Thinking about getting married? Try these date suggestions.

Thinking about getting married? Try these date suggestions.

​This blog post is for people in a relationship that could conceivably progress to marriage.  As a college president, I work in the middle of people who are pondering key relationship questions such as, How do I know if this is the one?

When Denise and I are asked that question, we resort to the old staple: You just know. But I’ve come to believe that that answer works only in retrospect (after the fact). If marriage works out great, then We just knew. If it doesn’t, then we messed up in the critical moments of discerning the relationship. Dating couples deserve a better answer than You’ll know.

So here is my considered wisdom for a generation trying to get the marriage decision right. I’m suggesting 10 “must-do” dates that will likely reveal something about the person you are getting serious with.  And if that person has no interest in going on most or all of these dates with you, well, that might tell you something, too.

The Assisted Living/Nursing Home Date

Buy some cut flowers and choose a random nursing home. Go to the community room and engage. Start asking the residents questions about their lives. Then listen. Observe your date. Do he or she care? Is there a genuine interest? Can he or she be comfortable in the presence of dementia? Does this person know how to respect the story of a stranger? Following the visit, as with each of the dates below, go to a coffee shop and talk about what you encountered. 

The Escape Room Date

You’ve probably already done this. This date gives you the chance to see your date under pressure. How does he or she treat people who are slowing them down? Does this person engage in the pursuit? How task-driven is he or she? Is this more about relationships, fun, or winning? What is driving them?

The Church Date

Hopefully, this is not a new thing for either of you. If you are a devoted follower of Jesus, dating and marrying someone who does not find life in Christ—think carefully about this. But do go to church together. I’d suggest you try something off the beaten path. Go to a small church that sings old songs and is five funerals away from closing. Does your date dismiss the faith of these people? Is this a joke? What is his or her capacity for finding meaning in practices and people who are older?

The Baby Sitting Date

Hopefully, there will be a messy diaper during the evening. Can your date deal with messy? How is the division of labor handled? Do you see initiative or avoidance? What kind of parent is peeking through? Does time pass fast or slow?

The Animal Shelter Date

You can watch for compassion here. You’ll also see whether sentimental feelings cloud solid judgment. If you have to talk your date out of adopting an animal on the spot, you may be dating a person whose judgment is ruled by sympathetic feelings. Look for middle ground in your date –compassion/love for God’s creations but also responsible decisions. If your date leaves a small donation, that’s a great sign.

Game Night Date

Chose games that are competitive, solo winner/loser, and in line with the interests of your date. Observe how your date handles winning and losing. Experiment with good-natured trash talk. Can he or she laugh when it isn’t going their way? Can they take teasing? How competitive is your date? If this were an important issue at stake, and one of you would lose and the other win, is this the person you’d want by your side?

The Veteran’s Home

Go tell aging soldiers that you appreciate what they did on behalf of your freedom. Listen to their stories. How does your date react to the cost of war? How does he or she express gratitude to those who have suffered? What does he or she do in the face of PTSD, amputations, shattered memories?

The Formal Date

Wear a suit. Wear a fancy dress. Eat somewhere fairly expensive. Go to a classical concert or a noted theatrical performance. Does your date wilt or waltz? Do you see enough self-esteem or gumption to engage the setting rather than being intimidated by it? Can he or she navigate settings that are new and different? Is this fun? Even if your financial tastes do not gravitate in this direction, you will observe the willingness of your date to explore new settings and experiences. Maybe you prefer to marry a homebody, but if you want get out a lot, this date will tell you whether your potential marriage partner is up to it. 

The Volunteer Project

Find a sweaty, dirty, difficult work project. The more challenging, the better. Help pick up trash in an urban housing neighborhood. Join a Habitat for Humanity team. Unload trucks for the local food bank. Work at a soup kitchen or aid a mission. Does your date work hard? Is he or she counting the minutes until they can get back on their cell phone or the couch? Are they more interested in selfies than the tasks at hand? Does he or she take interest in and engage with the people doing this kind of thing? Does your date care about other people or are they just placating you by being there?

The Family Picture Album Date

Pack a picnic lunch and go to the park. Find a shade tree. Bring your family pictures—all the way back to great grandparents if you can. Tell each other the stories of your relatives. Ask questions. Listen carefully enough to repeat the narratives. Then, go to your date’s home and sit with their family and tell them what you heard. How do these family dynamics work? Is there respect, open communication, appreciation of the family that raised him or her, loving regard and laughter? If this is as awkward as wearing your clothes backward, you may want to think carefully about the relationship.

With each of these dates, you are taking another step on your journey. The question is simple: Do we keep going, pause or stop? As you share life together on these unique dates, ask yourself if this is the person you want to experience life with. Listen to your head and your heart. Don’t be swept to the altar by a tide of romantic hope or surface-based information. Seek depth. Go there thoughtfully.

One last note. All of this assumes that you actually date. Many college students have seen so many broken marriages that they are afraid to commit, even to a date. I’ve written about this in a chapter titled “If Dating is Dead” in my book Human Sexuality II: A Primer for Christians.

If you want to know if this is “the one,” try some of these dates. And even as you observe your date, listen to your own heart. It is telling you something. And maybe you’ll just know.

Championing Every Kind of Diversity—but Christian

Championing Every Kind of Diversity—but Christian

In light of recent regulatory actions, several Christian universities have applied for a government-established exemption from Title IX.  Most of the issues deal with gender identity, mission-fit hiring, and expectations regarding sexual behavior. Universities that apply for the exemption are being targeted by media and accused of doing everything allowable under the exemption.

