pioneer learning communities

Imagining a New Revival: Pioneer Learning Communities

Exactly 47 years to the day of the Asbury College Revival, 60 ministry pioneers gathered at Asbury Theological Seminary to imagine a new revival. Through a partnership with the Kentucky Methodist Conference and Asbury Seminary, Fresh Expressions US kicked off a Pioneer Learning Community with ministry pioneers and existing church leaders.

They began to get a vision for revival and transformed lives that could happen in small gatherings in rodeo arenas, homes, community centers, hiking trails, church basements, cafes, pubs, playgrounds, workplaces, apartment complexes, gyms, and more.

“Pioneers will need to challenge assumptions, see things differently, and take risks,” offered Shannon Kiser, Fresh Expressions US Director of Training.

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Throughout two days of training, Methodist, Baptist, and Moravian leaders wrestled with the new ministry landscape and began to form ideas and initiatives to take the Church into networks and communities beyond its walls. Some are already engaged in relationships with international students, economically depressed neighborhoods, rodeo enthusiasts, restaurant workers, and bikers.

Still others began seeing opportunities where they live, where their churches are already doing outreach that could be taken to another level of relationship and discipleship, and where their passions lead them to come alongside those whom God has placed on their hearts.

Vive la Différence

Patty Groot Kentucky Annual ConferenceThe Pioneer Learning Community for Fresh Expressions has opened my eyes to different ways of doing church that are reminiscent of the ancient apostolic Church, ways that are so very relevant to today’s context. It changed my thinking about how church can happen.

Patty Groot, Associate Lay Leader at Kentucky Annual Conference

One aspect of a pioneer learning community is beginning the task of “unlearning” all those things we have called ‘church,’ things we may need to let go of to be the church. For many, the church has been a community of spiritual growth and meaningful rituals and deep friendships. But some of the trappings of church have become barriers for those who have not resonated with church. Participants worked to identify those elements that truly are essential to church and to consider how much room there is for experimentation and diversity when we strip away all those things that have come to define traditional western churches.

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As a part of the training, leaders spent time on the importance of listening to the context in the process of forming any fresh expression of church. Then, the group was sent out to practice this listening posture by engaging in a prayer walk. Participants came back energized and filled with stories of powerful encounters with people in the community.

“I would have never guessed that one well-worded question would lead to a 45-minute conversation with a stranger,” remarked one participant.

“When I asked a business owner if I could pray for her, she called her daughter to translate, and I found myself praying on the phone with a mother and daughter, asking for God’s grace in the midst of a really difficult time for the business,” shared another participant.

“When you woke up this morning, did you think to yourself: ‘I’m going to pray with a police officer outside a laundromat today’?” reflected J.R. Briggs, leader of the Renew Community in Philadelphia, PA, and trainer with Fresh Expressions US. God is often full of surprises and opportunities to engage with people if we would only be open, attentive, and willing to be vulnerable.

chris buckman pioneer learning communitiesThe Pioneer Learning Community weekend reminded me how relationship is what creates opportunities for fresh expressions of church. ~ Chris Buckman.

Pioneer Learning Communities and You

The Pioneer Learning Community is designed to equip leaders to start fresh expressions of church in their context through training, action/reflection learning, and ongoing coaching. Led by Fresh Expressions practitioners, Pioneer Learning Communities offer a laboratory for ministry experimentation, just-in-time learning, and fellow sojourners with whom to adventure in starting fresh expressions of church.

New Pioneer Learning Communities will be forming in the fall of 2017, and Fresh Expressions US would love to support you in your ministry journey.


Shannon Kiser

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.


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