Templeton Implementation Science Project

Marital and family instability is a growing public health issue, but accessible relationship assistance is lacking in most communities. Most religious organizations recognize marriages as a central force for transmitting values to children (Root, 2010). Typically, couples go to clergy for help, yet the majority of clergy are not trained in delivering effective, science-based relationship interventions nor do they see the utility of science in advancing spiritual development. Developing a strong connection between research/academia and the clergy/church is a key interest for the Templeton Foundation.

Healthy Connections Knoxville (HCK) is an innovative collaboration between the University of Tennessee (UT), local churches, and community agencies to train clergy, volunteers, and practitioners to provide empirically-supported relationship education in their churches and in the wider community through agency partnerships. This collaboration is ideally suited to forge this partnership between science and religion. Furthermore, by using relationship science on interpersonally relevant character virtues to create loving families, we can also address the question of “what does it mean to live a life of love and virtue?”

HCK currently has a network of around 25 church and community partners, but it must be scaled up in order to have a larger community impact and transform the community culture around marriage and increase family stability at all income and education levels.

Thus, our goals are to (a) help HCK be strategically placed to grow to include 100 church partners, (b) develop sustainable collaborations between UT, churches, and agencies that will facilitate an exchange of information between science and religion, and (c) quantitatively and qualitatively assess the program’s impact on key community outcomes relevant to this partnership. Lessons learned from this project will also 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 positively impact community couples and teach other communities how to develop similar programs.

Click Here for the Health Connections Knoxville Vision Statement