Category Archives for "leadership"

Foundations Class Week 2: Growth

Yesterday morning, I led week two of a Foundations Class at my church. If you remember from my post last week, we talked about grace during the first class.  This week, we continued along with the five Gs outlined in Fully Devoted, a study guide by John Ortberg, with the topic of growth.

Growth is an interesting topic.  When I think of growth these days, I think about growth in my running, in my writing, and in my engineering management career path.  In each of these areas, growth doesn’t just happens.  It takes work.  If I want to run a marathon, I have to go into strict training.  If I want to become a better writer and maybe someday write a book, I have to keep practicing and learning.  If I want to keep up with the ever-changing engineering and leadership fields, I have to stay in training so I can learn about new technologies and about new leadership techniques.

Spiritual growth is somewhat similar.  It doesn’t just happen.  It takes time, experience, and some effort on our parts if we’re serious about growing spiritually.  Sure, God could just zap us with spiritual maturity, but we would then miss out on all the experience and training.

So, what does this kind of training look like?

That’s a good question.

I think it includes an attitude of learning – we need to learn God’s Word.  We need to develop a heart for prayer.  And we need to listen for God.  Listening to God can happen in a corporate setting of worship and small groups, but it also happens in solitude where the distractions of this world are put aside for a brief period of time. Honestly, this is the area where I struggle with now.  I feel so often that I’m running from one thing to the next.  I even wrote about this last week.  How can I hear God’s calling when I’m typically too busy even to hear myself think?

As we walked through our discussion, we talked about a few verses that encourage us to be intentional in our spiritual training.  I would encourage you to read these verses and see how they relate to the topic of growth and spiritual transformation.

I Corinthians 9:24-27, I Timothy 4:7-8, Galatians 5:22-23, Ephesians 4:22-24

It’s funny how God hits you on the head with a message when you’re in the spotlight leading.  This is a message that I need to hear over and over again.  It should be a fun week.  Leanne and I are leading a discussion on discipline at the week’s MOPS meeting at our church. Sounds like another blog post and some more challenging lessons.

What does your spiritual training look like right now? What steps do you need to take to grow spiritually?

3 Thumbs Up! May 12th, 2012

Time for this week’s 3 Thumbs Up! Stretched blog post. For the past several weeks I have used this post as an opportunity to highlight three things that get my thumbs up. This has become a highlight for me as it gives me a chance to support the work of others. So… here are three things that get my thumbs up this week.

Thumbs Up Number 1:  Josh Hamilton. I’m not a Texas Rangers fan despite the fact that my parents live in Dallas, TX. However, it’s hard not to appreciate the story of Josh Hamilton. He has weathered the ups and downs of drugs, alcohol, and celebrity. As recently as this past off-season, Hamilton has dealt with the demons of his past. This week, Hamilton hit four home runs in one game. I haven’t heard the interview yet, but I hear that he gave a pretty moving interview after this achievement in which he talked about his past and about his faith.  Hamilton’s story is inspiring.  He’s obviously not perfect, and I’m sure he will continue to struggle with life.  What inspires me about his story is that there is still hope and redemption and salvation.  This is a story we all need to cling to.

Thumbs Up Number 2:. Blogging Your Passion Podcast. I just stumbled across this podcast this week as I was loading new podcasts on my iPod in preparation for a long day on the road. So far, Blogging Your Passion has released two episodes in which the speakers share valuable tips on how to improve your blogging along with suggestions on how to increase traffic. I listened to both episodes on Tuesday, and I found them very informative. I’ll be back to listen to future episodes.

Thumbs Up Number 3:  Executive Pastor Online by Kevin Stone.  I’m not an executive and I’m not a pastor, but I find myself resonating and thinking through many of the things that Kevin throws up on his blog on a regular basis.  Kevin came out of the corporate world to take on the challenges of running the business side of a church (my church).  His thoughts on leadership and team development often fit in with what I’m wrestling with in my own job as an operations manager.  If you’re interested in some new leadership ideas or if you are interested in reading thoughts from a guy who wants to help other churches, I’d recommend you check out Executive Pastor Online.

And those are my three thumbs up for this week!

What have you come across this week that deserves a thumbs up?

Resource Review: This Is Your Life Podcast

I’m a big fan of podcasts.

I listen to them in the car.  I listen to them on the treadmill.  I listen to them when I’m taking a walk.  And I listen to them while I’m running.

