There are lots of ways of being a gift to fresh expressions, so prayerfully discerning the specific part God wants you to play is important. One way of thinking about the possibilities is to use the following categories:
These are people who initiate a new expression of church. Some are ordained, but many are lay. They tend to be focused, to see possibilities, to be creative, to concentrate on external reality and to have strong inner drives.
Caution! Pioneers may not start with the intention of 'fresh expressions of church'. They may be people who just start making 'missionary journeys'. If we see pioneers as only those whose goal is to produce 'church', we're going to lose out. By the way, is there a difference between mission pioneers and FE pioneers? Or does one turn into the other if 'church' results?
Sue Hope, Priest in charge St Paul's Shipley and Adviser in Evangelism for the Bradford Diocese
In particular, they need to have a close relationship with God, a clear understanding of fresh expressions, a determination to listen to the culture, gifts of team leadership and a commitment to inherited, as well as new forms of church (fresh expressions should strengthen the whole body of Christ).
These contain people who gather round the pioneer and offer their gifts, expertise and other forms of support. The team may be formal – 'you're appointed by the church council' – or it may be two or three friends.
Like pioneers, they need to be committed to the values behind fresh expressions, to be willing for their preconceptions of church to die so that new forms of church can live, and to be prepared to make forming community with those they serve a priority.
These are individuals who know lots of people and often have 'drawing power'. They can get people together. They are invaluable to a fresh expression.
In the preparation stage, they can help you identify ways of offering practical love to others by putting you in touch with networks and telling you what people in those networks are thinking. As you plan and launch a project, they can spread the word, get people involved and mobilise support.
- people in authority in the church, a school or a club who give permission for a fresh expression to be started;
- ministers who encourage individuals with the gifts to contribute to a fresh expression;
- 'accompaniers' who mentor and coach pioneers and pioneer teams;
- trainers who help individuals become effective pioneers.
All these are crucial roles.
These are 'ordinary' people who play a key part through prayer, financial support, encouragement and urging others in the church to be patient while fresh expressions experiment, make mistakes and mature slowly.
One of the great challenges for the church is not to give up on fresh expressions because 'results' take a long time coming through. Many of the parables of the kingdom are about growth that takes time.
These are individuals who assume the leadership of a pioneering venture once it has been established. The original leader may want to move on, while the new community may need time to embed Christian values, put down roots and reproduce.
A different style of leadership may be required: less of 'the visionary from the front' and more of 'let's bring out the gifts and visions within the community'. Different leadership is not always necessary, but when it is, ideally it should come from within the new community.
These are people who research and theologically reflect on developments within fresh expressions. They assist practitioners and contribute to the church's understanding of its mission and call.