Our Vision

Hearts on Fire with a Vision for growth

Pioneer Ministry

Pioneering is about doing new things and doing things differently.

Pioneers spend most of their time with people outside the Church, working with them to build new ecclesial (church) communities. 

“Pioneers are people called by God who are the first to see and creatively respond to the Holy Spirit’s initiatives with those outside the church; gathering others around them as they seek to establish new contextual ministries”.

In Southwark Diocese we want to affirm and encourage both Lay and Ordained Pioneers.

With the Vision for Growth in the Diocesan plan we are faced with the need to reach beyond those we normally attract to our churches. Pioneers and the fresh expressions movement help us to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with those who we traditionally find hard to reach. A key outcome of this pioneering is to find models that others can adapt to grow the church.

One helpful way of looking at Pioneer Ministry is through the idea of a Pioneer Spectrum. It is very easy to see Pioneers under an all-in-one label but the reality is that there is a wide range of pioneering that occurs and the Pioneer Spectrum tries to give some idea of this reality and help people and churches think through what they are being called to.

Using the idea of a Pioneer Spectrum we then need to ask what a particular Pioneer might be called to.

For example, with Pioneer Replicators we are looking at where a parish church needs revitalising with a graft or a Church Plant. Taking a model that works elsewhere and launching it may be the most appropriate thing to do.

Pioneer Adaptors will be looking at what others have pioneered elsewhere and seeing how they can be contextualised for their situation. Examples here would include Messy Church, Café Church, Dementia friendly services, New Monastic Communities etc. Each has a recognisable model that needs adapting to meet the needs of the local community.

With Pioneer Innovators we need to set things up for the long haul. Some of these new things may take years before we see new forms of Christian community coming into being. The key outcome will not be a church that looks like the Parish Church; rather, digging into the riches of their traditions and listening to their context and the Spirit they will reach communities who would otherwise not be connected to the Church. Connected to the Diocese, they will share new insights from the Gospel and the culture they are seeking to reach helping our long term call and mission to share the Good News of Jesus Christ.

Lay Pioneers

Over time we expect there to be many more Lay Pioneers than ordained ones.

What does becoming a Lay Pioneer give you?

  • Affirmation of God’s call by the wider church.
  • Tailored training and on-going support for your ministry.
  • Accountability for your vocation from your local church.
  • A learning community of others doing the same thing.
  • Opportunity to reflect as you go.

Lay Pioneers are often linked to fresh expressions of Church. A fresh expression is a form of church for our changing culture established primarily for the benefit of people who are not yet members of any church. It is the desire of pioneers to reach communities and groups of people that need to know the love of Christ and realise that we need to reach them in new ways. This will often mean forming a fresh expression of Church.

All Lay Pioneers go through a selection process with the Diocese which involves both individual and group work. Download the criteria for selection

Normally, they need the support of their parish priest or chaplain.


Training for Lay Pioneer ministry usually involves doing two things:

  • the Mission-Shaped Ministry Course which runs on three Saturdays, one weekend and seven evenings over the course of a year and provides time and space to reflect practically and theologically on fresh expressions, covering areas such as listening for mission, Gospel and culture, engaging with your community and handling setbacks (e-mail angiecookson@blueyonder.co.uk for information).
  • the Bishop’s Certificate, Growing in Faith and Life, a one-year course with classes on a midweek evening or Saturday daytime. It includes biblical study, our history, what we believe, issues facing Christians today, and prayer, worship and spirituality (http://bit.ly/BishopsCertificate)

Next steps

If you think you might be called to serve God in Lay Pioneer ministry, please e-mail the Revd Canon Will Cookson, Dean of Fresh Expressions, at will.cookson@southwark.anglican.org. To begin the discernment process, talk to your parish priest or chaplain. You might also like to attend one of the Diocese’s vocations events ― a fair, quiet day, weekend or conference. Details of upcoming events can be found here: http://bit.ly/VocationsEvents

Ordained Pioneers

Ordained Pioneers are also an important part of the mix.

Each year we look to appoint two Pioneer curates who are attached to churches and incumbents in the Diocese where we believe that Pioneers can gain experience to grow new ecclesial communities.

We are also looking to appoint more mixed-mode Pioneer clergy who will be involved in leading a parish whilst being given space to start one or more fresh expressions of Church.

Finally, we sometimes have opportunities for Pioneer Ministers in particular places to help reach a new group of people.

If you would like more information about Pioneering in Southwark then please do contact Canon Will Cookson, Director of Pioneering Ministry & Dean of Fresh Expressions – will.cookson@southwark.anglican.org