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Pioneer Ministry in New Housing Areas

With the Government pledging to build a million new homes, this is a genuinely helpful and theologically literate resource

PioneerMinistryev113Pioneer Ministry in New Housing Areas
By Penny Marsh & Alison Boulton
Grove Evangelism Ev113
ISBN: 978 1 85174 965 2
Reviewed by Simon Taylor

A few weeks ago the Housing and Planning Act received Royal Assent as part of the government’s programme to encourage new homes to be built quicker and enable more people to buy their own home. This government has pledged to build a million new homes, many of which will be in new estates or villages.

Churches will continue to learn that new communities are to be constructed near them so this new Grove booklet is timely.
The booklet is subtitled Personal Reflections and a Practical Guide and emerges from the wide experience in new housing areas of Penny Marsh and Ali Boulton, both church planters and Baptist ministers.

Penny planted a church in London’s Royal Docks development, is a Mission Enabler for Kent Thameside, and remains involved in new housing in Ebbsfleet, Kent.

Ali is a pioneer minister at The Stowe, a growing Christian community in a new housing estate in Swindon. In 2014 she became Pioneer Mission Enabler at the Southern Counties Baptist Association, a half-time role that she combines with The Stowe.

Out of their varied experiences the book is written to assist regional or local church leaders responding to a new housing initiative or ministers/workers who will be working in a new development.
In this very useful resource, Penny and Ali seek to help us engage meaningfully with planning authorities and begin to consider how we can start a church in a new development. The foundation of their approach is the conviction that God cares deeply for our neighbourhood and in Christ has come to dwell with us. They advocate an incarnational model of ministry in which a pioneer church planter engages with the emerging community rather than imposes a model of church upon it. They write of “stepping off the map” as we leave familiar territory to do a new thing with God in a new place; openness to listening, co-operation with others and a willingness to experiment are essential.

The booklet gives a brief background to current house building, noting that it takes more than new homes to make a community; an important inclusion is evidence that the contribution of church can foster the development of a sense of community.

Other sections are on underlying mission principles, guidance for those planning engagement in a new housing area and practical steps for those pioneering a ministry in a new development, including some very realistic do’s and don’t’s born out of experience. Although focussed on new housing areas, anyone interested in pioneering new patterns of mission will find inspiration here.
There are unanswered questions, such as realistically how long does it take to establish church in a new housing area or whether pioneer ministries can ever be financially sustainable, but these are issues still under consideration. Penny and Ali have provided us with a genuinely helpful resource that is theologically literate, contains much practical advice and points to other sources of guidance and information. Anyone involved in new housing needs a copy!


Simon Taylor is Moderator of the Churches Group for New Housing Areas, facilitated by Churches Together in England (CTE). CTE is also promoting this new resource.

Simon is also Minister of South Street Baptist Church, Exeter & Brampford Speke



Baptist Times, 25/05/2016
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