What do pioneers do?
Pioneering is about firsts. Being the first to lead ministry into new places for and with others. Pioneers must be able to see a new future, and have the skills and gifts needed to make it a reality now.
Pioneers connect with people outside of Church, creating new ways of doing Church together in their community.
Pioneers are leaders of innovation, with a gift for seeing what God is doing and responding creatively to it.
Fresh Start Pioneers
Classic pioneering types who start new things, love firsts, and enjoy the blank canvas.
Released from the expectations of classic parish roles, they are able to minister in places where the Church is not present.
Parish Based Pioneers
Pioneers who work from a parish base but from there develop new ways of doing things, expanding the growth and reach of the local Church.
Pioneering is the main focus of their ministry and most of their time is spent with people outside the Church.
I was baptised aged sixteen. Not having a church background, I found it difficult to understand the different traditions.
For a long time God has been speaking to me about the need to engage with people outside of church settings. Not just to tell them the Good News about Jesus, but also to walk alongside them. For the practical support to be more than an add on. Part of loving someone fully is to stand with them in their joy and in their mess.
Some friends of ours had similar feelings of wanting to do church differently. Church where people were. Specifically with a heart for the poor and the broken. As we started to meet together, there was a sense of wondering what it would look like to build church where people are at, rather than expecting them to fit into a model we have created.
Together we set out to pioneer a new way of making disciples within community, which became known as Barnwell Oaks. Located in one of the poorest areas in Cambridge, it was an entirely lay led community. None of us were ordained.
In the early days we didn’t really know what we were doing. There was a lot of praying and walking around and asking God what he was up to, and then gradually structures and rhythms began to form. Rhythms of meeting local families for Sunday lunch, which then became a kind of church space, and bigger gatherings of families together, which looked more like a congregation, and then in amongst that, mentoring and hanging out with individual young people and youth groups.
We did a lot of trying and experimenting. It didn’t always work out well, but we were always moving forward. It was really hard, but I wouldn’t have wanted to do anything else. We have since moved on to pioneer new ways of making disciples in Liverpool. It’s tough going back to square one but we are confident for what the future holds!
Nic Findlay, Pioneer Minister
Pioneers should be able to respond to opportunities for mission around them, with a track record of having set up a form of Christian ministry in a new context.
Pioneers are characterised by a courageous faith and a willingness to take risks.
Pioneers must be able to communicate Christian faith effectively to people outside the Church, helping them grow in faith and become missional disciples.
Pioneers need to work collaboratively in creating and working with a team, equipping others and sharing responsibility.
Leading by example
Pioneers have to handle complexity and initiate change, they must be able to live with uncertainty and deal well with conflict.
Understanding of the Church of England
Pioneers should have a clear vision of the place of their envisaged ministry within the wider Church of England’s response to God's mission to the world.
Pioneers require the maturity and robustness to face the demands of pioneering mission and ministry. They should be able to live sacrificially and keep their eye on the long term.
Pioneers should rely upon a mature and well developed devotional life, with a robust, discipline of personal prayer, worship and study which can sustain them in pioneering situations. They should be able to help new disciples grow in faith.
Pioneers can learn and reflect theologically, interpreting the Bible in the midst of contextual mission. They should understand the practice of starting a new form of church.
Do you believe God is calling you to serve as a pioneer minister?
Your starting point is to meet with your own vicar or chaplain to talk with them about your sense of calling. They can help you with prayerful discernment.
Some pioneers are ordained but most are lay. All have a track record of innovation.
Arrange to meet with the vocations team in your diocese about selection and training. Some dioceses have a dedicated Fresh Expressions Officer.
To be designated as a pioneer you will need to attend a pioneer selection panel. Ordained pioneers also go through the Church’s selection process for ordained ministry.
Lay pioneers are usually trained by their dioceses, whilst ordained pioneers are trained nationally. Both ordained and lay pioneers are licensed by their Bishop.
It is important you continually pray about your vocation through the whole discernment process.