Category Archives for "community"

4 Things I Learned When Grandpa Called Me


I don’t understand this whole Twitter, Facebook stuff. I don’t get it. Make a phone call. Talk to somebody.

James Avery

Friday afternoon at the end of my workday, I received a phone call from my Grandpa.  Grandpa Miller lives in Minneapolis, MN, and I live outside of Philadelphia, PA which means we don’t see each other very often.  And I’m embarrassed to admit we don’t talk nearly as often as we should.  I think we both share the guilt for our infrequent conversations.

One of the things that keeps us connected is my blog.  Every time I publish a new blog post, Grandpa gets an email from me.  He keeps tabs on me in part by reading my blog posts.

I don’t know if you noticed or not, but I didn’t publish a single blog post last week.  One person did notice – Grandpa.  His phone call on Friday afternoon was a call of concern for me.  Was a sick?  Was I busy?  Was I okay?  Grandpa called to check-up on me.

Grandpa’s phone call reminded me of several important things.

Grandpa and My Niece

Grandpa and My Niece

4 Things I Learned When Grandpa Called Me

  1. I am loved.  Grandpa’s phone calls always remind me that I am loved.  We may not talk as regularly as we should, but I know we are thinking of each other.  In fact, Grandpa regularly prays for my family and me.  You are loved, too!
  2. I am missed when I don’t show up.  For over nine years, I’ve been writing blog posts here.  I don’t often realize the impact of my writing discipline.  The last couple of weeks have been particularly busy for me, so I decided to put attention to other things besides writing blog posts.  I guess I didn’t realize the impact of my decision.  It’s nice to know I was missed.  And I am reminded to practice the discipline of showing up – even here on my blog.  You are missed when you don’t show up!
  3. My words and actions matter to others.  It is my prayer that my words (and actions) will encourage others and will bring glory to God.  Grandpa’s phone call reminded me that my words do matter.  They keep people informed, and they stretch people to live life with more intention.  Your words and actions matter to others!
  4. I am meant to live in community.  When life gets overwhelming, I sometimes have a tendency to close up.  I’m an extrovert, but I also have a strong desire to be in control.  When I get too busy, it’s easy for me to put on blinders.  I focus so intently on the things on my schedule and my to-do list that I forget to latch into the people around me – my community.  If you’re reading this, you are part of my community.  I need you, and I think you may need me.  We need each other.  I can’t physically be with Grandpa thanks to the challenges of geography and responsibilities, but I can be present with Grandpa by connecting with him more intentionally.  You are meant to live in community!

Thank you, Grandpa, for calling!  It meant the world to me to hear your voice and to know you care.  I love you!

Who do you need to call today?  What are you going to do about it?  Share your thoughts in the comments.

Ice Breaker – Social Media and Human Interaction

ICE BREAKER Social Media

Each week on The Stretched Blog, I ask an ice breaker question. The questions are designed to help us get to know each other here in The Stretched Community. I’ll provide my answer to the question here in the post, and then you can leave your response in the comments. While you’re in the comments section, see how others answered the ice breaker question.

(I’m always looking for Ice Breaker question ideas.  If you have an idea, send me an email at  If I use your question, I’ll give you credit and share your links.)

Question:  Do you think that Facebook, Twitter, and other social media genuinely enhance friendship and human interaction?  Why or why not?

My Answer:  I say yes and no to this question.

First the yes.  Facebook, Twitter, the blogging community, and other social media has given me the opportunity to connect and establish friendships with many people across the country and around the world.  As a result of my on-line presence, I’m friends with people like:  Larry “The Deuce” Carter from Tennessee, Dan Erickson from Washington, Ellory Wells from Texas, Matthew Lovell from Georgia, Amy Robles from Washington, Steve Young from Pennsylvania, Michael Shaw from Pennsylvania, and Chad Jones from Arizona.  (And these are just a few of the people I’ve connected with on-line.)  I’ve met a few of these people in person (Dan, Steve, Michael, and Chad), but these friendships have generally been developed on-line.

Facebook in particular gives me the opportunity to stay in touch with many people who might normally fall off my radar.  I appreciate the chance to stay in touch with friends from high school, college, and other places from my past.  Social media has even given me the opportunity to re-establish communication with some long lost friends and acquaintances.

From these connections, I can definitely tell you that social media can enhance friendship and human interaction.

But there is another side to this question – the no side.

