So You Think You Want to Be a Pioneer…

What happens after you fill out that Start form?

Maybe you’ve wanted to be a missionary since you were a kid. Maybe God got ahold of you through the outreach ministry of your church. Could be you took a missions class or a short-term trip, or you had an international friendship that turned your view of the world upside down. Perhaps you were inspired by discovering how God’s heart for those who don’t know Him yet permeates Scripture.

“It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known.”
– The Apostle Paul, Romans 15:20

Along the way, you grew in self-awareness and glimpsed the challenges of cross-cultural life. You realized you’d probably go farther and stay longer if you were part of a team. So you started looking for others to link arms with, from a sending church and partners to pray for and encourage you to an organization with people and experience working where you felt God was leading you.

If that process brought you to Pioneers, you’d fill out a Start form and have a conversation or several of them with our mission mentors about taking your next step. But what happens after that?

If you’re ready to launch out, we’ll put you in touch with our candidate coaches. Their whole job is to walk with you through the application process and help you find the answers and insights you need before setting up a formal interview to join Pioneers.

We asked the leader of our candidate coaching team about how the process works. Here’s what he said.

10 Questions for a Candidate Coach

1. How do candidate coaches come alongside those who are considering filling out an application to join Pioneers?

Once an applicant fills out a Start form, one of our candidate coaches will set up a time to chat, usually by video so we can formally “meet” each other. This will allow the coach to get to know the applicant better in order to help them take individualized next steps on their journey; it also allows the applicant to get to know Pioneers more to be sure we are a fit for their unique ministry vision.

2. What questions and topics do candidates bring to the table?

Anything and everything! No question is too small or too big, too “dumb” or too hard. And if the coach doesn’t have the answer, they will ask around until they get it. These are some of the more common questions:

  • How are Pioneers missionaries assigned to a location and ministry? (Spoiler: they aren’t but instead get to choose teams they might want to ask to join.)
  • What does support raising involve?
  • How long does it take to get to the field?
  • What does it look like to raise and school children?
  • How might my passions fit into church planting?

3. What do candidates say has drawn them to Pioneers?

Typically, it’s a personal connection. They know a Pioneers missionary. They go to a church that is involved with Pioneers. Maybe they met an engaging recruiter at a missions event. Or sometimes they simply check out the website and fall in love with our core values. (See Personality of a Movement).

4. What are the biggest misperceptions people have about working with Pioneers?

One is that Pioneers missionaries are “super Christians.” We aren’t any different than fellow believers with our strengths and our flaws—we just took a few steps of obedience to follow God’s command to take the gospel to the nations.

Another misperception is that you have to be a gifted evangelist. Most of us aren’t! We simply step out in faith to seek out close conversations and relationships with those who have never heard of Jesus and share our own stories.

Another is that we can’t use your passions. Likely, that’s not true! We have people who help plant churches via surfing, tourism, healthcare, business, skateboarding, artistic endeavors and many other avenues that might not seem to fit “church planting.” But they do fit if they allow you to have gospel conversations and raise up new seekers and believers who can be formed into fellowships. (Want examples? See our articles about opportunities.)

5. What kinds of things do candidate coaches look and listen for as they engage with applicants?

We want to hear three fundamental things:

  • A passion for God
  • A passion for the unreached
  • A humble, teachable spirit

The rest can be learned!

6. Are there any red flags that come frequently in the coaching or application process?

Pioneers is very careful to treat each person individually and not “check boxes” as we talk with them. So, there aren’t too many “red flags.” However, doctrinal beliefs that don’t square with our Statement of Faith, rigidity on ministry strategy or location, involvement in ongoing sin and a prideful spirit are concerns if we hear them during conversations with applicants.

7. What comes up in those conversations that might make you think, “This person would be a great fit at Pioneers”?

Dedication, passion matched by humility, a mix of local ministry involvement and a grace-filled demeanor always catch our eye.

8. How much time does it take to complete the application?

We have had people take two days or two years to fill out the paperwork! It all depends on how quickly you want to attend our orientation event in order to get going to the nations. A typical timeframe would be 3-6 months.

9. What kind of references or other documents are required?

Our normal set of paperwork includes the following:

  • A short Start form
  • A longer application
  • A sending church reference along with six general references
  • A doctrinal assessment
  • A set of psychological and personality assessment documents

All but the psych documents are online in a very easy-to-use “dashboard” to help move through the necessary application paperwork smoothly.

10. What encouragement would you offer people thinking about applying to join Pioneers?

Go for it! If you are considering missions but aren’t sure how to proceed, we make it easy for you. Our application process is very relational, so it’s a lot of conversation mixed with some paperwork. And we only charge an initial fee of $100 per person to attend our orientation event. If you choose not to join us, you don’t pay a penny more! We want to knock down as many barriers as possible for you to “explore” us and missions.

We also love to “dream” with you about ministries, locations, teams, etc. It’s a joy for us to hear your story and to help you take your next steps to the nations, a responsibility before God that we take very seriously—while having a whole lot of fun, too!

Going Deeper

Maybe you’re not ready to talk to a mission mentor or candidate coach. Check out some of these articles for answers to your questions about serving with Pioneers.

  • Just getting started in missions? Explainer videos will help you understand the key concepts behind how Pioneers and similar mission organizations pursue ministry. It’s a bit different than serving God in your hometown.
  • How do you prepare to serve among the unreached? Use the Charting Your Course to the Nations worksheet to brainstorm areas to pursue.
  • Need the nuts and bolts? See how Pioneers answers 21 questions people frequently ask when they’re looking at mission agencies. For an overview of the process of joining Pioneers, read A Long-Term Pursuit.


Stories from the pursuit

Groundbreaking Discipleship Training in the Muslim World

PALM is Pioneers ministry offering Bible courses, discipleship and leadership training for people at all stages of Christian maturity.

From the Middle East: A Household Now for Christ

Fatima was surprised by and afraid of the changes she saw in her husband, Ibrahim. She started to suspect he had abandoned Islam.

When Singleness Raises Questions & Opens Doors

"God has shown me through Kira that I have unique opportunities only available because of my singleness,” says Susan in South Asia.