Pioneer Ministry

What are the types of Pioneers?

A differentiation between these two key types of pioneers below would be hugely beneficial for identification, training and deployment purposes.

Fresh start Pioneers. These are classic pioneering types who start new things, love firsts, and enjoy working from a blank canvas. They need to be released from expectations of a classic Parish role and allowed to pioneer in places where the Church is not present while remaining closely connected with the parish, deanery or diocese. This is clearly echoed in the 2005 Guidelines which commented that ‘It is important Pioneers are not pressed into becoming ministers of existing churches but are deployed in pioneering contexts.’

Parish based Pioneers. These pioneers want to work from a parish base but from there develop fresh expressions of church in a mixed economy way expanding the growth and reach of the local church .

In terms of practice the Methodist Church’s expectations for Pioneers is very helpful to make the role clear.

  • This is the main focus of their ministry. It’s not a marginal or minor activity for them.
  • Most of the person’s time is spent with those outside the Church
  • There is an intention to create a new ecclesial community. It may not always happen but this is the aim.

It is vital also that we recognise an important category of clergy and lay leaders who are not Pioneers but are key to the whole endeavour who I have termed ‘Sustainer enablers’. These are key people for the future of the church but are not themselves Pioneers or not necessarily even particularly innovative or creative. They may do some pioneering work as a part of their leadership role, for example helping to lead a fresh expression within their parish. But most importantly they understand the importance and the role of Pioneers. They have the vision and the self-confidence to engineer opportunities to resource, release and protect Pioneers within their own context. We need to be encouraging more of our clergy within the mixed economy church to be leaders who empower and release Pioneers.

The need for clarity in this area is exacerbated by a comment that was often heard that ‘of course everyone is or should be Pioneers’. This comment contains the classic danger that if everything and everyone is a pioneer then in reality very little pioneering happens. It also confuses the culture of pioneering with the specific gifting and role of Pioneers (with a capital P). Yes of course we need more leaders who are encouraging a developing pioneering culture in their churches, deaneries and dioceses but they are not Pioneers.