Picture this: A guys' floor at Grand Canyon University in Phoenix, Arizona dreams up a list of corny pick-up lines. Then, one by one, the hall mates knock on a girl's door. Each guy recites his line to the girl who answers and invites her to a movie. When this happened last year, 60 people ended up going on a group date.
Or how about this: As an orientation game, freshmen at Hope College in Holland, Michigan, must ask at least three perfect strangers for their hands in marriage. Abby Timmer, a junior at Hope, says she met some of her best friends that way—even though no one accepted her proposals.
Haven't had enough? Try this one: Every year, Grand Canyon University holds a beauty contest . . . for guys. Mr. Soccer, Mr. Basketball and others compete for the crown of Mr. GCU in the school's spoof of a traditional beauty pageant. All of the elements of a pageant are there—including a talent show, faculty judges and a sash for the winner.
The fun doesn't end there. There are countless activities on Christian college campuses that help students enjoy a healthy, pressure-free dating scene.
Dave McKinley, dean of students at Grand Canyon University, says male-female relationships are an important part of college life. Dave's mission of guiding students toward Christlikeness, academic success, and personal excellence includes their friendships and romantic relationships. "These relationships are the workshops of our community," he says. "The students are learning about life."
Dave and other Christian college administrators say they try to create an atmosphere that helps students appreciate strong friendships. This helps students to have healthy dating relationships.
College activity directors often come up with fun activities as part of this effort. And lots of dorms on Christian college campuses have brother and sister floors. They pray for each other, eat meals together in the dining commons, and plan fun social activities.
Many campuses also have open hall hours. This means that during certain hours of the week or weekend, students of the opposite sex can visit each other in their dorm rooms. Each campus has rules for open hall. For example, most require that doors be left open.
"We have open hall two nights a week," says Candice Canfield, a senior at Evangel University in Springfield, Missouri. "Guys and girls can just chill out. This time is important since we don't have homes and living rooms. It helps the students get to know each other better."
Some colleges have a "Pick-a-Date" tradition. One year, Matt Kuiken, a senior at Geneva College in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania, went on a "Pick-a-Date" with all the guys on his floor. Every guy set his roommate up with a date. Matt says the sometimes nerve-racking experience of going on a date was a little less stressful because the entire floor was being set up.
Of course, orientation games are a great way for a freshman to meet new people. Abby Timmer from Hope College says Play Fair, the orientation game where she asked her new friends to marry her, helped her to loosen up and enjoy meeting guys in a comfortable environment. "It was fun because we were all acting like idiots!" she says.
Shortly after school starts, signs for banquets and formals pop up all over campus. But finding a date to these special events doesn't have to cause anxiety.
At Grand Canyon University you can go to an auction and bid on a date for the annual Winter Formal. Guys and girls volunteer to be auctioned and agree to go to the formal with the highest bidder. The proceeds from the auction help keep the cost of tickets down.
At Evangel University, guys who would like to bring a date to the annual Harvest Fest must ask in a creative way. For example, some students have hired skydivers to ask their dates to the event. One guy got a Campus Safety officer to write his date a ticket—which turned out to be an invitation.
Even though many people choose to bring a date to Harvest Fest, Mark Hafner, Evangel's director of student activities, says people who come without a date won't feel uncomfortable. Lots of people come in huge groups and just cut loose and have fun.
Meeting people doesn't require an organized event, students say. You can always sit down with friends in the cafeteria for a conversation or join a study group. Check out the spots where students relax, talk and just unwind from a hectic day. "The student union has sofas, a pool table and a TV. It's there just so students can hang out," Mark says. "And it's a great cheap date."
Even if students can't cram campus events into their schedules, they can still have fun and go out on dates. Matt Meabon, a junior at Houghton College in Houghton New York, plays on the men's basketball team. As a result, he spends most of his time on the court, studying, or hanging out with teammates. Still, he says, he and his girlfriend, Angela, enjoy going to campus sporting events or finding ways to spend time together doing everyday things. "There's tons of stuff to do if you just look for it," Matt says. "Chill out and eat together, or play Frisbee."
Finding the Balance
Matt Kuiken says he sometimes felt some pressure to find a mate right away. Many students worry that they'll never have such an opportunity to meet so many single, committed Christians again.
Still, Matt says, he decided that instead of looking for a wife, he would jump into the social scene and get to know as many girls as possible—as friends.
"Taking time to meet a variety of people is probably the best route for freshmen," Matt says.
Candice also wanted to meet a lot of guys before deciding to date anyone seriously. She didn't expect to meet her boyfriend, Mike, in chapel on the first day of her freshman year. Mike invited her to Harvest Fest shortly after they met.
Candice knew she liked Mike and enjoyed his company, but she worried about being in a relationship too soon. "Being Mike's girlfriend right away sounded like a nice idea, but I didn't want to make the mistake of getting into a relationship just because it felt secure," she says. "That didn't seem healthy."
Candice accepted Mike's invitation, but told him about her concerns. Two years later, after meeting other people and developing other friendships on campus, Candice and Mike felt ready for a romantic relationship. They plan to marry shortly after graduation.
Shannon Reifs, now a junior at GCU, says orientation activities and the freshman retreat helped her connect with new friends of both sexes and eventually with people she would hang out with every weekend.
She's not dating anyone exclusively, but Shannon goes on lots of group dates. There are a few couples in her group of friends, but it's not awkward, she says. Everyone enjoys hanging out together, going bowling at midnight or staying up until two o'clock in the morning to play board games.
They come from different colleges and have a variety of dating experiences, but these students agree that their schools provide plenty of opportunities to meet people of the opposite sex. And the activities and atmosphere are helping them to make wise, God-honoring choices about relationships. "What's so great about this type of dating is it's totally pressure–free," Candice says. "It allows freshmen to meet more people."