For the last three weeks, the campus min­istry Equip has been preparing stu­dents to move beyond dis­cus­sions of hills­dating, into dis­cus­sions of inten­tional dating, mar­riage,  and par­enting.

“College is a time of prepa­ration,” said senior Eli West, series founder and Equip exec­utive board member . “We prepare for careers and aca­d­emics, but when you think about it, are we really preparing our­selves for lifelong rela­tion­ships?”

West said the inspi­ration behind the three-week rela­tionship series started his freshman year when he realized stu­dents weren’t talking about what adult rela­tion­ships looked like. So he approached Pine Ridge Bible Church pastor Steve Briix, head of the campus dis­ci­pleship group Equip. West said Briix ques­tioned whether stu­dents would be inter­ested in talking about rela­tion­ships beyond dating.

“But that was my heart behind the whole thing,” West said, “because that’s all we talk about. No one is preparing us for the next thing.”

For three weeks last spring, and again this spring, Equip sought to fill the rela­tionship gap. At its weekly Tuesday fel­lowship meetings, stu­dents shared pizza and brownies and lis­tened to speakers cov­ering rela­tionship topics. Bob and Sharon Taylor, members of Coun­tryside Bible Church in Jonesville and mentors for many stu­dents on campus, spoke about the prin­ciples of raising a family. Newly-weds Hillsdale College junior Abraham Norman and his wife, Mikaela, offered their advice on mar­riage.

After raising two sons and a daughter and helping with his eight grand­children, Taylor said he wished he’d spent more time teaching his children, talking to them about his faith, reading the Bible with them, and mod­eling Christian behavior.

“The Bible is clear about how to raise your children: You are respon­sible for it,” Taylor said. “If you model bib­lical behavior and teach them the word, they’ll grow up with a Bib­lical worldview. They will honor you, make you proud. Even worldly people will admire you for it. That’s some­thing we wished we’d known better when we raised our own kids.”

Freshman Jenna Wiita said she appre­ciated the Taylors’ emphasis on prac­tical ways to raise children and planned to follow their advice to mem­orize more scripture.

“Even though par­enting is a long way off, it was still good to hear about the impor­tance of cen­tering my household around Christ,” she said.

Abraham Norman said he spoke on com­mu­ni­cation within dating, engagement, and mar­riage. He said his long dis­tance rela­tionship with his now-wife Mikaela encouraged the two of them to be more inten­tional about their com­mu­ni­cation with God and with each other.

“It’s important to have your foun­dation in Christ before you start dating another person,” Norman said. “Oth­erwise you start trying to find yourself in the other person. None of us is perfect, so they’re going to let you down.”

Talking with God and mentors helped Norman build a secure foun­dation in Christ, he said, adding that he started dating his wife at the advice of his mentor — her father.

Leah Hickman, an Equip exec­utive board member, said she was encouraged hearing about how Norman’s rela­tionship had grown all the way from dating to mar­riage.

Although the series ended Tuesday, speakers encouraged stu­dents to con­tinue preparing for adult rela­tion­ships by reading their Bible and speaking with mentors in the church and com­munity. The Taylors also sug­gested reading  “Training Hearts and Teaching Minds” by Starr Mead and “Family Driven Faith” by Voodie Bauchham.

“We want to show that there are bib­lical answers to these dif­ferent parts of life,” Hickman said. “It’s not just a list of arbi­trary rules for being a good person. It’s Christ offering us abundant life and we can find that in the pat­terns he gives us in other areas of our life, including family and mar­riage.”