Ring by Spring. MRS degree. There are many stereotypes and jokes associated with the concept of dating at college, especially at a Bible college. Lancaster Bible College is no exception. But what sits beneath the stereotypes and jokes? What is dating really like at LBC? What is LBC’s dating culture?
Caleb Brussel is a senior and a resident assistant (RA) at LBC. In his experience, dating is a common topic in the guys’ dorms.
“From an RA perspective,” he said, “there is rarely… a conversation with a group of guys that the topic of girls does not come up. It is on everyone’s mind, so it’s the elephant in the room…. Every guy or almost every guy is definitely thinking about it, which is very natural, obviously, but (he) is thinking about it.”
Brussel identifies this focus as a core element in LBC’s dating culture.
“The dating culture, as I perceive it, is that people are always thinking about (dating), in their minds, subconsciously or consciously,” he said. “Girls are asked out a ton before the point that it would be natural to ask someone out.”
He explained that people tend to jump into relationships, thinking that if they know someone fairly well they should start dating.
Junior Riley Nichols does not consider this focus as a unique element to LBC.
“I went to a small Christians school my whole life, and I saw a lot of the same when it came to dating,” he said. “I think it has to do with the combination of conservative, American Christian ideals combined with the fact that (LBC) is a small school and you are forced to interact with the same people over a long amount of time.”
Nichols remembers he also felt the pressure to date when he was a freshman.
“When I first arrived, there were (pressures to date) in the air,” Nichols said. He added, “Fortunately, I’ve been catching and reading the mentality is shifting away from that. The general vibe (now) is ‘take your time.’”
However, Nichols still wishes he could change some elements of the dating culture.
“I really want the ‘Ring by Spring’ mentality to go away,” he said, referring to the idea that seniors should get engaged by spring semester of their senior year. “It’s humorous, sure, but to an extent it’s (also) really absurd because you are placing unneeded pressure on freshman who… just left the nest and that’s pressure enough in and of itself. The pressure of love, dating and romance is another beast entirely. That can be a little confusing at the (best of) times, especially in such a transient period of life as your early twenties.”
Oliver Lehman, who attended LBC from 2016-2018, pointed out the positive elements of LBC’s dating culture.
“There are positives,” he said. He explained LBC offers a strong Christian environment with Christian professors and friends that create a support system to give guidance, wisdom, and feedback into a relationship. The support system also helps in avoiding sexual temptation, he added.
Brussel agreed LBC offers strong community.
“A good model for dating (that LBC has) is being surrounded by a friend group that asks good questions,” he said. He added, “(However,) prayer and wise counsel are often missed in LBC dating culture, because (people say) just go for it.”
He explained, “Thinking and discernment are important. I know that when someone says, ‘I’m interested in this person, I’d like to get to know her better,’ the advice across the board, 99 percent of the time in my experience, is ‘awesome, go for it.’ I guess I’d love to see more questions, like, ‘that is cool, but why are you interested?’ I know a guy who has been on two or three dates with someone, and (I asked), ‘why do you like this girl?’ (He said,) ‘Oh, she loves Jesus.’ That’s not good either.”
Brussel continued, “The danger of LBC is you so enjoy hanging out with someone that you equate hanging out with a relationship.”
Lehman also saw some downsides with the dating culture.
“Some downsides are that it’s a small school,” Lehman said. “Gossip spreads quickly.” He also explained that because so many people are single, the assumption that everyone must be looking for a spouse “looms over all interactions.”
He continued, “It’s hard to have good friendships with the opposite gender because there’s this… atmosphere that if you talk to a girl, the only reason is because you are interested in marrying…. Everyone jumps the gun in interactions and that adds gossip to other people…. That environment stifles good friendships between genders and makes a gap that makes it hard to start good relationships and build foundations for relationships.”
Nichols agreed the size of the school can sometimes cause problems.
“Because the school is so small, there’s always going to be one or two or a group of people that try to stick their nose in and be involved,” he said. “When that comes time, you have to lay down a line: that’s not any of (their) business.”
Lehman said the nosiness can sometimes cause relational issues. He explained that the close-knit community can cause awkwardness when a person starts dating a friend or a friend of a friend.
“(When) everyone has preconceived notions about people, that makes it harder to build good friendships or (dating relationships),” Lehman said. He added, “The tight environment creates a really odd environment.”
“At the same time,” Lehman continued, “I’m not going to say there are no success stories. Some people have good relationships…. I just think that they’re already fighting against a shadow that is over top all relationships… on campus. Makes (success) a little more rare.”
Overall, Brussel sees elements of good and bad.
“I’d say the culture of LBC allows for opportunities in dating which should be taken a hold of,” he said. “(I don’t think) it’d be good if everyone leaves LBC single. (Opportunities) should be taken a hold of, but should be engaged with wisdom and slowness more than they currently are.”
Nichols also encouraged care in dating.
“Don’t go into a relationship expecting a cakewalk,” he said. He continued, “There will be days when the stresses of school get to you and you become tired. It gets frustrating and hard to maintain a relationship, but be open about that with the other person, be communicative because the fireworks fade eventually but they come back. There’s an ebb and flow, an up and down to two imperfect people trying to form a relationship.”
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