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.”