According to the Military Family Advisory Network, the average military family moves every 2.5 years. A military child of an active-duty service-member will change schools 6 to 9 times between Kindergarten and graduation. If a family is committed to attending church, these same children will also change faith communities 6 to 9 times.
With each permanent change of station (read: military move), comes the task of church shopping. Because of the nature of military service—in-processing and often immediate turn-around to training exercises, tours, rotations and deployments—that task is often waylaid. If a family makes it past the church shopping phase, they must persevere in adjusting to different curriculums and personalities, building trust with new leaders and teachers, finding a meaningful connection within the community, before finally settling into the safety required to express curiosity, ask questions, and learn to serve.
The mission of Armed Services Ministry’s Hero Squad program is simple: to come alongside families within the disruptive-nature of the military lifestyle to provide meaningful tools for family discipleship.
From the exterior, the program appears to focus on children, but the scope is much grander! Parents and guardians are immersed in a support network that teaches them how to disciple their children, increasing their personal spiritual readiness to provide continuity in spiritual training for their children.
A Hero Squad family is first welcomed to the program with a curated box containing age-appropriate Bibles, devotionals and gifts for the whole family. Throughout the seasons, families will continue to receive mailed devotionals and printed Bible activities for the family. Parents and care-givers are also immediately immersed in an online social support community providing weekly devotionals with meaningful conversation starters, discipleship ideas, an opportunity to engage with other Squad Members, and access to digital downloads, including children’s devotionals and activities for on-the-go families. Hero Squad also offers parenting & discipleship plans without enrollment at YouVersion!
But does it work? Is there data to speak to the efficacy of the Hero Squad program? Yes!
The Baylor Institute for the Study of Religion completed a 2-year longitudinal study of the Hero Squad program in January 2023. The goal was to examine program effectiveness and identify behavioral outcomes using an independent, third-party study. Baylor surveyed program participants before and after program usage, measuring 30 key aspects of well-being.
Bottom-Line Up Front: Improvements were found in all 30 behaviors studied! Those behaviors included things like: prayer and Bible-reading frequency, feelings of happiness and pride, reduction in feelings of sadness, anger and anxiety; exhibiting empathy, participation in family activities, a sense of connection to God, curiosity to know God better, exhibition of love toward others, changes in media viewing habits, work/school decision making, and many more.
Families who had previously read the Bible only “several times a year” or “about once a month” were found to have increased Bible engagement by 30.0%.
When asked how often individuals draw on faith to cope with military-related stressors, a response of “very often” increased by 53.1% from before to after.
Children who “never” or “rarely” asked God for forgiveness decreased by 21.2%.
Charlie Mike—Continue Mission
Hero Squad families learn new behaviors and develop new rhythms that engage them with Scripture—drawing them closer to God. Scripture transforms lives and disrupts complacency, breaking patterns learned and passed down—through generations or across duty stations.
“… You were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ…” 1 Peter 1:18-19
Due to the great interest and Chaplain and family endorsement of Hero Squad, families are currently being waitlisted. However, annual open-enrollment occurs in the fall of each year in the order of receipt of registrations. It is important to sign-up early to ensure a spot in the next yearly enrollment window.