This year has seen a record number of students enrol for the Church Mission Society’s pioneer training programme, which commences this month.
The course designed by pioneers, for pioneers, was created to equip Christians for ground-breaking, transformational and sustainable mission, both in the UK and around the world. A total of 28 students were inducted into the programme yesterday to train as mission pioneers, mission ordinands and lay pioneers, representing a significant increase on previous years.
Jonny Baker, Church Mission Society’s director of mission education and leader of its pioneer training programme described this year’s intake as “a fabulous endorsement, not only in the quality of the training that Church Mission Society provides” but also “a recognition of the effectiveness of pioneering as an authentic route to mission”.
The current year’s intake of pioneers represents an eclectic mix of people including Will, who is developing mission community house on a new housing estate, Anita who leads a town centre chaplaincy team and Idina, who runs Servants, a mission community in Southall and is now beginning training for ordination as a pioneer minister.
While some students, such as Tracey, who works with children and families in a semi-rural town, have projects up and running, others such as Jo, who is considering how to blend mission and business on a Derbyshire housing estate, are still at the exploratory stage. Also among this year's students is Nick, who ran a 'pantomime church' for 11 years and has now set up an arts centre and hosts a comedy night at his church.
The course, which began in 2010, has seen a steady increase in numbers since then, reflecting a surge in popularity for pioneer ministry. The Pioneer Mission Leadership Training course now offers a full suite of academic options for pioneers, including training for lay and ordained pioneer ministry and an MA study option. The Church Mission Society course has been recognised by the Church of England as a training route for ordination but while the course is Anglican in flavour, it is infused with a broad spectrum of traditions, theology and experience.
Luke Larner, who is preparing to commence his second year on the Theology, Mission and Ministry course, explained how the pioneer training course had changed his outlook: “The course felt like a homecoming as I was rubbing shoulders with other Christians who spoke my language and had experienced the same struggles I had. I found treasure in places I would never have looked before, in the ancient teachings of the church, confirming that others have travelled this journey of the pioneering mission before.”