Here are a few of the podcasts that I listen to on a regular basis:  The Dave Ramsey Show Podcast, EntreLeadership Podcast, Daily Audio Bible Podcast, FamilyLife Today Podcast, and The RELEVANT Podcast.  I enjoy each of these podcasts as they keep me entertained and informed.  Podcasts are a great way to keep your brain growing.

Podcasting is definitely an up and coming form of communication.  There are new podcasts popping up every day.

Recently, a blogging friend of mine started his own podcast, and I think it’s worth sharing here.  Last month, Michael Hyatt launched his own podcast called This Is Your Life.  In his podcast, Michael offers practical advice for blogging, leading, and living.  So far, he has released three “issues” of This Is Your Life, and I have listened to each of them a few times.  With each listen I’ve absorbed new ideas for my own blog, my own leadership, and my own life.

So if you’re looking for a great podcast or if you need something to listen to for your next 30 minute car ride, I’d definitely recommend downloading This Is Your Life.

What podcast do you recommend?

Multiplying Small Group Ministry

The narrative below is by no means a complete analysis of the process involved with multiplying small group ministry, but it provides some insights from personal experience.   I’ve tried to break up this analysis into various aspects that I think are important to consider when heading into small group multiplication.

Before I go into these different aspects, I thought it might be appropriate to share some history related to my small group ministry experience.  My wife and I started attending Christ’s Church of the Valley more than ten years ago.  When we first started attending, we struggled with finding real connection at the church.  Since we met in a movie theater, we never had a lot of time before or after our normal Sunday church time to establish relationships with anyone else at the church.  Realizing that this would take some effort on our part, we decided to try out a new “marriage building” workshop.  This twelve week workshop gave my wife and I a chance to meet people and begin deeper relationships with others at the church.

Out of this workshop, our first small group was started.  For the first couple of months, it was basically one other couple meeting at our house every other week.  Over time, our group grew a couple at a time.  When we started a study based on “40 Days of Purpose” by Rick Warren in January 2004, we were averaging 18 to 20 adults (along with many children) at our weekly meetings.  Heading into this study, we realized we needed to make decisions about the future of our group.  At the end of this study, we “birthed” into two groups.

After this “birthing” process, I did not imagine having to go through it again for a while.  I guess God had other plans, because in January 2005 we went through the process again when our group ballooned to 30 adults (and over 20 children).  This time we “birthed” into three groups.

Going through these times of transition was not easy at all (especially when you don’t enjoy change – like me); however, I am convinced that it was the right thing to do both times.  Hopefully, the tips below will help you in addressing this process at your own church or with your own group.

Changing the tone

When I first started talking about splitting up our small group, the reaction was mixed with a heavy leaning towards the negative.  Everyone had become very comfortable with the people who were in the group, and they did not want to split up the group.  Our adult ministries pastor recommended using different language to describe the process.  “Splitting up” sounded so negative.  This terminology implied a divorce or breakup of the group.  The term “birthing” seemed a bit funny at first, but it eventually caught on.  This terminology implies new life without the feeling of abandonment.  Once our group bought into this change, they began to look at the whole process a lot more positively.  (Multiplying might be a good word to use also.)

Communicating the positives

As our group developed, we were committed to fostering an environment where new people were always welcome.  We refer to this as the “Open Chair Policy.”  We always try to have an open chair at our meetings as a reminder to be praying about who God might be sending to our group.  A major reason for this policy is our commitment to contributing to the Great Commission (see Matthew 28:19, 20).  I’m also convinced that this was how the early church worked.  Acts 2:42-47 describes the early church and clearly shows that God was adding to their numbers daily.  I believe they had some sort of open chair policy in place.  If the early church had closed its doors to outsiders, the church today would certainly not be the same (if it even existed).  Similarly, the courage of someone sharing their faith with us was probably the driving force for our own faith.  We have the privilege and obligation to share this with others.  Helping your group to understand this is extremely important.  Yes, the small group exists to help them grow and experience fellowship, yet it is also there to help fulfill the Great Commission.

A man in our first group shared one night during our discussion about this issue, that we are telling others (non-believers who might be interested in attending our group, but won’t or can’t because our group has gotten to big) that they can “go to hell,” because we are too selfish to go through the pain of birthing our group.  His comment helped our group understand the need for this process.

The birthing process also gives current members a chance to invite friends, relatives, associates, and neighbors to their group.  When the group gets to a certain level, small group members become reluctant to bring others to the group.

