The preparation of pastors in premarital counseling
Historically, clergy have been the primary providers of premarital counseling (PMC). Over the past 50 years, limited research has been focused on the preparation needs of pastors in PMC. When asked, they claimed to feel inadequate as PMC providers. They cited inadequate seminary education as the reason (Babb, 1992; Buikema, 1999; Ipes, 1982; Loskot, 1993; Stahmann & Hiebert, 1997).;The purpose of this qualitative research study was to examine the "lived experience" of pastors and their PMC ring needs by seeking their direct input. Twelve interviews were conducted. The researcher developed a 10-question protocol based on his previous research on PMC (Buikema, 1999) and the review of related literature. Using a qualitative research paradigm, an attempt was made to garner rich thick descriptions of the perceived training concerns of clergy in PMC.;Six domains emerged from the verbal data: (1) the inadequacy of PMC training; (2) the responsibility of PMC; (3) the components of PMC training; (4) the role of professionals in PMC training; (5) the prospects of continuing education in PMC; and (6) the current practices of PMC ministries.;Several key findings emerged in the process of evaluating the respondents' responses. Firstly, the clergy were inadequately prepared to deliver PMC services. Secondly, 11 of 12 participants felt that the seminaries were principally responsible for PMC preparation of pastors. They also indicated that churches, denominational agencies, and pastors have a vital role in the PMC training process. Thirdly, the respondents identified three training components in PMC: basic premarital content, relational skills, and exposure to assessment dents. Fourthly, all 12 participants affirmed the use of professionals during their seminary training. Fifthly, the respondents expressed a desire to engaged in post-seminary PMC education. A related finding was the pastor's responsibility to pursue continuing educational opportunities in PMC and other related ministry areas. The last finding was that there was no set pattern in the PMC practices of the pastors outside of the basic PMC content.;More research is needed on these six domains. A concerted effort is required by all concerned parties to collaborate on designing effective and measurable PMC training for clergy.