Does pioneering devalue the time-honoured church?

Does pioneering devalue the time-honoured church?

Greg Bakker examines this question and has a question for you

Artwork by Sophie Killingley of Perish & Fade

Scarcity of resources is a reality in most church congregations up and down this land. In the face of such scarcity, a narrative has emerged which asserts that pioneering is undermining the time-honoured ministry of parish priests and churches and depriving them of resources that would enable them to thrive.

As a parish priest for almost thirty years, I recognise why this narrative profoundly resonates with so many. Yet, as someone who has worked for over a decade with pioneer ministers – both lay and ordained – I hear another narrative emerging… a story rooted in a perspective of God’s abundance. It is the discovery that pioneering ministry focused on those unconnected with a local church community, in fact, honours clergy and congregations.

Pioneer ministry is deeply rooted in the ‘care of souls’. Pioneering is an incredible gift to parochial ministry because it helps the church to expand in practice the spiritual care of a community. Even when parish churches are outwardly focused and engaging well with a local community, there are a whole range of unconnected people who will never come to us. Pioneers are commissioned to go to those who won’t come to us. They build connections, create spaces for faith discovery, and shape new church communities with the collaboration of the unconnected.

Within a diversity of approaches and forms of church, of which the parish church is just one, the spiritual care of souls is realised among a wider range of people through pioneer ministry. And when parish churches and pioneers collaborate together in connecting with the unconnected, there is a renewed experience of thriving which profoundly honours the generosity and resilience of parish priests and congregations.

The question for parish priests and congregations is this: which narrative will you accept and embody?

Find out about how you can reach those who won’t come to us on the next Pioneering Parishes First Steps course.

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