STORIES, XPLOR

Field Report: On the Road with NBA XPLOR

Rev. Rebecca Hale   |   September 13, 2013

Crossing the country talking to Disciple congregations in the final decision making stage about being NBA Xplor host sites is a rich and heartening way to spend time.  NBA XPLOR is a congregationally-based initiative of the National Benevolent Association and is a 10-month intentional community residency for 21-to 30-year-olds who want to explore lives of care and service. Here is a taste of the depth and faithfulness of these conversations . . . 

Hiram, Ohio – Four Disciples congregations who have begun to imagine themselves as four locations-one church and a Disciple-related college wonder if NBA XPLOR can be another way of embodying their growing ministry partnership. As part of their decision making process, these congregations are in deep dialogue. If they were a hosting  site, are there local, community agencies that young people could accompany in service and social justice work?  Would these work sites be willing partners with the congregations and young adults during their time of residency? The leaders sitting around the church parlor talking about this clearly care deeply. From their questions, I hear their hopes of wanting young people to have transformative experiences through this justice work and being in community together. In their thinking out loud, I sense their commitment to collaborative partnership with social service agencies that will serve as work sites.  One of the pastors, a veteran of such a residential young adult program, knows firsthand that the quality of the work the young adults will be doing is of primary importance to all the partners and to this being a faithful, effective venture.  As I describe to the leaders gathered that another aspect of the congregation’s role is to be hospitable and friendly to the young adult residents, smiles light up the room because they know their congregations do “welcome” really well. In fact, during the meeting we can smell the good aromas of a potluck waiting to happen – the kind of potluck the residents will get to enjoy every week!

Los Angeles, California – First Christian Church in North Hollywood and the Pacific Southwest Region  have historic commitments to nurturing leadership in young adults and to active justice work. These two passions make them great partners for NBA XPLOR! At the start of our planning conversations, Rev. Bob Bock reminded the congregation, “we started on the process of being truly missional more than 50 years ago. We continue to build our attitudes, practices and programs around being a missional church. And, as time goes by, we will continue to become more missional as a church family and as individuals within that family.” Hollywood Beverly Christian Church is making mission funds available to secure housing for the young adults so that NBA XPLOR will be possible in this location. As a community of faith, they are claiming their passion for this ministry.  At a recent board meeting, they discuss, “how can we give this ministry the attention and focus without neglecting our historic ministries of outreach and care? Do we have the leadership that will accompany these young adults in ways that will be formative for them as they begin to understand what it means to live with a heart for care for God’s world?” In this faithful dialogue, I hear their desire to be thoughtful and intentional about saying “yes” to this new ministry.

St. Louis, Missouri – Union Avenue Christian Church has more social workers per capita then any church I have seen! Having a heart for care and knowledge of the community and its gifts and challenges is the air the leaders of this church breathe. With so much talented leadership and with the excellent pastoral vision of 

Rev. Dr. Suzanne Webb, this congregation understands one of its core commitments in ministry is to use every square inch of their building for mission and outreach.  This is a congregation that seems always to be asking, “What’s next? What else are we called to do as God’s church in this location?” Given this heart for ministry and because the church building includes an apartment ideal for housing young adults,  the decision to host NBA XPLOR has been a “yes” from the beginning.  The church board voted and affirmed their commitment to host and an NBA XPLOR site.  Last week, I met with the congregational team who will lead the project.  Ahead of schedule and with much excitement, Union Avenue is, true to form, ready to go!  Their questions are about partnership in ministry. “How can they collaborate with NBA and contribute their church’s unique gifts and skillsets so that this is a ministry that fully accompanies and supports the neighborhoods they know, love and live within?” Already, I know this will be a lively and meaningful ministry partnership!

Three communities of faith, unique discernments, diverse varieties of gifts and callings – I am moved by the depth of the questions about how to be thoughtful, faithful, intentional, and just as each community considers hosting NBA XPLOR. Good work church!

To learn more about NBA XPLOR, please contact Rev. Rebecca Hale, Vice President for Mission and Ministry, at rhale@nbacares.org or (314) 993-9000 ext. 9038.

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