Quantitative Analysis Project:
Social support is critical to the well-being of children and adolescents (Hughes, 2011).
Positive relationships with others promote health, self-esteem, and prosocial behavior (Cohen,
Gottlieb, & Underwood, 2000). Additionally, socially supportive relationships can buffer the
harmful effects of stressful life events, such as an illness, conflict, or parental divorce. The home
and school contexts are the two primary sources of support for most children (Harter, 2012).
Unfortunately, many children do not receive the support they need from these sources
(Zelkowitz, 1987). Given the importance of social support, researchers are currently exploring
other potential sources of support in the broader community. The purpose of this study is to
explore the church as one such potential source of positive relationships, love, and affirmation for
children by studying the effects of a relationship-based children’s ministry model.
Every Generation Ministries (EGM) is an international non-profit organization that trains
and resources church children’s workers on six different continents. The churches in many of the
countries where EGM works lack a cohesive model for children’s ministry and tend to follow
cultural norms when ministering to children. For example, churches in Eastern Europe, which are
part of the former Soviet Bloc, are more likely to provide lecture-based instruction focused on
memorization with little opportunity for interaction or relationship-building. EGM develops
national ministry teams which provide leadership development programs and Bible teaching
resources for children’s workers in local churches.
The ministry model is focused on spiritually transforming children through innovative
instructional experiences, positive relationships with adults and peers, small group discussion,
and application opportunities. These pedagogical features are theorized to promote social support
transmission. Prior literature in the school context has found that positive student relationships
with adults and peers can be promoted through smaller learning communities (McNeely et al.,
2002) and the explicit teaching of prosocial behavior (Osterman, 2000), both of which are
meaningful components of the EGM model. Furthermore, child-centered teaching, comparable to
the child-focused elements of the EGM ministry model, has been associated with a greater
sense of classroom community in public schools (Solomon et al., 1996).