An assessment of premarital counseling practices of pastors of the Wesleyan Church
This study investigated the premarital counseling practices of pastors of the Wesleyan Church in the United States. Its purpose was to ascertain the practices of pastors regarding the provision of premarital counseling services to members of the church they serve and to draw implications from the findings regarding the need to modify and/or develop premarital counseling services within the Wesleyan Church. Two instruments were constructed by the writer, the Wesleyan Church Pastor's Descriptive Data Profile (WCPDDP) rand the Pastoral Pre-Marital Counseling Inventory (PPMCI), to elicit data used to address three research questions. They focused on the extent to which premarital counseling programs of study respondents paralleled typical premarital counseling programs outside the Wesleyan Church in terms of content, practices, and policy. Study respondents were 538 ordained pastors randomly selected from names provided by the Wesleyan Church International Center in Indianapolis, Indiana. Of this number, 386 (79.8%) returned by mail usable sets of study materials. Respondents had a church assignment in September 1990. They were essentially male (98.2%), married (98.2%), over age 35 (79.2%), and provided premarital counseling to at least four couples each year for the past ten years. Study findings indicated that 15 of 21 topics, considered as part of a typical premarital counseling program, were included by more than one-half of the pastors in the study sample. Just six of these topics were included by more than 80% of the respondents in marriage preparation programs. Only 40 respondents (10.6%) agreed that the ordination requirements in the Wesleyan Church provide adequate training for effective premarital counseling. Study findings support the conclusion that the emphasis and priorities given to both the content and practices of premarital counseling vary substantially among Wesleyan pastors. The implication is that the Church should provide more structure with regard to the topics included in marriage preparation as well as the practices of premarital counseling. The finding that most pastors believe their training has not adequately prepared them for premarital counseling seems to support the conclusion that the Church must take steps to modify college programs in pastoral preparation for the ministry to include more attention to premarital counseling.