Resilience in the lives of military children: The effect of chapel relationships

Courtesy photo

By Dr. Becky Powell
Religious Education Program Director
USAG Stuttgart

Relationships are significant in the resilience of all children. However, relocations and deployments interrupt the significant relationships of military children. Relationships within chapels can supplement and support military children in resilience and development.

Chapels can play a role in a child’s resilience during normal times as well as traumatic.  Relationships are significant in the development and resilience of children and adolescents.  The interruptions of permanent change of station and deployment can be mitigated by the religious practice and chapel relationships. PCSes “have the potential to create an overwhelming emotional reaction in an individual to the point that they are unable to function during or following the incident, or are unable to cope psychologically with an event” (Hauser, 2014).

Everyone child, adolescent or adult needs support – whether or not they are military. In talking about resilience and crisis issues, one UK chaplain says “… not just the Soldiers who are dealing with this.  Their children are dealing with this” (Hancock, 2011).

A person feels alone upon arriving to a new duty station.  They may feel like the formless and void which begins Genesis creation narrative.  They are not sure where to find friends or resources.  As they transition, they begin to notice new people and support, and chapels are uniquely visible.

There have been military chaplains as long as there have been militaries.  Chaplains support for people of all faith groups.  Army chaplains have a threefold mission: “To nurture the living, care for the wounded, and honor the dead.” (AR 165-1, Army Chaplains Corps Activities). Chaplains have a massive task to provide these basic services to military personnel and their families. Therefore, resilience and religious support are tasks of all members of military communities and especially the chapel volunteers. It takes continued chapel planning to support military children, but these efforts improve resilience for the whole community.

Military families describe chapels and chaplains as important parts of celebrating and surviving military life.  Adults who were raised as military children have a continued sense of connection to their upbringing through a chapel’s community. Parents today describe and appreciate the relationships and resilience that chapels provide.  “These programs are extremely valuable to help our children understand that God is in charge even if they cannot control their lives that are constantly in turmoil due to PCS moves and parent deployments” (Tolson, 2011)

Resilience can be supported through significant, trustworthy relationships. Chapels provide education and worship which enhance intergenerational relationships.  As chaplains build relationships with volunteers and participants, they fulfill regulations and build the community’s resilience.

More at the USAG Stuttgart Religious Support Office
USAG Stuttgart chapels offer weekly worship for many traditions. The chapels also provide religious education programming weekly for Jewish, Protestant and Catholic personnel. The Religious Education Program director has digital and video based resources for all religious traditions. This summer, the chapels are providing two Vacation Bible Schools, June 24-29 at Patch Chapel and Aug. 11-14 at Robinson Barracks Chapel. For more information, call 431-3071 or 07031-15-3071.

Hancock, S. (2011), Man of God: Day in the Life of an Army Chaplain,
Powell, R. (2007), A Friend Who Teaches Me, a PhD dissertation submitted to the University of Bristol, England.
Tolson, G. (2011), “Bicentennial Chapel Grows Faith through Youth Outreach,”