One of the exciting findings from a 10-month impact research project conducted by Petra Institute, is the link between a relational approach to children and their growth towards maturity

Can you put “child” and “mature” in the same sentence? A 10-month impact evaluation study of Petra Institute’s courses, guided by Dialogues in Action and sponsored by Mergon Trust, suggests that children in relational programs grow towards maturity.

Considering mental, behavioural, and emotional changes in participants and the end-receivers of Petra Institute’s training, it became evident that children in relational programmes grow towards maturity in trusting relationships with themselves, others, the environment and God.

Since the establishment of Petra Institute in 1989, healthy relationships have been one of our cornerstones. To this day, programmes, courses and workshops at Petra reflect the importance of developing healthy relationships with and between adults and children.
Hence Petra’s objective to

Build communities where children are welcome

Recalling the testimony of our late brother and Petra Institute mentor, Jonathan Kofie, in August 2020, he believed that big-scale training is bringing real change in children’s ministry in Ghana, West Africa. He attributed this to the training Petra provides.

Kofie, who was a church leader in the Church of Pentecost (COP) in Ghana, said that:

"Teaching and ministering to children is not like following a book, but you can teach children through songs, stories, and games. And through that, you build relationships and teach them values. So the mentoring targets the heart, the head, and hands”.

The recent impact study led by Lize Pieterse, researcher and facilitator at Petra Institute, together with Riëtte Botha, Dirk Coetsee, Viola Fransman and Emily Dinhira from our team, affirms just how critical it is for children to grow in an environment where they can develop positive relationships, which ultimately impacts their maturity.

Lize points out that indicators of maturity take on different forms, including spiritual, social, and emotional. Consequently, healthy relations allow children to undergo transitions within these different forms.

“When some of the children are able to speak about what has happened to them, the children are no longer stuck. Some are now going to university, making better choices for their lives, and others have even become care-workers for the younger ones." They are even able to recognise unhealthy behaviours and get them addressed".

The children apply the skills and tools they pick up through the modelling and the teaching of the facilitators to grow, not just spiritually but emotionally and socially as well. They feel more resilient because of their relationship with God and others. We even see the children start taking leadership roles in school and even leading Bible studies at schools”. - Lize Pieterse

Research data revealed children could say what they feel, what they dream for their own future and are more confident that they “can become more”. Children are reaching out to other people, respecting themselves and each other, naturally adopting listening skills and giving others the opportunity to talk.

Fundamentally, children start modelling their lives on the example of Christ.

“The key to effective ministry with children is honest, respectful, loving relationships that transcend age. Within these trusting relationships, we will be welcoming children to feel at home and allow them to grow towards maturity,” emphasises Lize.

Maturity is a key concept in evaluating people’s growth, and it is not restricted to biological age. When adults and children agree to support each other on a journey towards maturity, real changes come in a community.

Considering the Evaluation Report, Petra Institute proposes that trusting relationships between adults and children should be explored further and optimised for the spiritual, emotional and social health of children to support them in growing towards maturity.

The full Evaluation Report, guided by Dialogues in Action and sponsored by Mergon Trust, will be published online later this year.

petra institute podcast


Listen to Petra Institute colleagues in conversation about the impact study:

Laetitia Bull (Manager: Communication)
Lize Pieterse (Training Facilitator & Researcher)
Dr Viola Fransman (Training Facilitator & Researcher)
Emily Dinhira (Training Facilitator & Consulting Services)
Riette Botha (Training Facilitator & Researcher)
Dirk Coetsee (Facilitator and Strategic Relations.


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