Whole Children for the Whole World: A Transformational Narrative Model to Move American Families to Serve and Grow

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This dissertation describes a “transformational narrative model” (TNM) for American families to serve and grow.1 Serving catalyzes discipleship for those in a strategic faith window, age birth to 17, when 85 percent of decisions for Christ occur. Serving children, specifically, may break cycles of poverty, as comprehensive care during a child’s early years promotes flourishing.

American parents of faith sway children’s wholeness; they are primary faith influencers for their own children and the most generous givers of time and money to others’ children. But, these families are also busy, fragmented, and increasingly walking away from church. What narratives may move American families to serve children in poverty while they also grow spiritually?

The TNM’s building blocks were quarried from literature in the fields of theology, missiology, American demographic and psychographic studies, relief and development, service-learning, and narrative-based behavioral change. Leaders of 15 church-and-parachurch organizations lent their decades of applied experience to refine the TNM.

To test the model, I developed a TNM-based curriculum (Compassion International’s Step Into My ShoesTM; SIMS) that has reached more than 30,000 families. Pretest research, including computer-aided pre-and-post surveys, suggested refinements to the TNM. More than 200 survey respondents reported they served and grew by doing SIMS.

The final study aimed to understand why and how the TNM may have advanced serving and growing. All twenty-one parents and pastors interviewed reported that SIMS influenced them to serve and grow. When talking about this experience, they mentioned growing more than when they talked about other resources that inspired them or even about times they actually served. SIMS gave pastors language to inspire families to serve in intergenerational faith communities and opportunity to provide a next-step way to serve.

I conclude by identifying this research’s contribution and limitations. Its applications include the RestoreyTM serving and growing accelerator and the Restorey Principles for Serving and Growing (Appendix H). I aim at wholeness for God’s children by equipping leaders to contextualize serving that spurs growth for families in their care.

Mentor: Elizabeth L. Glanville, Ph.D.


1Serve and grow. By “serving,” I include giving of time, talent and treasure. By “growing,” I refer to new or increased spiritual disciplines.

Degree Name

Doctor of Intercultural Studies

First Advisor

Glanville, Elizabeth L.

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Compassion International; Parent and child; Church work with children; Church work with the poor; Discipling (Christianity)


Missions and World Christianity


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