I believe we were made for relationship.  And I also believe that the best relationships are cultivated face-to-face.  Social media cannot fully translate all the thoughts, feelings, and emotions that can be expressed when humans interact directly face-to-face.  This is why I go to church every week.  This is why I work in an office next to my co-workers.  This is why my family tries to eat together at dinner time.  This is why I meet with thirteen other guys every Friday at 6AM.

I love the opportunities and connections the social media and blogging world have created for me, but I also know I need the kind of community and accountability that can only happen when I’m looking someone eye-to-eye and face-to-face.

Answer this week’s ice breaker question by leaving a comment. I look forward to reading your response! (As always, feel free to share links.) And keep Stretching!

Finding New Members for Your Club (or Organization)

new members

We see our customers as invited guests to a party, and we are the hosts. It’s our job every day to make every important aspect of the customer experience a little bit better.

Jeff Bezos

I am the President of my local Toastmasters Club, and I’m excited about a speaking opportunity at my club tomorrow.  I’ll be speaking on the topic of finding new members for our club.  When I prepare for my presentations, I typically prepare an outline.  Then I write out my speech.  Next, I write out a few notes about the speech on a note card.  And finally, I practice several times.

In today’s post, I’ll share with you the written text for my speech.  While the speech is directed at members of my Toastmasters Club, I’m sure it will be helpful for you and the organizations you represent (clubs, churches, and teams).  Finding new members for our organizations can be a stretching experience, but it’s an effort worth pursuing for the vitality of your organizations, its members, and the community.


Aetna Articulators

The Successful Club Series

Jon M. Stolpe

October 14, 2015


Finding New Members For Your Club

After completing the Competent Leader and Competent Communicator awards, Toastmasters have the opportunity to keep learning and advancing to Advanced Leader Bronze. In order to earn ALB, Toastmasters must earn CL and CC, serve as a club officer for a minimum of six months, participate in the Club Success Plan while serving in office, participate in district-sponsored club officer training, and conduct any two speeches from The Successful Club Series and/or The Leadership Excellence Series. Today, I am presenting a speech from The Successful Club Series.

New members are essential to the success of our club. Without a continuous flow of new members, our club will stagnate or even seek to exist. New members inject new energy, new enthusiasm, and new ideas into our club. They provide an opportunity to mentor and to pass the torch of our club to others. The more people we have in our club the easier we can fill club meeting roles and try new activities. New members also represent more funds for the club. We each learn from each other, so new members represent a tool to help each of us stretch and grow.

Let us share the benefits we have gained for ourselves with others.

Dr. Ralph C. Smedly

Before I share ways to recruit members, I will share my early Toastmasters journey.

A couple of years ago, I heard about Toastmasters International, and it sounded like something that could help me in my public speaking and leadership opportunities in my work at Siemens and in my areas of interest outside the office. I did some investigation of my own, and I talked to my HR Manager, Mike, and I discovered our club. The meeting location and time were perfect for my busy work schedule and priorities right across the street. I contacted Rosalind, our club’s VP of Membership, and I decided to check out my first meeting. I felt welcome during my first visit, and Roz even checked in with me after my meeting to thank me and to see if I had any questions about the club. I came back two weeks later for our next meeting, and I started to learn some of the lingo and patterns for the meetings. I came back several more times before I handed over my application and dues to Gloria who was our club Treasurer and Secretary at the time. Shortly after joining the club, I received a call from Carol asking me to consider filling the role of club secretary. Since then, I’ve jumped in to help and participate whenever and wherever I can. My entry into the world of Toastmasters was pretty exciting!

We each have our own story about checking out Toastmasters, and these are important stories for us to remember. What attracted you to Toastmasters, and what wasn’t so attractive about your initial experiences? Your story can be helpful in bringing new members into our club.

You have a responsibility to contribute to the success of our club, our fellow members, and our future members. You and I have the privilege and responsibility of ensuring our club and our club meetings are successful. And this is why you should care about finding new members for our club.

Finding new members for our club starts through recruitment. Recruitment is not a once and done event. Recruitment is an ongoing activity. It’s kind of like breathing. As a member of our club, you should always be on the lookout for opportunities to recruit people for our club. Here are some ways to be intentional about recruiting new members:

  1. Talk to friends, relatives, and co-workers.
  2. Wear a Toastmasters membership pin every day.
  3. Display the Toastmaster magazine.
  4. Distribute promotional brochures and fliers.
  5. Conduct a Speechcraft workshop.
  6. Create an account on a social networking site, such as or

These are just a few ideas. Before I move on, I wanted to ask for your ideas on how we might be able to recruit new members. I’ll write your answers on the board. Can anyone get us started?



