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27 March 2014

Church Army launches Xplore

Church Army launches Xplore

Church Army has launched its Xplore 'year in' for young adults aged 18 to 25.

A low cost alternative to the traditional gap year, the Xplore 'year in' seeks to shape itself around participants' circumstances by allowing them to remain at home while receiving online training and support.

Xplore programme leader Neville Barnes says: "We kept finding people who didn't have the finance to take part in a year out programme, or else they were committed to local churches or local mission activity and felt they couldn't leave. Xplore is aiming to be a resource for these people and so the 'year in' concept came into being.

"Last summer Archbishop Justin identified evangelism as one of his priorities, which would suggest that we may not have enough gap years equipping and releasing young evangelists in England. Xplore 'year in' opens up an opportunity for those who aren't able to do a gap year or who have a calling to evangelism in their local context."

Xplore participant Debs Houghton from Nottingham says: "Thanks to the Xplore 'year in' I've learnt how important prayer is to mission and reaching people in my community. Each week we have online Xplore groups where we receive teaching and can share stories, ideas and learn from each other's experiences. It's a great encouragement to talk to the other Xplorers who are excited about mission and who you know are praying for you and challenging you to act on what you're learning."

Participants can tailor the year to their context and availability. Apart from the teaching and sharing there are two residential training weekends in Sheffield and an alternative training track which includes retreats, spending time with Church Army evangelists to get hands on experiences and a trip to Romania.

"We partner with a charity working among the Roma people of Romania," explains Neville. "Participants spend a week working alongside young people tackling issues that face the many Roma trapped by poverty. We give those on Xplore the opportunity to bring with them friends who aren't Christians because often the impact of seeing God working through a young Christian community changes their perspective on faith issues."

Peter Coombs from Oxfordshire took part in a trip to Romania " I was part of the building team helping some of Europe's poorest communities. The Xplore teaching sessions have also been helpful and one of the biggest things I've learnt is the need and importance to be in a right relationship with God before taking part in evangelism to others."

"The existence of this programme doesn't take away from the value of gap year programmes," adds Neville. "I don't think online will ever be a replacement for face to face community, yet in spite of that, those doing Xplore become incredibly close to the others spread across the country. You just need to listen to how they pray for each other and see the affection they have for each other to know that something transforming is happening in the online communities."

"We've discovered the impact on young adults taking part in our evangelism experience weekends, or taking friends who aren't Christians to Romania for a week, actually goes a long way towards providing the experience you expect from a traditional gap year programme."