Have you ever been stumbling down a path and come to a vista? What had been tree after tree after tree broke open into a larger view and perspective? Do you remember how you breathed deep and took in the view and felt alive? That’s the same kind of thing that happens in a Pioneer Learning Community.
What is a Pioneer Learning Community?
A Shared Journey
It is a community in which pioneers are understood. It is an opportunity to connect with others who are looking to engage in risky ministry on the mission edges. Well-meaning brothers and sisters in the faith have often questioned their priorities and their zeal, and have left many pioneers feeling misunderstood and unappreciated. In a pioneer learning community, ministry leaders find kindred spirits, encouragement, and companions for the journey.
A Space for Training and Discernment
It is a community in which pioneers are equipped for the mission. Adventurers don’t go backpacking in the wilderness without equipment and knowledge about what they’re getting into, and the same goes for pioneering ministry. While there are no turn-by-turn maps for success, there are practices and intentional leadership skills that foster contextually appropriate, healthy, and Spirit-filled expressions of Church. Pioneer learning communities offer content, discussion, and reflection that connect these concepts to the local mission context.
It is a community that gives space for discernment. The day-to-day nature of any ministry can be relentless. Pioneer learning communities give leaders space to discern God’s leading, and identify intentional action steps towards the development of a fresh expression of church.
People to Walk Alongside You
It is a community that offers coaching along the journey. Just as trails have signposts pointing the hiker forward, monthly coaching helps pioneers get their bearings and figure out what they need to do to lead the mission forward. Sometimes, this “just in time” learning is exactly what a leader needs to find courage to make decisions or take big steps into unfamiliar terrain.
Who Should Be Part of a Pioneer Learning Community?
- Lay or clergy leaders who have set out on the journey to start a Fresh Expression of church
- Lay or clergy leaders who are considering this kind of ministry
- Existing church leaders who want to foster a church culture that identifies and releases pioneers for mission
- Teams who are involved in forming Fresh Expressions of Church
What Does the Pioneer Learning Community Involve?
The Pioneer Learning Community begins with an on-site two day retreat. The retreat is led by practitioners of missional ministry who balance theory with practical examples. This retreat helps participants get clear on vision and strategy, listen to the mission context, build teams, foster community, and disciple people outside of a traditional church context. Participants are invited into discussions and activities that apply the materials to their individual contexts. Each participant receives a Guidebook of training material for ongoing reference. For the following 6-9 months, monthly group coaching keeps pioneers focused on priorities and action steps needed to move the mission forward.
The Pioneer Learning Community concludes with a final on-site retreat. This retreat focuses on discipleship, contextually appropriate worship, evangelism strategies, handling setbacks and challenges, and core values. Upon completion of the learning community, many pioneers continue to connect and support one another through online networks, ongoing conversation, and local hubs.
What Are the Details and How Do I Register?
Two Pioneer Learning Communities will be starting in Fall 2016:
- Near Washington DC
Riverside Presbyterian Church
- Near Kentucky
Beeson Center/Asbury Seminary Wilmore
For those who are on a tight budget, this is a good specific ask for a donor or supporting organization. You may be surprised at who would support you in pursuing this training if you will reach out and invite them to do so.
Registrations are open now, and we would love to journey with you in this adventure of Fresh Expressions!
Shannon serves as Director of Training, leading our team of mission strategists and trainers in the development and implementation of the Mission Shaped Ministry course through Pioneer Learning Communities. She is also a pastor on staff with Riverside Church in Sterling, VA, a Church that worships in two languages and engages in several Fresh Expressions of Church. In the last several years, Shannon has been involved with the Presbyterian Church’s New Worshiping Communities initiative, and has directed the coaching network that supports pioneer leaders. Shannon lives in Springfield, VA with her husband Patrick and teenage daughters Catherine and Suzanne.