NBA Mental Health Initiative Supports Clergy Care

NBA Mental Health Initiative vision areas
NBA Mental Health Initiative vision areas

The NBA Mental Health Initiative has five core vision areas of its work, with clergy care at the heart of what we do. We know we cannot truly develop the other four areas without healthy, supported clergy throughout the life of the church.

The “Care for the Journey” retreat, held in January with 21 clergy and their families who were impacted by Hurricane Harvey, is one example of how this work comes to life. Co-sponsored by Week of Compassion, National Benevolent Association, and the Pension Fund, this spiritual wellness retreat offered skills for self-care, time to process experiences together, and the opportunity to renew for the extended recovery.

“Surviving 4-5 days of nonstop rains, waiting for floodwaters to breach your doors was stressful and left everyone in the Houston area anxious. The recovery efforts were driven by adrenaline and an immediate sense of relief, but after a few weeks, it faded. I felt as if everyone, including myself, was wound tight and overly anxious. We were collectively traumatized, which made it difficult to lean on one another.” –Aaron Nelson, Cypress Creek Christian Church, Spring, TX

Facilitated by Angela Whitenhill, NBA Mental Health Initiative Manager, and Rev. Héctor J. Hernández, NBA Mental Health Initiative Hispanic Outreach Coordinator, the retreat began with psychoeducation regarding the impact of a natural disaster on the mental and emotional health of its survivors. With specific attention to floods and hurricanes, this session helped participants understand the unique symptoms that come after such an event, and helped normalize the various emotions and stressors that participants felt during and after the storm.

The self-care portion of the retreat offered additional psychoeducation, practical insight, and theological tools to help participants explore and practice restorative wellness techniques as they navigate the road to recovery ahead.

“We did not get any flood damage to the church, but four of our families were devastated. Two families were almost finished with repairs. One family was living upstairs since downstairs was flooded. And the other family, their home was totally destroyed and they don’t know what to do. All of this affected everyone. So, the retreat came at a perfect time. I realized I was living my life for everybody else. This retreat helped me discover that there was this little piece of myself left, and it is okay for me to say, ‘Mine.’  Realizing I don’t have to be everything for everybody is wonderful.”
–Rev. June Stoker, Senior Pastor, First Christian Church, Alvin, TX

To make this kind of resourcing more accessible, we were grateful to partner with the Arizona Region, which provided translation equipment and services throughout the retreat. Programming also included intentional family and self-care activities; free time for hiking, rest, conversations, and off-site outings; and community worship. As retreat participants noted, the Arizona desert was a special setting for spiritual wellbeing.

“The Franciscan Renewal Center was stunningly sacred and filled with the healing beauty of God’s creation. The retreat leaders brought thoughtful teaching on self-care that encouraged us to make some needed changes. It is a healing memory that will stay with me and many other pastors and their families for many seasons of ministry to come.”
–Rev. Brenda G. Warren, Northwood Christian Church, Beaumont, TX

“I didn’t realize how tired I was before I got to Phoenix. But I rediscovered a joy in my preaching I had lost before the retreat.”
–Rev. Danielle Cox, Senior Minister, First Christian Church, Texas City, TX

“I left refreshed, reinvigorated, and better educated. The workshops helped me go deeper into self-reflection than I ever have before. Self-care has a new meaning for me, and I realize the amount of intentionality involved. The facilitators masterfully used art, conversation, and physical activity to draw us out of our shells. And the backdrop of the Arizona scenery provided the perfect contrast to our stormy memories, in awe of God’s creation.”
–Aaron Nelson, Cypress Creek Christian Church, Spring, TX

As clergy and families of Southeast Texas have experienced, awareness of their own limitations, needs, and capacities to respond to the call of unexpected crisis is key to successfully being present with others. Implementing regular practices that encourage resiliency, bring life to one’s soul, and deepen connection with God are critical to the work of our pastors, community leaders, and caregivers.

Your gifts to Disciples Mission Fund during the Easter Offering support collaborative, life-changing ministries like the NBA Mental Health Initiative. Thank you!

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As the health and social services general ministry of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), the National Benevolent Association partners with congregations, regions, general ministries, and a variety of Disciples-related health and social service providers to create communities of compassion and care. Founded in 1887 by six women responding to the needs of the day and on their doorsteps, for more than 130 years the NBA has continued to serve “the least of these.” Learn more at