This article was written by Lee Woodmansee, who is the Campus Minister at the Baptist Collegiate Ministry (BCM) at the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith (UAFS). Lee has served in this position for nearly six years and has taught college students for over 12.
One of the greatest privileges that college ministers share is participation in weddings for college students. Simply given the demographic that we Baptist Collegiate Ministry (BCM) Campus Ministers serve, we have a greater likelihood of performing weddings for students involved in our ministries. The lighthearted phrase “ring by spring,” while clearly not always accurate, does in fact describe an expectation that many college students carry with them into their dating relationships in college.
According to Marriage and Divorce Decline During the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Case Study of Five States by Wendy Manning and Krista Payne, early predictions at the onset of the global COVID-19 pandemic anticipated that there would be a precipitous drop in the already falling marriage rate in the United States. This prediction seemingly has held true by and large. However, we know that nationwide trends do not necessarily dictate reality at every level.
At the BCM where I serve, I have been privileged to witness three weddings during the pandemic, perform one of them, and be engaged in premarital counseling for one other, all over the last year. Furthermore, of the nine students on the BCM Student Leadership Team, four of them are currently engaged. The point to be made here is that many college students who are involved in our ministries are not allowing the pandemic to dictate their obedience to Christ.
Following their engagements, I asked each of these students what factors went into their decision to get engaged and/or get married during the pandemic. Every student mentioned during the conversation that they felt that this is where the Lord was leading them. “We talked about the timing, and how difficult it may be for the ceremony to be exactly what we wanted, but we felt like the Lord wanted us to press forward…it is now a matter of obedience for us” said one student.
Several students emphatically relayed to me that they are completely aware of the complications that COVID-19 presents. They are even more conscious of the difficulties that will directly affect the wedding ceremony itself. These facts are not lost on them, but these students in this stage of life refuse to let fear dominate their life. “Regardless of what changes we have to make with how the ceremony looks, we would rather make those changes than be disobedient,” said another student.
There has been a lot of fearmongering proliferated over the last year, and even more fearful responses over the same time. In light of these realities, I have been greatly encouraged by observing students who have prayerfully considered the timing of their engagements and have decided that obedience outweighs preference. I have great confidence that students who will not be deterred from obedience in light of the greatest stressor they have ever experienced will also remain faithful to the God who has called them to obedience. This should be a great encouragement to you as well.