According to the press, these universities are denying admission to pregnant mothers, expelling out-of-the closet students, and being homophobic to the Nth degree. I know a lot of Christian university presidents. This is neither the practice nor the desire of the ones I know.

So why are schools applying for the exemption?

[Read more…]

Update on The 2015 Big Idea: Reducing College Student Debt

Update on The 2015 Big Idea: Reducing College Student Debt

Last year I shared that my big idea for 2015 was to put a dent in college student debt. We have made a small beginning.

This past fall, 45 students became our test group for the Trevecca iWork program. To date, we are retaining all of them into the spring semester and they have paid $61,000 on their college bills as a group. In addition, each student has received basic training in workplace habits. All of our supervisors have been trained to mentor students toward workplace success. We will be adding more students to the test group this semester before aiming at 200 jobs this fall. We have companies lined up to provide jobs for our students.

[Read more…]

College Students: Reclaim Dating Rituals That Build Great Marriages

College Students: Reclaim Dating Rituals That Build Great Marriages

Several times each school year, I speak to our college students at Trevecca during a chapel service. Today, I’d like to share excerpts from one of my talks last year. It’s on a topic that’s near and dear to my heart—the future of Christian marriages and Christian families.

Today’s young people live in a culture that prefers “hook-ups” for casual sex to committed dating rituals that require sacrifice from each person and help lay the foundation for solid Christian marriages. Last year, I wrote a book, Human Sexuality, which explored this subject.

It’s my prayer that college students, young adults, and singles everywhere will heed the call to abandon the world’s idea of “relationships” and return to lives of integrity and the pursuit of great, biblical marriages.

[Read more…]

Wearing Color for Mental Health Awareness

Wearing Color for Mental Health Awareness

I’m getting my color functions mixed up. People are telling me that pumpkins painted blue on a front porch at Halloween are a signal that the candy being distributed to trick-or-treaters is gluten free and additive free.

We all know that pink accessories on massive football players during the month of October indicates support for the battle against breast cancer, and the colors of the rainbow are a sign of support for same sex marriage. A black suit prompts the question, “Who died?”

Purple and white means “Go Trevecca.” Purple and gold means “Go Olivet.” (I suppose you might say they are royal and rich; we are royal and pure.) Lighting your house or landscape with green bulbs means that you support veterans.

But I’m also hearing that wearing green is a signal that you support mental health awareness.

[Read more…]

Worship

Worship

One of the nagging dilemmas I face as a university president is faculty attendance in chapel.

We require the students to attend 24 chapels per semester. They often ask me why many professors do not attend.

And their logic is pretty good. “If we are a Christian community, and we believe that worship is formative, and we believe that the need for worship does not end when you get a degree, why don’t professors attend chapel?”

I remind them that many do.

Ok; some do.

[Read more…]

They Call Him “Hoz”

They Call Him “Hoz”

I think I just saw the finest example of classroom instruction that I have ever seen.

The room had no chairs but about 25 standing students. No desk, but a piano. No heavy technology, but a simple white marker board.

Mark Hosny, affectionately known as “The Hoz,” was teaching a group of music students. They were working on the practice of conducting a choir or musical rehearsal.

From the opening second, they were moving, exercising, breathing like musicians do, singing, responding to targeted questions, remembering what they had worked on before, stepping into the limelight and demonstrating a practice with the choir. They were performing at a remarkable level.

[Read more…]

Against the Odds – Why a Christian University in the Heart of Nashville is Thriving

Against the Odds – Why a Christian University in the Heart of Nashville is Thriving

As we go into the fall season, I am grateful for the strength of the university that I serve. We are seeing triple digit growth and are breaking all-time records for freshman enrollment, undergraduate enrollment, and total enrollment. The high-water marks of last year will soon trail the new numbers for this year.

Why? If you read articles about colleges, you’ll recognize that this pattern is not the norm. The pundits predict the demise of private Christian colleges. Tennessee has made community college free. Yes, we are competing with free. Everyone says tuition is skyrocketing and is out of control.

Church support for the Christian mission of a university is down. States are trimming funding for college. Many are declaring that a college degree is not worth what it costs, especially in terms of the number of years it takes to pay back a college loan. Liberal arts degrees are under attack as “too general” and “too vague” to offer a skill set that is marketable.

I read this stuff all the time. Most of it has been challenged statistically (and correctly) in studies done by the Council for Independent Colleges (CIC).

[Read more…]

Trust

Trust

The essence of biblical covenant relationships is found in the Hebrew word, chesed. When people enter covenant, chesed—which is often translated as “loving-kindness” or “steadfast love”—is established between them. Trust is implicit to the covenant relationship and suggests that we intend to behave in certain faithful ways toward each other while expecting the same in return. The beginning assumption is peace, not conflict; trust, not suspicion.

The church today needs a greater degree of trust in at least three different areas.

Generational Trust

An older generation needs to trust the missional spirit of a younger generation as they seek to reach their changing world. The pessimism about the younger generation is not valid. Our youth are in touch with the same God who found us early in our lives and dreamed through us the church as it became under our leadership.

[Read more…]

You Can Afford a Trevecca Education

You Can Afford a Trevecca Education

Summer means vacation and camps and family reunions. If you’re the parent of a high schooler, it may also mean touring college campuses in order to find that home away from home for your child.

I hope you’ll consider Trevecca Nazarene University. We offer academic programs based on Christian values that promote scholarship, critical thinking, and meaningful worship for students in preparation for lives of leadership and service to the church, the community, and the world at large.

“But,” you may ask, “Isn’t a private Christian university education expensive?”

Actually, I’m pretty sure you can afford a Trevecca education; it’s more affordable than you think. I love this video that explores three common myths about paying to attend Trevecca.

[Read more…]