Reflecting some more on the good news in the Fresh Expressions research, and one of the great things that I see is the emergence of a completely new group of leaders who have not been recognised or seen by the Church before. The report calls them the ‘lay lay’ leaders, to identify them from other already acknowledged and licensed lay leaders.
I’m really excited by this because it finally means a democratisation is beginning within the Church and the emergence of these new forms has allowed people with passion, gifts and heart to step up and use these in mission. Details here http://www.freshexpressions.org.uk/news/anglicanresearch
I wonder how well they are being supported though. Diocese’ are allowed to make their own arrangements for the training of lay pioneers, rather than there being a national programme, and as yet the provision is pretty patchy. Yet it is really needed; people need to go through stages of deconstruction and reconstruction in order to allow space and new paradigms to emerge in how we reach people, listen to them, lay down our own agendas etc and it can be quite isolating and disconcerting for a period. Meeting up with others who are also on this journey is crucial, for support, sanity and the sharing of ideas and fears.
Many diocese’ are running the Mission Shaped Ministry course as a way of providing some input to lay pioneers and this may be useful and offered in your area. I would say that there will be a mixed bag of people on that course: some who are looking with a view to doing something and others looking with a view to criticising the whole enterprise, so you may not find that many people to connect with who are where you are at, but it’s worth a try if you are very new to the area of pioneering and mission. You’ll also meet useful local leaders from different denominations and they may be good contacts for the future.
Make sure you stay connected via social media; there are two Facebook hubs for pioneers and people doing missional stuff. Twitter has a lot of people engaged in this stuff. Streetspace is a national network for youth related work and has support workers and gatherings to share ideas and strategy http://www.streetspace.org.uk/Streetspace/Home.html. They offer a really useful ‘alongside’ coaching service which is invaluable if you need strategy input and help setting up policy and practice.
Jonny Baker, the daddy of pioneering in the UK and director of mission education at CMS, has a blog http://jonnybaker.blogs.com/
There’s lots of info on the CMS Pioneer Leadership training course website, dates of open days and courses plus a blog http://pioneer.cms-uk.org/ Even if you can’t yet access funding for the whole course it’s worth seeing if you can find some grant money to do just a module – come along to open days, meet people and check out what contacts they have for your area.
The Fresh Expressions website keeps a useful list of training courses registered with them and I’ve found some interesting stuff to go to from here, especially specialist or regional gatherings. http://www.freshexpressions.org.uk/training. If you are Anglican this site has useful DVD’s etc suitable for helping you show to explain what on earth you are doing, and lots of stories that you can print off about the breadth of what others are doing. I found this a real help at transition phases.
Make sure you find support from others and all the info you can to get going!