Pandemic Over But Changes Live On Through ‘60 Second Marriage Tips’
From wearing masks to standing six feet apart to incessantly using hand sanitizer, the pandemic impacted the world in various ways. While Kenneth L. Schaefer may not be using gloves when he goes shopping these days, there is one area of his life that COVID permanently changed for him: the opportunity to offer free marriage enrichment education.
Pre-pandemic, Schaefer and his wife Stephanie were marriage enrichment workshop facilitators. They taught an 18-hour program over nine weeks, using a published curriculum that required a specific workbooks fee for the attendees. But the cost of the course as well as needing a location to host the classes was quite limiting, according to Schaefer.
When the pandemic arrived and the ability to conduct in-person classes temporarily disappeared, the Newtown resident had an epiphany.
“The pandemic opened my eyes,” he told The Newtown Bee. Three years ago he adapted, and began offering free marriage education for anyone who wants it through an online video series called “60 Second Marriage Tips.”
There is a difference, he says, between marriage education and marriage counseling.
“Marriage counseling wants to know what the ideology of your problem is, where it started, where it came from,” he explained.
“In marriage education — what I do — we don’t care” about the cause of the problem. “We just want to fix it,” he said.
Further, while marriage counselors are licensed, marriage educators are not.
“We go through programs to become certified in what we teach, but we don’t have to have a license,” he said.
In recent years, Schaefer has returned to his graduate studies and theology, building upon a career he had before moving to Connecticut a few years ago.
“Instead of using a specific curriculum, I now pull from my professional experience of working eight years full-time in marriage enrichment education as well as my graduate studies at seminary, in addition to my own personal experience of 47 years of marriage,” Schaefer said. “Rather than teaching only a classroom of people, now anyone who has access to YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter can get my marriage program for free.”
Schaefer’s reels are called “60 Second Marriage Tips.” As the title suggests, ways to enhance a relationship are discussed in a minute or less.
The program is easy to remember, he said, because it is structured from top-to-bottom like the human body. Biblical support is found in many of his pointers.
Schaefer encourages people to use their eyes by looking for the needs of their spouse, and putting those needs before their own (based on Philippians 2:3-4). That point, he said in a video posted April 26, is his “most important marriage tip.”
While two verses referenced above are key, he added, Schaefer also encourages viewers to read the full chapter, which covers Christ giving up everything for others.
“That applies to us and all of our relationships, and it certainly applies to our relationships with our spouse,” he adds. For a husband, this tip means taking on a chore for their wife, or watching the children for a time, Schaefer said. For a wife, “it may mean give your husband some down time before you talk to him. It may mean you let him go out with the boys,” he suggests.
Biblical-based tips also include listening more than speaking, listening intently to what they are saying, imagining how they are feeling, and hearing what they say empathetically (James 1:19).
Sometimes, says Schaefer, things just don’t smell right. Based on John 14:26, that’s when he encourages people to “use your intuition, conscience, or the Holy Spirit to guide you in your words and behavior.”
Speak kindly and tenderly, remembering words can be harmful and cannot be taken back (James 3:5-6, 10). Show love to your spouse by being loving, respectful, tenderhearted, and compassionate (Ephesians 4:32, 5:33). Remember that touch and intimacy is “so very important,” he said, to keep a relationship strong.
“Don’t let things get in the way of your special time together,” he said, offering guidance from 1 Corinthians 7:3-5.
Schaefer’s interest in counseling, which focused later on marriage enrichment, started with his high school psychology class. He later earned a BA in psychology at University of Redlands, became a business manager/owner for 40 years, offered lay/peer counselor training, served as a lay counselor, and attended Talbot School of Theology at Biola University.
He did not finish his master’s degree due to being hired by Healthy Relationships California in 2009, when he began working as a quality assurance specialist. He was then promoted to quality assurance manager, grant compliance manager, central processing manager, and human resources coordinator, holding those positions concurrently.
