Pioneer ministry is about connecting with people who are outside of church, and developing new ways to help them explore the Christian faith. In the Diocese of Leicester we believe that there’s no “one size fits all” way of doing Christian community, and encourage our Pioneer ministers to be innovative and imaginative. Some of our pioneer communities become what are known as fresh expressions of Church.

The closest thing to an official definition of a fresh expression of Church is: “fresh expressions are new forms of church that emerge within contemporary culture and engage primarily with those who don’t go to church.”

They can take all kinds of shapes and sizes, ranging from the now reasonably familiar “Messy Church” to café churches, outdoorsy churches, alternative worship communities and more (we’ve even got a fresh expression for Heavy Metal fans in the diocese). 

There are, however, some characteristics which all fresh expressions share:

  • Fresh expressions are fresh: They’re new, pioneering and innovative and are a response to their context. They rarely look like “church” as most people imagine church.

  • Fresh expressions are there for those who “don’t go to church”: The motivation for fresh expressions is that they seek to engage with those who are either un-churched or de-churched and to introduce them to Christian community and to God’s love.

  • Fresh expressions are church: they’re viewed  as Church by those who attend and belong.

You can read more about how we are successfully growing these different forms of church here.

To find out more contact Jonathan Dowman

Meet the Team:

Jon Barrett - Mission & Communications Enabler 0116 2615335

Jonathan Dowman - Lead Pioneer Development Worker 0747 7783464

Emily Sharman - Pioneer Curate

Sarah Collins - Pioneer Curate

City Deanery based Pioneering - Matthew Gough


Brief History of Pioneering in the diocese

The story of “pioneering” in our diocese goes back much further than the common use of the word in church life. The Christian church has always had its pioneers, people who are looking for new and imaginative ways of forming Christian communities that reach those who don’t know Jesus.

In recent years this has come into sharper focus with the rise of fresh expressions of Church and pioneer ministry in the UK church.

In 2010 a motion was passed at Diocesan Synod that committed us to working towards having as many fresh expressions of Church as there are parish churches and existing congregations within the diocese.

A successful bid for funding from the Church Commissioner’s Strategic Development Fund resulted in us being given an £800K grant over a 5 year period in 2014. This enabled us to employ three full time Pioneer Development Workers to support and train pioneers in the field, promote pioneering within the diocese, conduct and analyse detailed research in partnership with the Church Army, and oversee the growth of pioneering and fresh expressions within Leicestershire. During this period the number of pioneering missional activities in the diocese has grown rapidly and we will be sharing some of our key learning nationally in October of this year.

In the diocese, Jonathan Dowman (one of the original Pioneer Development Workers), has recently taken on the role of Lead Pioneer Development Worker, with a new team comprised of Pioneer Curates, who split their time between pioneering in context and helping equip other pioneers around the diocese.

Pioneer ministers learn from each other and share their experiences in a Diocesan Community of Pioneers, and in smaller local Pioneer Learning Communities.

You canread more about vocations to Pioneering by clicking here and if you feel God might be calling you to start a pioneering activity contact Jonathan Dowman on 0116 2615342.


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