Project: Center for Pioneers
Jon Wiest


To establish a training center for emerging pioneer leaders.

Project Categories

  • Church Planter Recruiting and Equipping
  • Methods and Models for Mobilizing Everyday Missionaries
  • Micro Models and Expressions

Big Idea and Overview

There are thousands of pioneers sitting in congregations across North America. They need to be mobilized. The Pioneer Training Center provides online coaching and training for pioneer leaders. Groundswell works with pastors to identify the pioneers in their congregations and then enrolls them in the Pioneer Training Center. The center is designed to help pioneers discover their calling, develop the tools necessary to fulfill that calling, and then works with pastors to deploy them on mission.

We beta-tested this process through an R&D initiative with The Wesleyan Church called Project 72 that launched in August 2020 and recently wrapped up in March 2021. This initiative worked with 30 churches to identify 72 pioneers for the purpose of training and research over a six-month process. 80% of those pioneers indicated they would like ongoing development and we have scores of other churches that would be candidates for this new initiative.

Customer / Mission Field Context

Our primary customer at Groundswell (umbrella ministry) is pastors. They are the gatekeepers for the Pioneer Training Center (PTC) and our priority is to serve local churches and help them do a better job of mobilization. We understand that a strong partnership with local churches will help fuel the PTC and provide greater alignment. The first step of developing the PTC is a strong relationship with pastors.

However, the primary customer of the PTC are pioneers. We define pioneers as “missionary-minded disciples called to engage and serve a group of people unfamiliar or uncomfortable with the established church”. They are laypersons that are “made for more”, called by God to reach a specific group of people with the gospel. Most score high in evangelism and have affinity for a specific subculture or demographic. Their ministry often moves in one of four directions. They either launch outreach ministries, non-profits, fresh expressions, or microchurches.

In terms of context, Groundswell works with churches in a variety of contexts (urban, suburban, rural, etc) and even around the world and the PTC would reflect this diversity. We also have a diverse group of coaches ready to provide top-notch training and while we primarily serve denominations in the Global Wesleyan Alliance, we hope to expand our reach in the near future.

Goals and Desired Outcomes

1. Develop a tool “Characteristics of Effective Pioneers” to help pastors identify and select pioneers from their congregations.

2. Establish a partnership with 50-100 pastors/churches that send pioneers to the Pioneer Training Center. Our goal is to train 100+ pioneers in the first year of training.

3. Develop 20 sessions of content (Pathwright and Zoom) that helps pioneers move from the “discover” to “develop” to “deploy” phases of ministry. Each online session will be half teaching and half interaction and coaching. Sessions would occur online every other week from September 2021-May 2022.

4. Mobilize at least 75% of pioneers to actively engaging a project in their community.

5. Provide in-person regional gatherings around the country with alumni and for the sharing of projects/testimonies/worship.

Results and

Project 72 has been our primary initiative engaging pioneer leaders. We recruited 72 pioneering lay leaders from 30 churches and trained them in six Zoom sessions. The training was accomplished through five coaches and also delivered through an online platform we have purchased through Pathwright. We had planned to bring the project to culmination at Exponential 2021 in March, but Covid-19 forced us to change our plans. Instead, we provided an online event called “Pioneer Stories” where we heard the stories of a handful of pioneers and also presented research from the project.

The stories were inspiring. One pioneer was a soldier in Afghanistan, injured in the war, and betrayed by the people he had sworn to protect. He is now leading multiple Bible studies for Afghan refugees, a group he had grown to hate. Another woman was sexually abused as a student and is now pioneering a new ministry to women trapped in the adult entertainment industry. One couple had faithfully served their local church and felt drawn to reach those unfamiliar with the gospel. They are now starting an art/music café as a third place for the lost. There were many more stories shared and 80% of participants are excited for ongoing training.

Media Assets

Center for Pioneers

Exponential's Future Church Podcast

Love Clan

Outreach Magazine Article