Another positive about the birthing process is that it allows for deeper intimacy.  When your group is approaching 20-30 people, it becomes a real challenge to keep the deep connections going.  As a group leader, it also becomes a real challenge to shepherd a group of this size also.  Even Jesus did not have a group of this size.  His example of 12 or 13 seems much more manageable.  I would even propose that a group size of 8 to 12 is about as big as a group should get.

For our group another positive about this process related to the whole childcare issue.  Our group has made every effort to provide childcare.  As a result, our group growth as been predominately marked by families with kids.  Trying to coral a large number of kids into someone’s basement or backyard isn’t fair or safe for the kids or the sitters.  By birthing, our new groups have been able to more effectively handle the childcare issues.

Communicating these positives is essential to helping group members understand the benefits and the need for going through the “birthing” process.

 Listening to the negatives

As a small group leader and as a “people pleaser,” I am always concerned about the thoughts and feelings of those in my group.  I want them to understand and be happy with the decision to birth.  Unfortunately, group members don’t always get it right away.  Like me, they don’t like change, and they don’t understand why it is so necessary.  It’s important for small group leaders to listen to the people in the group as they wrestle through this time of transition.  We talked about it at our weekly meetings which I’ll mention later, but I also tried to call or speak to each individual in the group personally (especially the first time) to give them an opportunity to voice their opinions.  I believe this provides an essential opportunity for group members to grow into the decision to birth new groups.

Group leaders also need a coach or point person that they can lean on for support through this time.  This person not only acts as a sounding board but also as a cheerleader.  A small group leader should not feel like they are swimming through this process alone.  They need an encourager and a backup.

 Praying throughout the process

This process could never happen without prayer.  Small group leaders need to be praying for their group.  Church leadership needs to be praying for the small group leaders and for the effective growth of the small group ministry.  Each small group should also be praying for the “Open Chair” and for the future of the group as it looks towards birthing.  As our group began to discuss this topic, we tried to start and/or end each discussion with prayer.

Prayer has probably been the biggest highlight of the actual birthing process for our groups.  At our last meeting together as a whole group, we spent time commissioning the new groups through prayer.  This provided a beautiful time to thank God for his work in our group up to this point and to ask for grace and guidance for the new groups.

 Building up new leaders

Another important aspect to the birthing process is the building up of new leaders.  I recommend appointing an apprentice leader to each small group early in the life of the group.  I also believe it’s important to provide plenty of opportunities for the apprentices to have leadership in the group.  Initially, this may mean assigning the apprentice to a task or two at each meeting (i.e. Ice Breaker Leadership or Announcements).  Eventually, the apprentice should be encouraged to lead the entire meeting.  This provides an opportunity for the apprentice to become comfortable leading the group, and it also gives the group a chance to become comfortable with the apprentice.

One way we approached this was by splitting the group into two or three groups for the discussion part of the evening.  This allowed for more intimate discussion, and it gave the apprentice a valuable opportunity to lead.

Apprentices should also be included in the small group ministry support activities.  At our church, group leaders and apprentices meet quarterly along with the small group coaches/team leaders.  At these meeting, we are challenged by visions for the future, we are encouraged to huddle with others to learn from each other and to pray for each other, and we are educated with new skills that will help us effectively lead our small groups.

 Involving the group in the decision

The small group should be involved in the decision to birth.  Groups should together establish a charter that recognizes that the birthing process is inevitable and important.  As the actual birth approaches, time should be set aside at a couple of meetings so the group can talk about the process and the logistics (who is going where, etc.).  In some cases it might be beneficial for the apprentice to make some phone calls to nail down the location for their future meetings and to ask people to consider joining their new group.  Through this discussion, the group may be able to easily divide the groups based on geography or age of children.  In other cases, group members may just want the leaders to determine which new group each person should end up in.  Again, prayer through this whole process is crucial.

 Looking ahead to the future

A helpful way to get your groups through this process is to plan a reunion event of some sort (i.e. covered dish picnic).  This will be a neat opportunity to see each other again and to meet the new people who have experienced real community as a result of the birthing process.  This will also be an opportunity to celebrate and to encourage continued involvement in this process.

The first time was the toughest.  The second time was a bit easier.  As people in your church and in your small groups adjust to this process, it will hopefully become easier.  Looking ahead, I see a church full of small groups that provide true community and unbelievable outreach and growth.