Getting people to come to our meetings is a major step forward in keeping our club successful, but it doesn’t stop there. When guests come to our club the first, second, or even third time, we must do our best to make sure guests are treated properly. At all of our meetings, we should make every effort to do the following:

  1. Greet guests at the door as they arrive.
  2. Sit with a guest during the meeting.
  3. Speak with the guest after the meeting.
  4. Invite the guest to join members for any after-meeting socializing.
  5. Ask the guest to visit again.

Additionally, we should:

  • Make sure guests sign the guest book. This helps us collect information, so we can communicate with our guests in the future.
  • Wear name tags and encourage guests to wear name tags. Saying someone’s name does wonders for helping people feel welcome. Let’s face it. We’re not all great at remembering names. Name tags help us know the names of our guests, and it helps guests to know the names of our club regulars. People are coming to our club to connect, let’s make it a little easier for them.
  • Ask guests about joining our club. Don’t assume, guests know what to do. As club regulars, we can get comfortable and complacent with how things go. We forget that guests don’t the general routines and expectations of our club. This includes signing up to join the club.

When you take time to welcome guests, you have the opportunity to advance towards your CL. These projects all deal with new members and guests:

  • Befriend a guest.
  • Co-chair an open house.
  • Co-chair a special event.

Next week, we will be hosting our annual Open House. It’s not too late to invite a friend or co-worker. When you head back to work this afternoon, take time to tell others about our club. Invite them to our Open House next week. We’ll be meeting across the street at Siemens, and there will be lunch provided. (Make sure guests pre-register on-line.) In addition to the Open House, we are also conducting a Membership Drive. Whoever brings the most guests and who recruits the most new members will win a Barnes and Noble Gift Card. Don’t let the opportunity slip by. Finally, if you have any questions about membership, be sure to contact our VP of Membership, Roz, or one of the other officers.

One enthusiastic person can make all the difference in recruiting new people for our club. We don’t need fancy tools or gadgets. We just need you to carry your passion for Toastmasters outside these walls and into the world. Don’t forget to be personal, be helpful, and be friendly.

A guest never forgets the host who had treated him kindly.


You and I can make a difference for our club and for other leaders and communicators!

Let’s do it!

Does your organization look for new members?  What has worked and what hasn’t worked when it comes to finding new members?  Share your thoughts in the comments.

Rediscovering Community When We Find Ourselves Feeling Lonely


We have all known the long loneliness, and we have found that the answer is community.

Dorothy Day

When I started blogging nearly eight years ago, I didn’t know what I was getting into.  My friend, Frank Chiapperino, encouraged me to sign-up for my first blog and start writing.  And so, I did.  I wrote about my family.  I wrote about small group ministry.  And I wrote about things that stretched me.

As I continued the writing journey, I started connecting with people.  I met several people who started leaving comments on my blog, and I met other people as I ventured into the blog world to discover other writers and commenters from across the country and around the world.  Despite the lack of face time with these fellow members of the blog world, I could feel a sense of community developing.  We began encouraging each other and connecting on other platforms.  We started exchanging guest posts.  And we directed friends and followers to others in the online community.

I remember the sense of connection I felt with people from all over the world.  People like Larry Carter, Chad Jones, Joshua Rivers, Bill Grandi, and many, many others became friends.  I even remember feeling a sense of connection with more prominent bloggers like Michael Hyatt, Chris LoCurto, Jeff Goins, and Jon Acuff.

This continued for a while until it seemed like the community I was experienced was steamrolled by a massive drive to grow traffic, email lists, and followers.  I’ll admit I am guilty of this, and I’m sure many of my fellow blogging friends were too.  A few prominent bloggers like Michael Hyatt stopped accepting comments on their blogs.  Countless business and blogging coaches began advertising with more focus tips and tricks for growing email lists and income.  The blog world became less and less personal as it morphed into a business.  In addition to this, the blogging and podcasting world continued to fill up with more and more creators.  I kept subscribing to more blogs and more podcasts, and I slowly began to disconnect from the community I had come to love.

Am I connecting with any of you?

Monday night, I decided to try something a little different.  I decided to give Google Hangouts a try.  I went down my contact list and connected with a friend from Arizona, Chad Jones.  After a few minutes of passing text messages back and forth, we connected by video.  We had shared emails and comments before things became too busy for both of us, but this was the first time we connected face-to-face (through the computer).  We talked for several minutes about writing, about our families, and about our jobs.  We shared prayer requests before we signed off.  There was something restoring about this conversation.

