(RNS) When Dordt College graduates Jordan Harmelink and Rachel Tennant said “I do” at their July wedding, they joined the masses of graduates who meet their spouse at private Christian colleges.

Dordt College graduates Jordan and Rachel Harmelink pose at their July 27 wedding. The couple, like many couples reported on a new Facebook data analysis, met at their private Christian college. Photo courtesy Jordan Harmelink

Dordt College graduates Jordan and Rachel Harmelink pose at their July 27 wedding. The couple, like many couples reported in a new Facebook data analysis, met at their private Christian college. Photo courtesy Jordan Harmelink


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According to an analysis by Facebook, of the top 25 colleges where men are most likely to meet their spouse, all are private Christian institutions. For women, more than half (64 percent) of the top 25 colleges where they’re likely to find a husband are religious schools.

The 12 schools that appear on both lists: They’re all Christian colleges.

“There’s a Lutheran boy for every Lutheran girl,” said Jeff Schone, vice president for student life at Martin Luther College in New Ulm, Minn. “I’m being lighthearted when I say that. But it seems to be true.”

The analysis by Sofus Macskassy and Lada Adamic of Facebook’s data science team compared users’ profiles and looked at couples who were listed as being married to each other and who attended the same college. The study only considered four-year schools with at least 1,000 married alumni.

The study found that among Facebook users who were married college graduates and over the age of 25, about one in four (28 percent) had attended the same college. (There were several caveats, such as not including people who didn’t list their college in their Facebook profile, or being unable to say whether the romance bloomed before, during or after college).

Either way, the study left one thing clear: If you’re looking for a spouse, start on a Christian campus.

Edward Blews Jr., president of the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities, said he was not surprised that the majority of schools listed were Christian schools since the students at Christian colleges often have shared values.

“There’s also the view that young people are sent in part to Christian colleges by their parents and families to find a good Christian spouse,” Blews said. “Perhaps at the Christian college there may be a bit more pressure on students to find that good Christian spouse before they finish their four years and go out into a very different and diverse world.”

Schone said students at religious schools often come from similar backgrounds and have similar plans for the future, and perhaps marriage is more highly valued by Christians, resulting in higher rates among young people.

Blews also met his wife while the two studied at Seattle Pacific University in the 1970s.

“For me it was love, pretty much at first sight,” Blews said. “I was just fascinated by this beautiful young woman who was very smart and very outspoken and very articulate.

“We keenly understood the theological perspective that we shared, the culture in which we grew up. For us that really did lead us to become soul mates. And for us we have no question that God ordained that we should come together in a lifelong marriage.”

While many marry at Christian colleges, Blews said schools must be careful not to demean singleness. The single life, Blews said, is “also an important and valued spiritual expression to be respected and celebrated.”

Harmelink said his classmates often laughed about the marriage culture at Dordt, joking that women on the campus in Sioux Center, Iowa, were in search of their “MRS degree.”

Shortly before Harmelink arrived on campus, people at Dordt promoted the slogan “get engaged,” Harmelink said, meaning students should “get engaged with God.”

Students didn’t take it quite that way.

Macskassy and Adamic said that they would like to further study the age at which people marry.

“We think this may reflect the attitudes toward marriage for those who choose to attend religious institutions,” the researchers said in a statement. “One likely factor is that if one marries younger, one is more likely to marry someone they met in college, as opposed to someone they meet later on in life.”

The schools where both men and women have the best chance of finding a spouse are:

  1. Faith Baptist Bible College and Theological Seminary, Ankeny, Iowa
  2. Harding University, Searcy, Ark.
  3. Martin Luther College, New Ulm, Minn.
  4. Bob Jones University, Greenville, S.C.
  5. Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah
  6. Freed-Hardeman University, Henderson, Tenn.
  7. Maranatha Baptist Bible College, Watertown, Wis.
  8. Dordt College, Sioux Center, Iowa
  9. Baptist Bible College, Springfield, Mo.
  10. Oklahoma Christian University, Edmond, Okla.
  11. Kentucky Christian University, Grayson, Ky.
  12. Johnson University, Knoxville, Tenn.

17 Comments

  1. Noticed that at least 4 (maybe more that I don’t recognize) of the top 12 are from the relatively small Church of Christ denomination. I wonder which denominations encourage intradenominational marriage more than others. It seems that the Church of Christ probably does.

  2. The 12 schools…[a]re all Christian colleges?? Correction: They’re all staunchly PROTESTANT colleges.

    What if a young person from one of the genuine, ancient, and Apostolic Churches–say, Catholic or Orthodox–is seeking a college where s/he might find a spouse who’s not a nutty, teetotal, Rapture-obsessed Fundie?

    • Orthodox Protestant *is* Christian, Tony. We who hold that term happily hold to the Apostles’ Creed, the Nicene Creed, the Athanasian Creed/Quicunque Vult, and the Contantinopolitan-Chalcedonian Creed. By those symbols/definitions, we are both Catholic and Orthodox.

      And, not all Reformational churches (orthodox Lutheran, Reformed, and Anglican) are nutty, teetotal, or rapture obsessed. Most aren’t. Most are sober, appreciate the good gifts Christ has given us to be used to His glory, and think, oh, Hal Lindsay, Harold Camping, and the Scofield Reference Bible, to name a few of the far too many who *are* so obsessed, are wrongly dividing the Word of Truth. Sadly, friend, you slander many.

      Now, that said, only eleven of these twelve schools are Christian. I’d exclude Brigham Young U as a Protestant school or even a Christian one by any orthodox and catholic definition. It is Mormon. The LDS “Church” is anti-Trinitarian. They believe in a multiplicity of gods, of whom we worship three particular ones, according to their teachings. All the above creeds/symbols/definitions they would reject.

      • Quite right you are, Phil..my apologies. The “magisterial” Protestant groups of which you speak–Anglican, Lutheran, and high-church Reformed–are certainly not part of the hardcore-Fundie camp.

        It just struck me as peculiar that nearly all these schools lean more in the Fundie direction–stridently low-church, largely Dispensational pre-mill, strictly Credobaptist, and basically aligned with the broad morass of American Evangelicalism that looks at anything remotely resembling liturgy the way vampires look at sunlight.

        Also, agree with you totally re: BYU. Mormonism, by its rejection of the Trinity, has placed itself outside the realm of Christianity.

  1. […] Looking to get married? Try a Christian college (RNS) When Dordt College graduates Jordan Harmelink and Rachel Tennant said “I do” at their July wedding, they joined the masses of graduates who meet their spouse at private Christian colleges. Dordt College graduates Jordan and Rachel Harmelink … Read more on Religion News Service […]

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