Jay Barnes makes it a point to share his wisdom on love and marriage with Bethel students
News | Michaela Mohs for The Clarion
Photo for The Clarion courtesy of Bethel Comm. and Marketing
It is well known that Jay Barnes is the president of Bethel, the guy who runs the campus and sometimes speaks at chapel or other special events. But what many people may not know is that President Barnes isn’t simply a distant, important figure on campus; he plays an active role in the Bethel culture by hosting talks and small groups in order to help students understand healthy relationships.
It’s easy to figure out what the world believes about marriage, sex or dating; however, this shouldn’t be a guidebook to relationships, and sometimes the Biblical “do-nots” of sexuality don’t answer every question. This is why Barnes and his wife Barb have a passion for sharing their relational wisdom with students.
They also host an annual discussion on Christian sexuality for freshmen, because it matters what students learn in regard to relationships, especially at an age where the pressure to be “with” someone is so high.
During this year's discussion on Jan. 23, Jay and Barb spoke to a room full of students about how they met, how they view sexuality as “one of God’s good gifts” and spent an hour answering questions. The questions included concerns about boundaries with relationships or marriage, the morals of using contraception, ways to prepare for marriage and ways to honor God while in a dating relationship.
Philip Byers, the resident director of Edgren Hall, asked a particularly complex question about how to honor God while remaining single – especially since we are created to desire love and meaningful relationships, and when the surrounding culture puts so much emphasis on not being single. Jay Barnes gave important advice for anyone feeling frustrated or confused by the “college years that are relationally painful”: learn to have healthy friendships with both men and women rather than dwelling on things such as singleness or dating.
Besides teaching freshmen about sex, accountability and relationships, Jay and Barb also host a small group about marriage specifically for engaged couples. The small group meets in their house and usually consists of a group of five of six couples. They cover topics such as family background, preparing for marriage and expectations about the future.
Joe Held, a resident assistant for married housing at Fountain Terrace, attended these small group sessions in the fall of 2011 with his then-fiancée, Katelin Held. He mentioned that the purpose of the group was preparation so that the couples wouldn’t “just jump into marriage with our heads in the clouds.”
Barnes said that he thinks it is a wonderful thing for young people to get married, but only if they are ready for it. He doesn’t encourage long engagements because it becomes harder to set physical boundaries in a relationship while waiting for the elusive wedding day.
Held recommends the marriage small group for any couples looking for advice and a way to discuss relationship inventories or marriage expectations. According to Held, one of the most important pieces of advice he can pass on from Barnes is to be intentional about communication – to talk about expectations and problems.
“Relationships and marriage take a lot of commitment and communication, not something that Bethel culture seems to focus on,” he said. Held recommends that anyone concerned about being single should first learn to be confident as an individual.