Afterthought

I could probably share many other things about my journey through this process (maybe I’ll have the chance sometime), and I realize I have much more to learn.  In the meantime, I hope this brief narrative will be helpful as you approach the small group ministry birthing process.

What tips to you have to add relating to the “birthing” process?  Have you ever experienced this process?  How did it go?

Ten Things Every Small Group Leader Should Know

Several months ago, I had the honor and privilege of sharing my thoughts to a group of small group leaders at our church.  I shared this list on the old jonstolpe.wordpress site, and it continues to be the most popular post.  I thought it might be a good idea to repost it here on the new site to hopefully spark some new conversation and thoughts about small group leadership.  So here are my notes:

I’m excited about this opportunity to share.  If you don’t know me or if you haven’t figured it out, I’m extremely passionate about small groups.  I truly believe they can provide a path for connection to others and to God.  I also believe that small groups play an important role in accountability and discipleship.  In no way is this list the Bible of small group leaders. It’s just my thoughts based on my involvement with small groups in various capacities for nearly 20 years. I’ve participated in groups. I’ve led groups. I’ve led group leaders. And I even had the privilege of leading a team of coaches.  (I was also brought up in a home where small groups were important and modeled by my parents.)  As I share my ideas, I’d encourage you to take a few notes.  So here goes:

1.  Small group leaders are important.  They play a big part in helping people find community, find God, and find growth.  If you are a small group leader, you need to know that what you do matters.

2.  Small group leaders set the tone.  Whether or not you consider yourself a Biblical scholar, your group members look to you as an example.  For this reason, it’s important that small group leaders continue to model growth.  They should be in the Word.  They should develop disciplines that model growth.  Small group leaders aren’t perfect, but they must find others who will hold them accountable to setting the tone.

3.  Small groups are not about small group leaders.  Small groups aren’t meant to showcase your incredible “holiness” or biblical knowledge.  Small groups aren’t meant to show off how great you are as a leader.  Small groups are about the group – about pointing people to God.

3A.  Small groups aren’t just about the groups either. Get out there and serve with your group. Find a way once a month or once every other month to get out there and serve together. Adopt a place that your group can focus on. There are many area nursing homes, soup kitchens, food and clothing pantries, etc. that would love to have the support of your group. Getting your group involved in this type of service gets your group focused on others and allows your group to practically put into motion what following Christ is all about.

4.  Small group leaders aren’t supposed to live on an island.  Leaders must find ways to stay strong and spiritually fervent.  They must also have a support team to provide guidance when small group life gets tough – and it usually will. (I wrote about this on my blog over a year ago.)

5.  Small group leaders must be invitational.  Intimacy and transparency in groups can be great, but it shouldn’t be an excuse not to invite others into the group.  I’m a big proponent of the “open chair” policy in small groups.  If you’re a small group leader, set the tone.  Make sure there is always an open chair in your group for new group members and guests.  Talk about it with your group.  Don’t let it be optional.

6.  Small group leaders aren’t perfect.  I think I said this before.  Group leaders must be honest with themselves.  They must learn to ask for help.  Maybe you stink at the administrative stuff, or maybe you’re a terrible host.  Look to those around you.  Get others to use their gifts to help the group and to help you as a leader.  Not only does this make you and the group better, but it engages others into the group experience.  People want to be asked to help.  They are often just waiting for you to ask them to get involved.

7.  Being a small group leader isn’t always easy.  Let’s face it, nobody likes to deal with EGRs (Extra Grace Required people).  But it can also be challenging when people in your group are going through difficult life circumstances.  People in your groups will get sick, they’ll have messed up relationships, and they’ll make mistakes that carry significant consequences.  You may be required to get involved with the mess.  Embrace it.  God may have placed you in leadership for such a time as this.

8.  Seek advice and wisdom from trusted advisers.  Your pastor, group life pastor and others who have been doing small group ministry for a while can be helpful.  They will know how to react.  They will know when to bring in assistance.  (I have also found a lot of great small group leader advice and resources on-line. Mention blogs – Because Relationships Matter by Kathy Guy, Heather Zempel, Life & Theology by Ben Reed, Mark Howell Live by Mark Howell, Simple Small Groups by Bill Search, Small Group Books.com by Ryan Knight, Small Group Pastors by the Central Christian Church in Las Vegas, The Naked Truth About Small Group Ministry by Randall Neighbor, and Will Johnston – of NCC.)