Schaefer was introduced to marriage education, served as a pastoral counselor intern, and formed the nonprofit marriage ministry Married 4 Keeps in September 2006. He received four federal grants/subawards that went to the California Healthy Marriage Coalition (since renamed Healthy Relationships California) for marriage enrichment.
Schaefer also received a $50,000 grant, in 2007, from the Department of Health & Human Services, which was also used toward the presentation of the marriage education classes.
With Married 4 Keeps, he began training pastors, their wives, and a psychologist in Foccus Marriage Ministries. He also prepared couples for their marriage.
Schaefer feels very confident when offering marriage education. He and Stephanie will celebrate their 48th wedding anniversary in January.
‘Insightful And Informative’
Based on anonymous evaluation forms shared with this newspaper, the workshops were very well received. Of 21 responses following the presentation of “Marriage Oneness” in July-August 2017 at Black Rock Congregational Church in Fairfield, every person said their marriage was the same or improved following the workshop.
One, in fact, said that on a scale of one to ten, their relationship went from a three at the onset of the workshop to a ten.
When offered again the following summer, one student said the series “honed in on certain truths and brought to us an awareness of our roles and responsibilities and helped us to communicate better.”
Another student said “Marriage Oneness” was “very insightful and informative,” while someone else said the work by the Schaefers “brought us closer together and [has] given [us] new tools for our marriage.”
Feedback for “Couple Talk 1,” offered by the Schaefers in February-March 2019, was equally affirming. One student said the course “made us realize what we were doing that was working and what wasn’t and how to make it better.”
In a follow-up question asking whether attendees would want to continue with the Schaefers and take “Part 2 Cracking the Code to Handling Conflict,” one student said they did because they want to continue growing closer to their spouse.
“This is a good program to do that,” they wrote.
Schaefer also worked full-time to evaluate marriage education classes. While many of the classes were conducted in churches, they were secular in nature, he said.
“We couldn’t mention the Bible,” he said. “We couldn’t mix the two. When I was working for Health Relationships California it was part of my job to go to the classes, and make sure they abide by the rules — no mention of the Bible, or Christianity.”
He and Stephanie moved to Connecticut about seven years ago, and the educational offerings continued. She has since retired from being an educator, he said.
Schaefer taught the 18-hour marriage workshops until he transitioned again due to COVID. In addition to the offerings in Bridgeport, he led “The Not-So-Newlywed Game,” which also focused on strengthening marriages, at Christ the Redeemer Church in Southbury.
He had additional events planned, “many things that were planned and promoted,” he said, “and all that stuff got canceled with the pandemic, when we stopped so many things.”
That was when his ongoing “60 Second Marriage Tips” series was launched.
With the new setting and no restrictions on presentation, Schaefer has been able to pull on his theological training to supplement much of what he offered in the classrooms he has done for decades.
Just last week, Schaefer posted his latest video, offering a brief introduction to his background, on YouTube. That video can be found at bit.ly/60SecondMarriageTips.
The current project continues the educational series Schaefer was doing until early 2020. He is not, he clarified during a recent visit, making any money through the videos.
In fact, the marriage tips aren’t the only things visitors will find when they visit his Facebook and YouTube pages. A video from a recent cruise along the Hudson River was shared on his Facebook page, tucked amid a recent “60 Second Marriage Tips” video and a photo of his daughter surprising him ahead of his birthday.
“There’s lots of things in life that are very interesting,” he explained.
“60 Second Marriage Tips” are his focus, however.
“These videos are my passion project,” he said. “No pun intended.”
Ken Schaefer’s videos offering tips to relationships in a positive way are available on YouTube (search for @60SecondDevotions and select Marriage Tips Playlist).
On Facebook, search for Ken.L.Schaefer to find his public posts, including the 60 Second Reels focused on marriage.
Managing Editor Shannon Hicks can be reached at email@example.com.