On-campus getaway provides food, advice and community
News | Celeste Harlow for The Clarion
The retreat wasn't all about the romance. “It’s important as Christians that we know how to relate in healthy ways — not just within romantic relationships, but with friends,” said Rebekah Eller, program and service coordinator.
Every Bethel student has discussed the proverbial “ring by spring,” and it is no secret that dating and relationships are a central part of the Bethel culture. However, cultivating healthy relationships is more than just a catchy mantra around campus. From the Covenant for Life Together to premarital counseling with Jay and Barb Barnes, the fostering of healthy relationships is a central part of Bethel. The recent retreat for engaged and married couples is no exception.
Fifteen undergraduate and seminary couples attended the retreat on Jan. 25 and 26. The event, organized by the Seminary’s Office of Student Development and Support, is sponsored annually by John Brown University’s Center for Relationship Enrichment. The CRE provides a grant to Christian colleges and universities to offer such events nationwide.
This year’s retreat began Friday evening and concluded Saturday afternoon. The schedule included four sessions related to this year’s theme, “Communication: the Key to Your Relationship.” Sessions were prepared and led by Jeff Sanders, Bethel Seminary’s associate dean of student development and support, and his wife Mary Sanders, the Bethel Seminary director for spiritual and personal formation. The Sanders both have extensive backgrounds in family and marriage counseling.
Throughout the retreat, Jeff and Mary spoke on growing healthy relationships. Topics included “Cultivating REAL Love,” “Choosing a God Centered Relationship,” “Listening,” and “Communication.” Andy Garbers, administrative assistant at the Seminary, stated, “It was an intense Saturday, from 9 [a.m.] to 2:30 [p.m.] essentially, of a lot of information.” The teachings of the Sanders were supplemented with group interaction, practice of learned skills and a variety of written resources.
Each couple was urged to discover how the information provided spoke to their individual relationship. “I think every couple gets something totally different out of it,” said Rebekah Eller, program and service coordinator of the Seminary’s Office of Student Development and Support. “Even if you’ve been married for 10 years, depending on the couple, some of the stuff is really new for them.”
Friday evening began with a candlelight dinner catered by Sodexo. During dinner, couples were encouraged to get to know one another. “People seemed to gel well immediately,” said Garbers, as he recounted the evening filled with conversation and lasagna.
The Office of Student Development and Support hopes that friendship and mentorship are a few of the results from the weekend. The couples are invited to reconnect and reflect again in April at an evening event called “The Great Date Night.” Participants will go to dinner and perhaps a play in downtown Minneapolis. They will then discuss how the retreat has affected their relationship. “It’s nice for all of them to kind of come back together and have that time,” Eller added.
This sense of community is intended by the retreat planners as a further application of the skills taught. Eller said, “It’s important as Christians that we know how to relate in healthy ways — not just within romantic relationships, but with friends.”