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Pioneering is about doing new things and doing them differently.

Are you someone who:

  • is passionate about the Gospel?
  • wants to reach those outside the Church’s traditional structures?
  • is creative and likes taking the initiative?
  • is willing to try new things?

If the answer is yes, God might be calling you to ministry as a Lay Pioneer.

“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.”

Church of England

Pioneers spend most of their time with people outside the Church – the unchurched and dechurched – working with them to build new ecclesial (church) communities. They seek to reach, in new ways, communities and groups of people who need to know the love of Christ. This will often mean forming a Fresh Expression of Church — a form of church for our changing culture established primarily for the benefit of people who are not yet formal members of any church.  Examples of these are café church, a new church on a housing estate, a church for a particular ethnic or linguistic group, Messy Church, community church plants, eco-church, new monastic communities, and many more!

There are two pathways for lay pioneer ministry.

Commissioned Lay Pioneers

Commissioned Lay Pioneers focus on cultivating new Christian communities such as Fresh Expressions or New Missional Communities through contextual mission in a local setting. They will normally be based within a parish, working under the supervision of the incumbent or other staff members.

Licensed Lay Pioneers

Licensed Lay Pioneers are leaders engaging in mission in a specific context to develop new Christian communities.  While they may work in a parish setting, they may also work across multiple contexts or develop a new community outside the existing parish structure.  They may be supervised by their incumbent or by the Dean of Fresh Expressions (or a person assigned by them).

What should I do if I believe that God is calling me to Pioneer ministry?

First of all, speak to people you trust and who know you well, and listen to what they have to say. Make sure you speak to your parish priest or chaplain, as they will assist you in beginning to discern your sense of calling.

The Vocations team runs a number of events to help you explore your vocation. Please keep an eye on the What’s On page to find out more.

The Dean of Fresh Expressions, the Revd Canon Will Cookson (contact details below), can also tell you more about training and guide you through the discernment process.

What is the discernment and selection process?

The discernment and selection process process is slightly different depending on whether you are exploring Commissioned or Licensed Lay Pioneer Ministry.

Discernment for Commissioned Lay Pioneers

Discernment for Commissioned Pioneer Ministry is coordinated by the Discipleship and Ministry team together with the Pioneering and Fresh Expressions team.  It consists of a period of exploration, followed by a formal selection panel.  To begin this discernment process, contact The Dean of Fresh Expressions, the Revd Canon Will Cookson

Discernment for Licensed Lay Pioneers

Once you are ready to begin the formal process of discernment, your parish priest or chaplain can book you on a Vocations Forum.

Vocations Forums usually take place at Trinity House, near London Bridge, although during the Coronavirus pandemic they are being held online over Zoom.

At a Forum you will have an opportunity to talk and listen to others who also believe that God may be calling them, to reflect on what the Bible says about ministry and to think about your own journey of faith so far.

Your parish priest or chaplain can book you on a Vocations Forum by e-mailing Sue Stewart, the Vocations Department Administrator (contact details below).

What’s next?

At the end of the Forum, you will be asked if you would like to continue to explore your vocation. If you decide to go ahead, you will be assigned a Vocations Advisor who will work with you in discerning your vocation further and make a recommendation as to whether you should proceed to selection.

The selection process

You will be asked to fill in an application form, to get the support of your Incumbent/Chaplain and the PCC, and to provide the names of references who can comment on your suitability for licensed pioneer ministry.

You may then be invited to a selection panel, who will recommend whether they discern that it is appropriate for you to be equipped for Pioneer ministry.

How will I be equipped?

The training process is slightly different depending on whether you are being equipped as a Commissioned Lay Pioneer or a Licensed Lay Pioneer.

Training for Commissioned Lay Pioneers

Training is practically based using an apprenticeship model.  It usually involves doing two things. The first is either the Mission-Shaped Ministry course or the Greenhouse Programme. Each runs over the course of a year, and covers things like the gospel in context, fundamentals of mission, developing new communities, and working with people. They are followed by a year of leadership development and reflective practice, with coaching and mentoring.

Training for Licensed Lay Pioneers

Training consists of a CertHE (Level 4) course, usually taken over two years through St Augustine’s College of Theology, followed by further practical training and reflective practice for 1-2 years.  The CertHE includes biblical and theological studies as well as courses in contextual mission and ministry and creating new Christian communities.

developing skills in listening, assessing and responding to local community

After training you will complete a working agreement and  be commissioned or licensed by the Bishop.

The South London Church Fund and Southwark Diocese Board of Finance is a company limited by guarantee (No. 236594).
Registered Office: Trinity House, 4 Chapel Court, Borough High Street, London SE1 1HW. Registered Charity: (No. 249678).

© The Diocese of Southwark 2021. All rights reserved.
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