9.  Lean into the small group leader community.  Make it a priority to be here for each quarterly meeting.  Connect with each other outside this meeting.  Go to lunch or breakfast together.  When you see each other in and out of church, stop, ask, and share about your group.

9A.  Be patient. It may take time for your small group to grow. I remember starting our first group at our church. We met at our house. The Stolpes and the Callahans. This was it week after week after week. Then we added the Santangelos. Then the Bonanis started coming. Suddenly our small living room was filling up. We switched over to the Callahans. Before we knew it, we had to split up into three different rooms. The group had grown so much. I have seen this trend again and again. Don’t give up! It may take a little while for your group to catch on. Remember that God is there when two or more gather in His name.

10.  Be passionate!  My list started with a reminder that what you do as a small group leader matters.  Realize this fact.  Think about it.  Believe it. Act like it!  You have a great honor and privilege to lead others in their journey towards Christ.  This is awesome stuff!  Be excited about what you are doing.  Spread the excitement to others!

That’s my top 10 (or 12) things that small group leaders should know. I’d love to hear your ideas and questions. Before that, I’d like to leave you with this. Thank you! Thank you for stepping up to serve. Thank you for getting out of your comfort zone. Thank you for leading. Thank you for leading when it’s fun and when it’s not. Thank you for making a difference. Thank you for caring enough to help others connect to others and to God.

So these were my notes.  I would add another point based on some of the discussion that followed our meeting.  We’ll call it number 7A:  You may need to be flexible.  Sometimes life happens, and you need to throw out your plans for the meeting to address concerns that need immediate attention.

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

What would you add to the list?  How have you seen these points in your small group experience?

W2R Take Home 2: Make Prayer A Priority In Our Marriage

Happy Leap Day!

To my friend Stretch Mark, Happy 12th Birthday!

Yesterday, I shared one of my big take homes from my Weekend To Remember (W2R) marriage conference experience.  I shared that I want to be an agent of encouragement in my marriage and in my family.

Today, I’ll share my second big take home for the W2R conference.  I want to make prayer a bigger priority in my marriage.  Leanne and I pray to together most nights at bedtime.  Although, this sometimes is missed when one or both of us is “too” tired.  If I’m honest, I often wait for Leanne to initiate our prayer time.  I could probably come up with all kinds of excuses for this, but I’ll save you (and me) the agony.

The W2R conference was a great reminder that I need to step up and lead in this way in our marriage.  One of the speakers, Bob Maddox, shared that he and his wife pray together twice a day.  If he’s on the road, he calls her at least twice a day to make sure this prayer time happens.  Bob takes responsibility for this.  When he shared this, I was definitely challenged.  And so we are praying together twice a day.  I pray with Leanne before I leave for the office in the morning, and we pray together at bedtime.  So far, it’s been three days in a row!

How could praying together twice a day make a difference in our family?

First, making prayer a priority puts our perspective and focus in the right place.  God has to come first in our lives.  Second, praying together gives us an opportunity to connect and to lift each other up.  There’s no question that we are in a busy stage of our parenting lives as we run our kids from activity to activity.  We need this time to slow down and to be together.  Third, praying together sets the tone for our family.  I’ve heard it said, the couple that prays together stays together.  We want our family to be cemented together.  And we want our family to put God first.  When we pray, our kids will know it.  They’ll see us putting God first.  This will have an impact on their lives.  Finally, prayer changes lives.

The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.  James 5:16

What’s your prayer life look like?  If you’re married, do you pray together?  What reasons could you add for praying together with your spouse?

Our Behavior Is Our Witness – Guest Post by Kevin Stone

Today, I’m privileged to present guest blogger, Kevin Stone.  Kevin is the executive pastor at the church I attend.  He comes to our church from corporate America where he held key leadership positions at a few larger companies.  If you follow the Myers-Briggs temperament tests, Kevin and I share the same ESTJ personality type.  Kevin blogs regularly about leadership and about the happenings at our church.  You can follow him on his blog and on Twitter.  I’d encourage you to stop by executivepastoronline.com and become a subscriber and a regular reader of his blog!

(I love to share STRETCH stories on The Stretched Blog.  If you’re interested in guest posting, drop me a comment!)

