Pioneering 4: Pioneering Doesn’t Have To Be A Lonely Road

Posted: January 8, 2011 in Pioneer Blog
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Pioneers #4 : Pioneering doesn’t have to be a lonely road

Album I’m listening to: sleeping at last, yearbook

When we first started our little home meetings in Hollywood I remember how much security it brought me to have about nine real friends in the room helping me to walk out a dream that was now no longer just mine but ours. We had a rocky beginning of ministry because it happened so suddenly and we felt like alls we had immediately was each other and in a new land where we had no roots we as very independent people began to depend on each other differently. We made (and still make) lots of mistakes but we cherished relationship so that the mistakes haven’t become friend breakers.

One night i remember asking our little crowd of 70 or so peops how many had the following kinds of friends for more then 3 years:
1) you do life together and share victories and weaknesses that are not task oriented but life oriented (meaning you aren’t just getting together for work) at least once every few weeks
2) you celebrate life’s critical moments together whether its doing birthday celebrations or being there in grief.
3) you rest and go on trips or vacations together or have other ways of bonding that is not career/ministry related

Only our little circle of friends raised their hands the rest of the group was pretty lonely. Some of it was because they were putting careers first. Some were news to LA and it takes time to develop this. Some just didn’t have relational life skills even though they are wonderful.

ALaying it Down At The Alter Of Duty

When you are pioneering one of the most dangerous things you can do is lose track of real friends and sacrifice relational happiness at the alter of duty because of being in start up mode. Some strain is natural just like in a new marriage there are young couples who are trying to figure out how to do their new life with all it’s new roles together, but at one point does it just become abandonment to other people or selfishness if we don’t reemerge?

When I was growing up dad was in the military so we had to move a lot….i mean a lot. I hated the instability of having to create a whole new group of friends but my mom helped impart the principles that i still live life with. I had a successful relational life at each place we went even though it took time. I remember moving to a new place in junior high and she told me a number of things that stuck with me that are so relevant today:

1) if you want friends you have to be a friend first. You have to make a lot if not all of the effort for a while and then it will become natural for the person to pursue you back. This made sense because when you move into a new group of people they have spent time together and are usually semi if not quite happy with their relationships they have built. That means they may not be looking for new friends. Relationally satisfied people have full lives of activities with their families and current friends. If you show up on the scene there is a making room period for you in their lives that is a type of courting. If you make the effort with at least 3 people you will learn a lot and probably end up with someone you will really spend life with.

2) don’t just bond with other new people. look for people who are relationally happy. People who are not happy in their friendships have a reason why they are not happy. Sometimes when you bond to just the others who are new you miss some of the benefit of those who have helped to create a relational legacy.

3) be the kind of friend you want. Celebrate the person in ways that matter. Call them when they are down, visit them when they are sick. Be the first one to congratulate their success.

4) serve them where it counts. Find out what is important to them and help them on life projects. Be there for moves, babies, marriages, funerals, etc.

5) communicate your value for them and as they reciprocate you start to get covenant.

Things that speed this up:
Anointing or the presence of God.
Life purpose crosses path
Working together
Going to school together
Doing hobbies together.

Some of these accelerators can actually substitute real relationship so you have to be careful to stay devoted past your doing things together or else the substance of relationship will rest in your roles instead of your love. Think about how many people get divorced after their kids are grown, they have run out of role and there is not enough love to sustain them.

Pioneering a relational culture in an organization:

I want a family can you give me one now?

One of my favorite stories is when a young woman moved to LA 3 years ago after having an INCREDIBLE experience in community at her church in Redding California (Bethel). She moved to our small brand new community that was so new not to mention understaffed and underpaid and was disappointed when her relational needs were not being met. She was processing with some friends about how hard it was and she began to get angry at our little ministry for not meeting this deep need of relationship on the level of what she had where she came from.

Then a light bulb of revelation came from God: “you have only been in places that have a rich relational heritage that someone else had to plow the ground and pay a price for so you inherited great family there but now in this new place You are the pioneer. You have to create the relational legacy and it’s hard work.”

Her expectations changed from wanting us to do a lot more for her then we possibly could to her taking responsibility and trained us all in an important lesson. We haven’t created relational legacy yet and it takes years and the first 5-10 years takes a lot of plowing and commitment.

Being New Means Lots and Lots Of New

When you start a new work you are connecting to many new people all the time and have to create context and purpose in the connections. We have 40-60 new visitors a week and our committed base is only around 200-300 through two services. That means if we spent all our time on new connections we wouldn’t develop the core connections so we have to give people an onramp in their visit but we need to prioritize developing safe family until the foundation is developed. This is hard for everyone because new people get excited and want to run with you but you have all kinds of people who are paying a price to be with you that you have tom figure out how to give time to. The love language of ALL people in an organization from their leaders is QUALITY TIME.

As the head of our organization I spent the last year prioritizing my main leaders, giving my team time first and if I had extra time I have a list of about 300 people who have asked for time and I prioritized my extra time by their involvement to organization, by their purpose on wanting to meet and sometimes by the connection I felt to them. This was all consuming and I had to pace myself because I not only have our start up church I have an itinerate ministry that is actually what pays my bills since I don’t take a salary from the church so I have many responsibilities outside of our structure which means I have relational time commitments outside of expression58. Each pioneer is going to have their challenges but people management is the hardest, if you become too structural and purpose driven you become neutered in your community spirit and impact. If you aren’t planning your time though then someone (usually the high needs people) will plan it for you.

Who Is Your Organizations Family?

I have heard a statistic that i can’t remember where it came from that 90% or more of people who start with you leave after the first two years for many reasons. I think one of the main reasons is that they grow weary of plowing for a relational community and culture that every new organization pays their own price for. A statistic we have in LA is that 50% of people who move here only stay for two years. They come for school or career and leave after that short of a time. That’s really hard to build a family with but we are breaking through and planting roots.

Who your leadership surround themselves with will determine what kind of family you will produce. If your recruit only broken into your family without providing counseling and life coaching somehow then you will have a highly dysfunctional family. If you attract and recruit disenfranchised from other organizations no matter how much leadership or ability they have on them then you will have some measure of division and independence spirit. If you recruit only the awesomely talented and established people you are at risk of having very little time commitment from them because they are working on their own huge projects.

It requires a balance between relational priorities to create the right family, but if you prayerfully consider what your goals are, what your relational priorities are, and who you want to love you can set yourself up for great success!

Shawn Bolz

Ps: my dating book comes out Monday in digital form!

  1. Joel says:


    This blog is super timely for me. Thanks for doing what you do and being you.


  2. linda says:

    This is a real timely word for me – last summer I started working in a church launch in the suburbs of Detroit. There are a group of people from the “mother” church and a couple families from another church. Then a few floaters like me who knew only one person before joining. I didn’t think of myself as a pioneer. Also, I did think about the “relational legacy”, as you put it, that exists. That said, thanks for the suggestions not only for me but that I can pass along to help us build a relational legacy of our own. It will take lots of time and work but your advice could help us move along the path more effectively.

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