Following some conversations around Pioneer Ministry I read the Grove book on Pioneer Youth Ministry by Jo Dolby and Richard Passmore.
The start of the book focuses on the context of change in society and therefore church – especially the issue that “young people are no longer brought up in church. They have not been to Sunday school, they do not know the Biblical narrative and, for most, Jesus is no more than a swear word.” Rightly in my opinion they argue that something needs to change, and they define that as being at the core of the pioneer spirit.
The next section attempts to define pioneer ministry, and it is at this point that I begin to struggle with understanding what it actually is. The chapter starts with definitions that focus on how pioneering is about those who are “the first to explore or settle a new country or area” and draws links with the Pioneer Corps and their role in the army. This definition makes a lot of sense to me and I can see that the modal version of church, e.g. the Parish system, has its limitations and so there is a need for sodal approaches to church. Theologically the Trinity is a model of a pioneering ministry that Jo and Richard highlight as helping us to understand pioneering.
For me the tension comes when we move from the theory of the pioneering process which is really just the process of discernment, practice and evaluation that should take place with any good ministry. What was helpful was the chapter on how to manage a pioneer which challenged me to reflect on being still and yet still moving on.
The booklet concludes with two case-studies: “Bushcraft Church” and “Graff”.
If you’re wanting a great introduction to one of the recent big shifts in youth ministry in the UK then this is for you.