Our Behavior is Our Witness

I definitely remember one of the things that stretched me most as a new believer. It wasn’t changing stuff that I had done previously, like eating too much, drinking too much, using bad language, looking a little too long at a beautiful lady walking by, etc. It wasn’t beginning to spend time in my Bible or doing some type of daily devotional, in prayer and meditation. It certainly wasn’t regularly attending church and serving; I love going to church and I definitely love to serve!

So, what was it, you say? It was learning how to “be Jesus” in day-to-day situations, especially at work. How do I actually “love” people who I previously couldn’t stand? How do I behave in a way that honors God even though God centered behavior very often flies in the face of the workplace norm?

Before becoming an Executive Pastor I spent more than 20 years in corporate America. (You can read the About page of my blog if you’re interested in the details.) I remember one particular leadership position with a company with a working environment “norm” that included lots of behavior that would challenge any well intending Christ follower. It was perfectly OK and very normal to turn one’s head, watching an attractive woman walking by. Use of lots of choice language in conversations with others was normal. It was even normal in fairly high level meetings. It was more than acceptable for a group of executives to follow a business dinner with a trip to one of the city’s “Gentlemen’s Clubs.” It wasn’t even out of the ordinary to see a married coworker spending a little too much time with another woman, if you get my meaning, while on a business trip.

As a Christ follower, I had to find a way not to become a “weird Christian” while not violating any of my principles in terms of my behavior. I didn’t want to be weird or “preachy” to my coworkers, but I did want to be noticeably different opening doors for sharing my faith with others. So, I drew the line as it related to my own behavior. I didn’t criticize the behavior of others. I just made sure that my behavior was fitting for a person who believes in Jesus. When the heads were turning to check out a nice looking young woman, my head wasn’t one of them. It was difficult, but I kept thinking, “What would that lady think if she knew I was watching her walk away?” Or, “What would my wife say if she saw me looking?” When I spoke, I somehow found a way to express myself without using some of the choice expletives that my coworkers normally used. I kept a healthy distance from women while still doing my job. I only went to lunch with female coworkers if others were along with us. I avoided business trips with just me and a female coworker. And, I definitely always went home after business dinners while others were headed for the strip club.

Did this create a little “separation” between my boss, most of my coworkers, and me? Definitely yes! It never got in the way of promotions, bonuses, or other positive recognition, though. In fact, my boss had a lot of respect for me. I remember the first time we talked about my passion for Jesus and the church. He was, I think, impressed. In fact, now (years later) he regularly attends church with his wife! Pretty cool!

The bottom line is this: Jesus told us to evangelize the world. He didn’t tell us to separate ourselves from the rest of the world. In fact, he told us to go into the world. In order to do that, we must stay “normal.” What do normal people do? They listen to normal music. They have fun doing stuff that others enjoy doing. Of course they are also doing stuff that God would like to see them stop doing. And, they need us to introduce them to Jesus so he can change them. If we’re “freaky Christians” we’ll never get close enough to another to actually have an impact on them. They’ll think we’re weird and just stay away from us.

We need to learn that we can’t change the behavior of others. We can only control what we do, and we need to allow Jesus to change us which helps our “different” behavior to open doors and create opportunities to share our faith with others.

So what do you think?  How has your behavior been a witness to others?

Resource Review: EntreLeadership Podcast

A couple of years ago, I had never heard a single podcast.  Now, I listen to several podcasts that STRETCH me on a regular basis thanks to the wonders of technology and the iPod.  In keeping with the recent trend on The Stretched Blog, I’d like to use this Monday to provide feedback on a resource.  (Last week, I reviewed The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson.   And the week before, I reviewed an eBook by Michael D. Perkins – Manifesto On Being Myself.)

Today, I’m passing along my two cents on the EntreLeadership podcast.  EntreLeadership is based on a book of the same name written by Dave Ramsey.  The EntreLeadership podcast launched on August 17, 2011 by Dave Ramsey and his team.  Since then, twelve podcasts have been published (twice every month) that have highlighted different aspects of leadership.

The podcasts vary in length between 35 and 50 minutes.  Each podcast which is hosted by Chris LoCurto typically starts with an excerpt from a Dave Ramsey speech followed by interviews from various leaders.  These leaders have included Jim Collins, Dan Miller, Tony Dungy, Tim Sanders, Dan Cathy, Simon Sinek, and others.  Each podcast is focused on a leadership topic.  The topics have included servant leadership, recognition, mission, accountability, unity, and decision-making.

