Pioneers Answers 21 Questions

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July 1, 2019


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Check out this article, Pioneers Answers 21 Questions: How do you find a mission agency that’s a good fit for you? Here’s how Pioneers would answer 21 important and frequently asked questions.


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First you settled the question, Why go with a mission agency? Then you identified specific questions you want to explore to find a mission agency that’s a good fit for you (see our list of 21 questions). Now for some answers. Here’s how Pioneers would answer those 21 important and frequently asked questions.

Questions about mission and values

1. What is the agency’s mission? Do they have a mission statement?

Pioneers-USA helps churches send Americans to join international teams who make disciples. What it’s all about for us is the relentless pursuit of God’s glory among the unreached.

Here’s the official mission statement:

Pioneers mobilizes teams to glorify God among unreached peoples by initiating church-planting movements in partnership with local churches.

2. In what parts of the world does the agency work? With what populations?

Pioneers focuses on church planting among unreached peoples, wherever they live. Most are in contexts that are primarily tribal, Hindu, unreligious, Muslim or Buddhist. Think of the acronym THUMB. More than 400 teams work with about 500 people groups in more than 100 countries.

3. What are their values? How are they demonstrated?

Eight core values shape the personality of Pioneers. You can also find these listed on this page. Here’s how we describe them and how we try to live them out.

  • Passion for God: The Great Commandment is our motive for the Great Commission. We want to live our lives fully surrendered to Him so that all nations may know that He alone is God.
  • Unreached Peoples: Pioneers focuses on those with the least opportunity to hear and understand the gospel.
  • Church Planting Movements: We want to see new believers united in fellowship with other believers, forming churches that plant churches—until all peoples are reached.
  • Ethos of Grace: We understand that each person bears the image of God. We endeavor to cultivate an atmosphere of mutual acceptance and respect in all our relationships. We encourage each one to attain his or her full potential in Christ.
  • Local Church: Pioneers partners with sending churches to plant new communities of Christians and works alongside local, indigenous fellowships wherever possible.
  • Team Focus: Teams that are both task- and member-focused are the core of Pioneers. This is crucial since many of the world’s remaining unreached peoples are in difficult and isolated pockets of the world.
  • Innovation and Flexibility: Reaching the world’s remaining unreached peoples requires creativity and a sensitivity to the unique calling, vision and needs of each missionary.
  • Participatory Servant Leadership: Pioneers has a decentralized leadership structure. We are also principle- rather than policy-driven. We use an interactive approach to decision making that is based on trust.

Questions about organization and structure

4. Is the ministry centralized or decentralized? In other words, do leaders in the US make most decisions? Or international leadership? Or does each field or team make most decisions for themselves?

Pioneers is a field-driven agency. That means most decisions are made at the field level. The agency facilitates the calling God has put on an individual’s life within the framework of the team. Ministry strategy is developed by the team, though within the overall vision and values of Pioneers.

5. Does the organization have a lot of policies or rules?

Pioneers doesn’t tend to have many policies or rules, but values adaptation to different people and circumstances. In addition, teams have the freedom to set standards appropriate for the contexts in which they serve. Field leaders hold teams accountable to set appropriate standards.

6. How big or small is the agency? Is it focused or diverse?

Pioneers currently has more than 3,000 personnel worldwide sent from about 80 countries through 17 mobilization bases and offices. Everyone’s work is connected in some way to the overall task of making disciples and planting churches. Yet members hold different roles and jobs and have diverse backgrounds.

7. How old or new is the agency? What kind of experience do they have?

Pioneers was started in the U.S. in 1979—more than 40 years ago. The first few teams were sent to Nigeria, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea. Then, in years to come, the Pioneers family grew to include Canadians, Australians, New Zealanders, and Latin Americans. Now we also have members from across Africa, Asia and Europe. A series of mergers brought ministries founded as far back as 1881 into Pioneers. They added a wealth of experience in places like the South Pacific, Sudan and the Arab world.

Partnership with the local church

8. Does the agency have a denominational affiliation? Or do most of their people come from a certain religious tradition or subculture?

Pioneers is an inter-denominational, evangelical organization with no denominational affiliation. Members come from a variety of traditions. In matters not addressed by our Statement of Faith, Pioneers acknowledges differing points of view that are based on the Bible as the supreme authority (read about our Bible requirements). We also ask that no interpretation or practice undermine the work of the gospel or the unity among those with whom we serve. We seek to live, work and relate to one another in a spirit of love and humility. See Romans 14, I Corinthians 13 and other passages.

