Category Archives for "leadership"

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 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  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?

Ice Breaker – Resolutions

Okay, here it is!  The last ice breaker question of 2011!  I started these ice breaker questions a couple of months ago, and I’ve been amazed at the popularity and response.  The Ice Breaker question a few weeks ago about Christmas movies is one of the top posts all-time on The Stretched Blog.  For those of you who are new or who forgot, ice breaker questions are used to help people get to know each other – to “break the ice” so to speak.  I love hearing what other people have to say and how they think.  So for today, I’m excited to throw out another simple New Year’s themed ice breaker question.  I’ll answer it first, then it’s your turn.  Answer the question by leaving a comment for us all to enjoy.  Thanks!

Question:  Do you make New Year’s resolutions?  If so, what’s one of your New Year’s resolutions? If not, why?

My Answer:  Here you go….

If you’ve been reading for a while, you may have noticed or you may have heard me share that I’m a goal oriented person.  I love to set goals and to see where they take me.  So…it shouldn’t be a surprise that I like the opportunity to set new goals for the year ahead.  I usually set personal fitness goals, spiritual growth goals, leadership goals, church goals, marriage goals, family goals, financial goals, and personal growth goals.  I’ll share a goal from my personal growth area.  I’d like to read at least one book per month in 2012.  For the avid readers out there, this doesn’t sound very challenging.  But I’m not the average avid reader, I’m pretty slow and deliberate with my reading.  So reading one book per month will be a decent challenge.  I am currently reading The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson, and I think I may finish this before the new year, so this doesn’t count.  I’m looking to focus my reading in a few areas:  small groups, leadership, and spiritual growth.  I couple books that I’m looking forward to reading this year are:  Community Is Messy (a soon to be released book by Heather Zempel), Community:  Taking Your Small Group Off Of Life Support by Brad House, and EntreLeadership by Dave Ramsey.

So there you have it, my answer to the question.  Now it’s your turn….I can’t wait to hear what you’ve got to say!

Top Posts of 2011 Number 2 – Ten Things Every Small Group Leader Should Know

We are down to the top two Stretched posts from 2011.  Sharing these top posts provides an excellent opportunity for me to take a small break during the holidays, and it also provides an incredible opportunity for you to catch up on things you may have missed over the past year.  I hope you’ll hop on over to the original post, so you can read the entire post and add your comments to the existing comments string.

The 2nd most popular Stretched post from 2011 was post written to help small group leaders.  The post is titled Ten Things Every Small Group Leader Should Know.  Here’s an excerpt to get you going:

Ten Things Every Small Group Leader Should Know

Yesterday, I had the honor and privilege of sharing my thoughts to a group of small group leaders at our church.  I shared 5 of my ideas in an earlier post, but I thought you might enjoy hearing my complete list.  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.

To read the rest of this post, head on over to the original Ten Things Every Small Group Leader Should Know post.

Are you in a small group?  Tell us about it!

Potential, Position, and Pain (A Guest Post by Jonathan Pearson)

Today, I have the privilege of presenting guest blogger, Jonathan Pearson.

Jonathan Pearson

Jonathan Pearson is the Communications Pastor at Cornerstone Church, Assistant Director of The Sticks, and co-creator of Jonathan writes, tweets, & speaks to inspire people to work together to reshape the world. Jonathan can be found online at and on twitter as @JonathanPearson. Jonathan is married to Melissa and the two live in Orangeburg, S.C.

(I’m always looking for opportunities to share others stretching stories.  Please leave me a comment if you’re interesting in guest posting at Jon Stolpe Stretched!)

We all have those things that we’re uncomfortable with…

Those things that we find ourselves insecure about.

Those things we dread because we know we’re not good in a particular situation.

Those things that when forced to, we do OK in, but we don’t want to be forced to.

And then we have those things that we’re uncomfortable with but know are a necessary inconvenience.

Those things that we know, if we do them, we’ll lead us beyond where we are.

Those things that, once we get through them, take us to another level.

Those things that stretch us.

For me, it’s being young and leading people older than me.

Everyday of my life, it stretches me to think different, remain humble, and love those I lead.

Everyday, it forces me to get uncomfortable, to seek God, and to do the very best I can.

Some days, I screw it up.

Some days, I knock it out of the park.

But if I was never in over my head,

if I was never forced to get uncomfortable,

I’d never grow.

My potential would never be reached.

It’s in those times of tough, hard nosed, in over your head times of leadership that we’re prepared for our destiny… that we’re prepared for the God sized calling in our lives.

Don’t regret or detest what stretches you.

What’s stretching you these days?

Leaders Are Readers – Creating My Reading List For 2012

“Leaders are readers.”

I’ve heard Tim Sanders quote this in several interviews on the radio and on podcasts.

It seems to me that there is a lot of truth to this statement.  When we feed our minds (with good stuff), we fill it up with tools that are useful for leading and for life.  With this in mind, I am beginning to assemble a list of potential books to consider reading in 2012.  I should let you know that I’m generally a slow and very deliberate reader, so I’m planning to narrow the list down to twelve with a couple of alternates.  Here are some of the books that I’m considering so far:

The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson

EntreLeadership by Dave Ramsey

Today We Are Rich by Tim Sanders

The No Complaining Rule by Jon Gordon

Community:  Taking Your Small Group Off Life Support by Brad House

Creating Community:  Five Keys To Building A Small Group Culture by Andy Stanley

So these are a few of my ideas.  I will most likely throw in a fiction book or two (or three).

Now I’d like to hear your thoughts.  What would you add to the list?  What’s on your “To Read List”?  What have you read recently that you think I should consider?  I can’t wait to see what you’ve got!

What Every Small Group Leader Should Know


Do you want to become a stronger leader?

Are you involved in group life ministry?

Next month, I’ve been invited to speak at a small group leader gathering at our church.  I’ve been asked to share my top 10 list of things that every small group leader should know.  I’m excited about this opportunity.  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.  So I haven’t formulated my full list, but I’ve begun to process what I will share.

1.  The 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.

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.

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.

These are just some of my initial thoughts.  I’d love to hear what you think.

What would you add to the list?  What do you think every small group leader should know?

Heart Broken – Guest Post at Big B

Today, I have the privilege of presenting my first guest blog post over at Big B.  Big B is the blog for an incredible young man named Brandon who is passionate about music, leadership, and God.  I’ve connected with him on-line over the past couple of months, and I have been inspired by words.  Please check out my post and please support Brandon by adding his blog to your regular reading.

Here’s an excerpt from my post:

It can be easy to fall into the trap of tunnel vision.  We can all become so caught up in ourselves that we miss out on what’s happening to those around us.  In many cases, we don’t even see those we walk by on the street or sit next to on the train.  We live and operate in a world of me, me, me.


A recent family vacation to Canada took my family into Montreal for a day.  There’s nothing like a vacation and a trip into a city to jolt one out of their routine and snap one to attention to things that matter.  We had a wonderful time touring around Montreal.  We saw many of the famous tourist sites including the market at Jean-Talon, the view of the city from the top of Mont Royal, Old Montreal, and the port.  All these places were new and interesting, but I will always remember a brief encounter with a young man in a park near the home of the Montreal Canadians.  Here’s how I remembered the encounter in my journal…

(If you’re interested in becoming a guest blogger on my blog, please leave me a comment.  I’d love to connect with you.  Also, I would certainly welcome other opportunities to be a guest blogger on your blog, so you can leave me a comment on that as well.)