June 1994 // Volume 32 // Number 1 // Ideas at Work // 1IAW1
Clergy and Extension Networking for Newly Married Couples
Newly married couples are often a difficult audience for Extension educators to reach. Since clergy members routinely conduct counseling sessions with couples before their marriages, clergy could be an important contact in reaching this audience. To find out whether clergy would use Extension as a resource, a mail survey was conducted. Results indicated clergy were receptive to referring couples to Extension and even offering Extension education classes through their churches. As a follow-up to the survey, Extension conducted a one day "clergy refresher" to help acquaint clergy with educational services offered. This work was an important first step in building a relationship between Extension and clergy to expand programming for newly married couples.
In 1992, the Extension Home Economics Advisory Committee in Geauga County recommended Extension increase programming with newly married couples. However, newly married couples are often a difficult audience for Extension educators to reach. Since clergy members routinely conduct required counseling sessions with couples before their marriages, our Extension faculty believed clergy could be an important contact for us in reaching and teaching this audience. But we needed to know whether clergy would use Extension as a resource and if they would refer couples to our programs.
A mail survey was conducted to assess clergy's receptiveness to working with Extension and identifying where we could work with their educational programs. A listing of the churches in Geauga County was developed using the telephone and United Way information directories. The mail survey was reviewed for content validity by the Extension Home Economics Advisory Committee, Extension family life specialists, and field tested by two ministers in bordering counties.
To ensure an acceptable response, the surveys were mailed three times (Dillman, 1978). Sixty-three surveys were mailed and forty-three were returned (68% return rate).
Clergy were asked to rate their agreement or disagreement with statements about their own counseling programs and additional community-based education. They rated statements from 4 (strongly agree) to 1 (strongly disagree). Clergy felt couples could benefit from additional family living education (3.62). They also said they would refer a couple to a community education program (3.24). When asked specifically about how Extension could expand on their efforts, 64% of the clergy said Extension should offer classes for newly married couples on family communication. They preferred group meetings held at church.
To further identify subject matter Extension could teach, clergy were asked about the topics they covered in their premarital education program. Clergy always covered spiritual and religious values and individual couple goals. Money management was covered, but not to the extent of other topics. Homemaking skills and community resources were rarely covered (see table below).
|Rank Order of Select Topics in Premarriage Counseling|
|Spiritual & Religious Values||2.97|
|Individual/Couple Values & Goals||2.94|
|Adjustment to Married Life||2.89|
|Community Resources||1.71||*3 = Always Covered; 2 = Sometimes Covered; 1 = Never Covered|
To build on what was learned from the survey, we conducted an all day "clergy refresher." Six clergy members enthusiastically participated in this get acquainted meeting to learn about Extension programming for newly formed families. Agents discussed Extension's "niche" in the educational process emphasizing publications, classes, videos, letter study and one-on-one consultation on topics relating to homemaking, money management, and family communication skills. Clergy carried an Extension resource packet and listing of available programs back to their churches.
This work was an important first step in building a relationship between clergy and Extension. Future efforts are planned to include:
- Clergy "sponsoring" Extension programs at their church. Programs
would be open to the public and be publicized for the entire community.
- Extension teaching programs to organized young adult groups at
- Clergy routinely receiving publication lists and newsletters so they can refer couples to Extension activities.
Dillman, A. D. (1978). Mail and telephone surveys: The total design method. New York: John Wiley and Sons.