Marital and family instability is a growing public health issue, but accessible relationship assistance is lacking in most communities. Typically, couples go to clergy for help, yet the majority of clergy are not trained in delivering effective, science-based relationship interventions.The Knoxville Marriage Initiative (KMI) is an innovative collaboration between the University of Tennessee (UT), churches, and community agencies to train churches to provide empirically-supported relationship education to the community through agency partnerships. Developing a strong connection between the research community and the church is a key interest for the Templeton Foundation. Furthermore, by using relationship science on interpersonally relevant virtues to create loving families, our project also addresses the question “what does it mean to live a life of love and virtue?” KMI has successfully piloted this program but it must be scaled up to have a larger community impact. This proposal will help grow our program by using strategies from the field of implementation science. Our goals are to (a) help KMI grow to include 100 church partners, (b) develop sustainable collaborations between UT, churches, and agencies that facilitate an exchange of information between science and religion, and (c) assess the program’s effectiveness. To achieve these goals, we will bring in experts in implementation science to deliver three workshops on this topic across three years. We will also include experts on church-university partnerships in these workshops. We will conduct an evaluation project after each of the workshops to assess the success of our implementation strategies. Lessons learned from these projects will help other researchers better understand how to develop these kinds of university-church partnerships. We also expect that by creating a sustainable and scalable partnership that we can impact community couples and teach other communities how to develop similar programs.
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