9. How does the agency connect with churches? What role would my church have in my ministry internationally? What about churches in the place where I’d serve?

Each member of Pioneers is sent by a local church. The local church is essential in providing accountability, encouragement, prayer and financial support. On the field, though, circumstances may vary. Many members are part of national churches or work hand in hand with them. In situations where this is not possible, they find fellowship and carry out the functions of church primarily with one another.

Partnership with other agencies

10. How does the agency work with other ministries? Which ones?

Most partnership happens on the local level. Teams befriend and work with those from other agencies and coordinate their efforts within the ministry context. They may even form a multi-agency team or ministry when appropriate. Members may also participate in retreats, conferences, and country-wide or regional partnerships with people from other agencies.

Questions about ministry practices

11. Does the agency send everyone out with a team? To join existing teams? Or individually?

Each member can expect to serve on a team. Usually, this means joining an existing team. Rarely do we send out a whole team at once. Sometimes, though, an individual or couple will go alone to respond to a new vision or opportunity. Then they work with us to mobilize people to join them.

12. If the agency plants churches, how do these churches operate? How are they led?

What churches look like and how they are led may vary from one context to another. As long as they carry out biblical functions, they may follow different models and governance strategies.

13. Are there certain ministry strategies everyone is expected to use (or avoid)? Does the agency encourage new ministry methods and innovative ideas for ministry?

Members are welcome to consider many different tools, models, and approaches to ministry, rather than expected to stick to one strategy. Innovation and flexibility are core values.

14. Who decides what kind of ministry I will do?

Within the framework of team and relying on the guidance of the Holy Spirit, Pioneers empowers members to pursue the calling that God has placed on their lives.

Questions about care and accountability

15. How does the agency care for members on the field? What kind of support is typically provided and where does it come from?

Team leaders and teammates are the primary source of member care. Regional teams are also active in providing member care. Member development staff at each mobilization base provide care primarily in times of transition, crisis or change, as well as home assignments. We also expect sending churches to provide care through whatever means they have, such as prayer, counsel, communication and visiting.

16. How are missionaries held accountable?

Accountability on the field occurs primarily within the framework of the team. First of all, team members hold each other accountable for life and ministry issues on a regular basis. Members also complete regular ministry plans and reports to submit to team leadership. If needed, area leaders or member care providers get involved. Missionaries are also accountable to their sending churches.

17. How long do people stay with the organization? What is the current rate of attrition?

Half of our U.S. members have been with the organization eight years or more, while the other half have served with Pioneers for less than eight years. Our current attrition rate for field workers is just under 6%.

18. In recent years, has the agency been getting smaller, or bigger? At what rate?

While some of our sending bases are growing quickly, Pioneers-USA could best be described as holding steady. On average, we send 120 new workers to the field each year, though that number decreased significantly in 2020 due to the pandemic.

19. How does the agency approach care and education for missionaries’ children?

Teams and field leadership encourage parents to do what they believe is best for their children. The education of children is at the parents’ discretion. Some families home school while others send their kids to a national school, Christian school or boarding school. A Third Culture Kid (TCK) Educational Consultant and TCK Coordinator also assist parents with the care and education of their children. Child safety training and procedures are in place to protect both the children of missionaries and other children on the field.

Questions about finances

20. How much money does each person raise? What does that cover? For example, what percent goes to administration? Benefits? Retirement?

Because each person’s context and needs differ, budgets vary. We will work with you to calculate a budget to cover your salary, taxes, benefits, travel, ministry costs, training or educational needs, and in most cases, retirement. Ten percent of what each person raises goes to Pioneers operating expenses, while two percent supports the international leadership structure.

21. What about debt? Would I need to take care of consumer debt and student loans before leaving for the field?

As IRS regulations permit, Pioneers allows members to include funds for student loan payments in their monthly budgets. The amount must be no more than $300/month. But credit-card debt is different. You must eliminate all consumer debt before leaving for the field, but not necessarily before applying to join the agency.

Got more questions? Sure you do. Let’s talk.

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Take the next step

Read Personality of a Movement by Pioneers-USA President Steve Richardson.

Teams that are both task- and member-focused are the core of Pioneers. This is crucial since many of the world’s remaining unreached peoples are in difficult and isolated pockets of the world. We know we need one another. Learn about other core values of Pioneers.

Read an interview with one of our candidate coaches, So You Think You Want to Be a Pioneer.

Going Deeper

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