After our video call ended, we continued the conversation on Twitter.  Here’s how it went:

  Very cool catching up with on

  Right back at you It was a blast hanging with you

  Reminded me of why I got into blogging back in the day: the community. I think that’s part of what’s been missing.

I think you are on to something. You and I can make a difference by making community happen.


Over the past few months, I have felt the loneliness that Dorothy Day talks about in the opening quote when it comes to the blogging community.  I know I could point fingers at those around me who seem to be falling off the map.  But I think a lot of the responsibility to experience this community rests on me.  I’m the one responsible for pursuing community.  I believe I was made to be in community, and you were too!

Pursuing and experiencing community requires commitment and intentional actions.  It means carving out time for others.  It means turning off the noise and pruning down the list of people we follow, so we can find meaningful connection.  The internet gives us the opportunity to connect with a global community.  This is a good thing, but let’s not forget to pursue depth in our relationships.

This is how we will conquer the loneliness that sometimes creeps into our lives.

Are you feeling lonely?  What’s missing from your life?  How are you experiencing meaningful connection and community in your life?  Tell me about it in the comments.

Thank You – #13

Thank You No. 13

Today, I’m thankful for you.

I can’t tell you how much I appreciate the community that has developed through this blog. I’m grateful for your readership, your comments, and your sharing. And I’m especially thankful for your friendship and encouragement. I started this blog as a place to process my stretch marks and stretch experiences. I write for me, but I also write for you – The Stretched Community.

Thank you!

Why are you thankful today?

Book Review: Creating Community (@AndyStanley and @BillWillits)

For those of you who have been around for a while, you may know that I have a passion for small groups and for seeing people connected and growing in community.  I’ve been to three or four groups conferences over the past decade.  I’ve been plugged into a group of one kind or another for the last fifteen years.  And I grew up in a house where small groups were modeled as a way to connect people to each other and to encourage people to grow in their relationship with God.  I’ve written more than a couple posts about small groups over the past six years.  In fact, one post is among the top viewed posts of all time:  Ten Things Every Small Group Leader Should Know.

For a while I was helping to lead in the small group ministry for our church, but I took a break for a few years due to other commitments and some other circumstances.  Recently, a friend reached out to me and began to rekindle my passion for group ministry leadership.  As part of our conversation, he passed along a book by Andy Stanley and Bill Willits about building a small group culture.

Creating Community: Five Keys to Building a Small Group Culture was written to explain the success that North Point Church has had using small group ministry as the center of their strategy for helping people grow in their relationship with God.  Creating Community was also written to help churches and church leaders to develop a course of action that could be vital in achieving the mission of the church.  Stanley and Willits share about the importance of moving church goers from the foyer to the living room to the kitchen.  They share some of their own experiences of what worked and what didn’t work along the way.  If followed closely, I believe their method for creating community will not only catapult groups ministry to a whole new level but it will propel local churches in their pursuit of living out the Great Commission and expanding the Kingdom.

Creating Community is a quick read.  And I would recommend it to anyone who is passionate about small groups, the local church, and connecting people in community.  Stanley and Willits are not simply trying to create another program at your church.  They are presenting a mind shift for how you do church in general.  North Point, where Stanley is the lead pastor, has grown by leaps and bounds and is having a tremendous impact on the Atlanta, Georgia area.  North Point’s small group culture is a huge part of this growth and impact.

Check out Creating Community by clicking the link below!

Are you in a small group?  How has community impacted your life?  What are you doing to invite others into community?

Meeting A Member Of The Stretched Community

Last night was pretty special.

I had the chance to meet with Steve Y.

If you’ve been a part of The Stretched Community for the past few months, you will realize that Steve Y is one of the regulars in the comments here on the blog.

Steve started following Jon Stolpe Stretched after he read a guest post I wrote for I Love Skippack (a blog hosted and written by Michael Shaw).

We met at a local ice cream place just down the road from my house.  He immediately knew who I was when he pulled into the parking lot.  After ordering our ice cream (I ordered my traditional favorite – Cotton Candy, and Steve had Black Raspberry and Orange Creamsicle), we enjoyed conversation for over two hours.  It was pretty cool to catch up on some of the things shared on the blog and on other things as well.  We talked about sports, family, and faith.

It’s incredible to me how God can bring people into our lives.  Friendship like this is a great thing.  I don’t know where this friendship will go, but I’m thankful for the chance to meet Steve.  And I’m looking forward to our next get together so our families can meet and we can enjoy more ice cream.

Thanks, Steve!

