Pioneering is about firsts. Being the first to lead into a new space for and with others. Pioneers must be able to see a new future, and have the skills and gifts needed to make the future accessible now.
- Pioneers connect with those outside the Church, to create fresh expressions of Church with and for them.
- Pioneers are leaders of innovation, with a gift for seeing what God is doing and responding creatively to it.
How do I become a pioneer minister?
Do you believe God is calling you to serve as a pioneer minister? Some pioneers are ordained but most are lay. You will need to be ordained before you can preside over communion, weddings and baptisms.
Your starting point is to meet with your own vicar, chaplain, or equivalent, to talk with them about your sense of calling. You should also arrange to meet with the vocations team in your diocese. Next talk to the Fresh Expressions Officer in your diocese about selection and training.
It is important you continually pray about your vocation throughout the discernment process.
Nic Findlay: Loving someone fully is to stand with them in their joy and in their mess
I was baptised aged sixteen, shortly after becoming Christian. 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 traditional church settings. Not just to tell them the good news about Jesus, but also to walk alongside them in the whole of their life. For the practical support to be more than an add on, not “oh, I’ll be nice to you and help you sort out your debt if you let me tell you about Jesus”, but for that to be part of it. Part of loving someone fully is to stand with them in their joy and in their mess, not to treat them as a project.
Some friends of ours were leading our marriage prep course. We went to meet with them and they started talking about similar feelings of wanting to do church differently. Church where people were, with a heart for the poor and the broken.
I’d trained as a teacher following university, and after three years I was getting frustrated that I couldn’t access the whole of these kids’ lives, I didn’t know their families.
My friend had similar experiences to me. He’d run a very cool youth event for teenagers, which met in a local café. Some teens had rocked up from one of the poorest areas in Cambridge, and they just couldn’t access it like the others. They didn’t have money to buy a coffee themselves, so they couldn’t really sit down and join in.
Others didn’t know how to sit down and pay attention long enough for the format, so my friend found himself effectively acting as a bouncer on the door, preventing these young people from hearing about Jesus, because they didn’t fit in with the culture in which Jesus was discussed.
I’d had these experiences at the school, so for the four of us, as we started to meet together, there was a sense of wondering what it would look like to take church to where people are at, rather than expecting them to fit into a model of church 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. We were doing things like playing football on a Sunday afternoon, because the teenagers were playing football then, as a way to get to know them.
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 Sunday congregation, and then in amongst that, mentoring and hanging out with individual young people and youth groups. With my teacher background I did quite a lot of work in schools and in mentoring.
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!