I typically listen to the podcasts while I’m running or driving.  Occasionally, I’ve had to pull the car over to jot down a key point or note from what I’ve just heard.  The podcasts are filled with wisdom for leaders.  Whether you are starting your own business, leading in your company, leading in your church, or leading in any type of organization, I would recommend checking out the EntreLeadership podcast.  The podcast provides information that will inspire you and encourage you to step out and be the best leader you can be.

Do you listen to the EntreLeadership podcast?  If so, what is one of your biggest take aways from what you’ve heard?  What other podcasts do you recommend and listen to regularly?

Managing Conflict – A Leadership Stretch … Guest Post by Frank Chiapperino

Today is a big deal for me!  I get to share Frank Chiapperino with my readers.  Frank is a great friend who has my deepest respect.  Frank has a huge heart for leadership and for connecting people to each other and to God.  For several years, I served on Frank’s small group ministry team at our church in Pennsylvania.  I’ve had the privilege of hitting a few conferences with Frank, catching several breakfasts and lunches with him, and sharing leadership/social media/blogging ideas.  Frank is probably the biggest reason that I started The Stretched Blog.  Frank is now pastoring a church in Minnesota, but we still keep in touch from time to time.  You can follow Frank on Twitter or at one of his two blogs – Frank Chiapperino and techpastor.net.  Check out these sites and become one of his regular readers.

(If you’re interested in sharing your STRETCHING story as a guest blogger here, drop me a comment so we can connect.)

Managing Conflict – A Leadership Stretch

I’m so delighted that Jon asked me to guest post on his blog.  I’ve known Jon for quite a few years and valued his friendship as I served and led ministries at the church he attends in the suburbs of Philadelphia.  Currently I serve a church in Rochester, Minnesota and my role has changed.  What is stretching me now is leadership and managing conflict as our church works through change.

It kind of reminds me the challenges I navigate with my boys as a parent.  My boys are getting older and beginning to play together more and more often.  You know what that means… they fight more often too.  One time my wife Shelli made us some great french toast and we enjoyed breakfast together at the table as a family.  Shortly after, Shelli went up to shower and the boys were playing with cars and toys on their train table. They were enjoying themselves and seemed to be fine so I began reading today’s paper.

All of a sudden I hear my oldest son scream, “No AJ, NOOooooooo.”  Anthony (AJ) looked like King Kong on a path of destruction in the little town Michael had created on the train table.  Michael gave him a big shove and my youngest boy brandished his teeth like a german shepherd on the attack, going at his arm for the bite in defense. Luckily, I stepped in just in time and separated the construction engineer from the wrecking ball before any injuries occurred.  What I did next was set some ground rules for the boys. I gave them each a side on the table to play on and they each took a few toys to play with and asked them each to stay on their side. The rest of our morning was quite peaceful.

Sometimes as leaders we need to be a guiding presence and help others navigate through conflict. There are times I will have a staff member or another volunteer leader at our church call me and say, “Frank, I need help. There are some members of my team that are at each other’s throats.” For some strange reason they don’t share my joy when I say, “THAT IS GREAT!” When I manage conflict I normally start where many Christian leaders do, following Matthew chapter 18:

15″If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. 16But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ 17If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.

  • Go to them privately and confront them on the issue
  • If a private discussion doesn’t work take a witness. That means someone who has seen the behavior you are speaking to them about.
  • If that doesn’t work attempt to involve church leadership to aid in resolution of the problem.
  • If that fails, end the relationship.

That is pretty much what Matthew lays out, and it is sound advice that works. However, I do have a few other guiding principles I follow that aid in confrontation and conflict resolution:

  • Be wise with your words. Everything you say in a confrontation will either escalate or de-escalate a conflict. Try to use words and responses that we de-escalate the tension.
  • Don’t discuss nameless people. Sometimes people will say, “Someone told me…” If they refuse to use actual names of real people, don’t acknowledge it as a leader in the church. It only leads to pointless discussion because you can’t get the real person behind whatever it is involved.
  • If you’re wrong, admit it right away. This is powerful in conflict resolution. Think about it for a minute. How often do you hear people actually admit they are wrong? Not often, it is a real sign of maturity and it will have an immediate affect on the situation.
I find these guiding principles useful and I hope you do too. By the way… take a look at the picture below. Can you tell which side of the table belonged to Michael and which side was AJ’s?–

What would you add to Frank’s list above when it comes to resolving conflict?