When was the last time you met someone new?  If you’re a blogger, how have you connected in real life with people from your blogging community?  I’d love to hear your stories.

Is The Church In America Backwards?


I grew up in church. My dad has been a pastor for nearly as long as I can remember. My parents were both very involved in church.  They encouraged me to be involved in church.  I’ve been in church since I was in diapers.  I greatly appreciate my church experience and the friends I’ve made through a life time of “church-centered” relationships.  I don’t think I would change those experiences and relationships for the world.  I love the church!

But I sometimes wonder….

Is the church in America focused on the right thing?

Are we focused on the experience?  Or are we focused on the mission?

We live in a day and a land of religious consumerism.  So called Christ followers wander from church to church trying to find the “right fit” – the place that makes them feel good.  People want to find a church where they fit in.  They want the biggest, coolest church or they want the smallest, most intimate church.  For so many, it’s all about the experience.  “Is my church giving me everything I want?”

I think we so often get it wrong.  As Francis Chan shares in the video clip below, we’re called to be on a mission to make disciples.  We’re called to go out and find the lost and lonely – those far from Christ.  And we’re called to help them become disciples – fully devoted followers of Christ.

Is that really what the church in America is trying to do?  Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure there are many churches who are actively trying to live out the Great Commission.  But I have to wonder if we are more often doing more harm than good when we try to Christianize America by shoving our beliefs down others throats instead of showing them the love of Christ in a practical, approachable, and life changing way.

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”  Matthew 28:18-20

I wonder what our country would look like if we really got it – if we really lived like we were on an urgent mission to introduce people to Christ and to help them grow in their faith.  I wonder if Evangelical Christianity would stop getting such a bad reputation.  And I wonder if we would begin to experience the kind of community that we were really intended be.

Just some thoughts.  (This isn’t directed at my church or any church specifically.  It’s just some thoughts that are running through my head – stretching me.)

What do you think?  What is the church in America doing right?  What is something you can do today or this week that follows through on this mission?

For other great articles on the church in America, check out these links:



Book Review: The Connecting Church 2.0 by Randy Frazee

Several years ago, I had the opportunity to hear Randy Frazee speak at a Willow Creek Grouplife Conference, and I was challenged and inspired by his teaching and his book, Making Room for Life: Trading Chaotic Lifestyles for Connected Relationships, which challenges readers to restructure their days to make more room for relationships and for life in general.

In The Connecting Church 2.0: Beyond Small Groups to Authentic Community, Randy Frazee does it again!

Frazee challenges readers to rethink church, small groups, neighborhoods, and community in general.  The Connecting Church 2.0 starts with the premise that we were created for community.  In the book, Frazee starts with God as he shows that God models community through the trinity.  He then shows how the early church provided a great example of community as God intended it.

Obviously, things have changed quite a bit since the early church.  And over the past few decades, neighborhoods and community as they once were has deteriorated as people have moved out towards the suburbs with larger yards, longer commutes, and less time to hang out with others.  We’ve become a society of individuals instead of community.

In The Connecting Church 2.0, Frazee challenges the recent trend with new thinking about an old model.  He offers ideas for how the church can help restore authentic community in the busy, “me-first” society in which we all live.

I would definitely recommend The Connecting Church 2.0 as a place to start in challenging your thinking about church, community, and life in general.  If you’d like a chance to win this book, click here.  Or you can purchase the book, my clicking the link below.

How would you’re life be different if you decided to live your life within five miles of your home?  What is one thing you can do TODAY to foster community in your life?  What is your church doing to encourage authentic community?

[I received this book free of charge from Cross Focused Reviews in exchange for a review.  I was not required to provide a positive review.]

eBook Review: Community Wins by Bryan Allain

Stop over TODAY at Amazon to pick up a FREE copy of Bryan Allain‘s latest eBook, Community Wins.  After today, it will no longer be FREE.

If you’re a blogger, a writer, a product developer, or someone who is simply interested in building an on-line community, I would recommend you check out Allain’s eBook.  Community Wins is a short yet power-packed workbook full of wisdom and activities designed to get you thinking of building and strengthening your community.

This is a resource that I will go back to again for my own community building efforts and projects.  The book is broken up into 21 short chapters which each include an action step for readers to follow.  Some of the actions are quick and easy, but many of the actions will require more time, energy, and effort.

I appreciate the way Allain put Community Wins together.  He seems to understand the world we live in with shorter attention spans and big dreams.  It’s my honor to recommend Community Wins to The Stretched Community.  Go out and get it today!