for awhile.

Are you teaching your students about relationships as though…

…a large number of them will be single for another decade?

If we’re stuck in a past when college ministry mostly shepherded students who were likely to be married within a few years, we’re doing it wrong! (Right?)

While it depends on the city and the region and even the campus, the truth is that raising up students who are great at being single is our job.

Fifteen years ago, many of us expected to be married soon after college. But that didn’t happen for lots of us late Gen Xers and now the Millennials. In churches, Singles (or better, Young Adult) Ministries are populated by many people who are simply still “Single for a Season,” not only those “Single for a Reason.”

So if you’re only teaching on Dating or Preparing for Marriage – and not on Singleness, too – you’d better hope many of your students have excellent filing systems for your notes. What many of them will need far more (and far more often) between now and Age 28 is instruction on being awesome Singles.

I got to thinking about this because Christianity Today posted some thoughts on Singleness from John Stott, a lifelong bachelor. At the end of the article are several links to discussions of singleness from CT. I hope you’ll take a look.

First, don’t be in too great a hurry to get married. We human beings do not reach maturity until we are about 25. To marry before this runs the risk of finding yourself at twenty-five married to somebody who was a very different person at the age of twenty. So be patient. Pray daily that God will guide you to your life partner or show you if he wants you to remain single. Second, lead a normal social life. Develop many friendships. Third, if God calls you to singleness, don’t fight it. Remember the key text: “Each person has his or her own gift of God’s grace” (1 Cor. 7:7). [Read the full 2-page article and find those other links here.]

We college ministers need to talk plenty about “love and relationships” – those things are on our students’ minds, they trip up plenty of Christian students, those areas are a chance to run counter-cultural to the campus, and they’ll lead to the life-changing choice of a spouse either in college or afterwards. So I figured I’d spend some posts talking about college students and romance – some new thoughts, and some of my favorite posts on the subject. (And yes, I just got married. So I suppose the topic is a bit fresh for me these days…)

First up, evaluating your ministry through the Great Couples Assessment, first posted at Valentine’s Day in 2012.

One interesting way to assess your ministry is along this unique line: the kinds of romantic couples it’s producing. Here are a few questions that are worth asking – even if there are different “right” answers, because campus ministries are different from each other.

1. When romantic couples emerge within your college ministry, are they awesome? A healthy college ministry will likely produce healthy couples, and couples that exemplify the very things the ministry celebrates. Do you and other students enjoy being around the couples your ministry produces? Are those couples healthy, or are they full of red flags?

2. Is your campus ministry really good about celebrating romance, relationships, marriage, etc.? Sometimes campus ministries aren’t even good at supporting couples, let alone celebrating God’s work in bringing people together!

3. Do solid Christians within your college ministry regularly build romances with each other? How this one relates to healthy college ministry is a bit more complicated. But if you’re not seeing couples emerge from within your ministry (and especially if you are seeing students enter into relationships regularly with students outside your ministry), it’s at least worth asking Why, right?

Are you providing opportunities for awesome men of God to meet awesome women of God? Is your ministry the kind of ministry that even attracts those awesome men and women? Is there room – even alongside the accompanying awkwardness – for students to enter into relationships with others in your ministry?

Related to this is the issue of offering gender-specific vs. co-ed opportunities. Read where I wrote about that – including some great comments from you guys!

4. Do people get married? Some might presume that a strong college ministry will indeed produce lots and lots of marriages, while others would recognize that marriage-immediately-after-graduating really isn’t the norm anymore.

But I think we have to imagine that within a college ministry with a good number of students, we would likely be seeing the occasional marriage produced. If not, it’s probably worth asking Why – even if in the end, we decide we’re right where we need to be.

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So there you have it. Four questions. As you answer them, simply consider what the answers in your ministry should be… and then what they actually are. Ministries will be different, but I think these things are worth examining!

But what do you think?

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Welcome to Exploring College Ministry

After ministering to college students for 8 years, I've spent the last 6 years trying to help push our whole field forward. This meant, among other things, a yearlong road trip, an e-book (Reaching the Campus Tribes), exploring 250+ campuses, consulting, writing, speaking, and more. I love any opportunity to serve college ministers or others who want to reach college students better. To learn more, explore the header links or the tools below.

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