Category Archives for "leadership"

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.)

Leading Through Conflict

Conflict and confrontation are not my strong suit.  I much prefer when things go well and people get along even when mistakes and obstacles must be overcome.  Unfortunately, this is not the way it works.  People have different opinions.  People make mistakes.  People have different personalities.  And they don’t always get along.  Conflict seems to be inevitable.

As a leader and manager, I am faced with conflict on a regular basis.  I don’t have a choice to ignore it in hopes that the problems will just go away.  I often have to confront conflict to help bring about resolution and to hopefully be an agent for positive change.

The Bible gives some pointers for handling conflict between believers in Matthew 18:15-20 which may give some insight for handling conflict in the secular workplace.  Here are the pointers from Jesus:

1.  Try to resolve the conflict just between the two parties in conflict (v. 15).  Don’t bring anyone else into the conflict if it can be resolved first.

2.  Bring the conflict to one or two other believers (v. 16).  If the conflict cannot be resolved face-to-face in step 1, the Bible mandates trying to bring the conflict to a resolution through the help of a couple of believers.

3.  Take the conflict before the church (v. 17).  If all else fails, the Bible tells us to bring the conflict before the church.  If the conflict cannot be resolved then the person may be removed from the church.

In the secular business world, I’m not always dealing with fellow believers.  In reality, the construction industry can be full of some rather colorful and rough personalities.  Having said this, I believe these standards from scripture can be helpful for handling conflict in the workplace.  As leaders in the business world, here are some ideas for handling conflict:

1.  Encourage face-to-face conversations between the conflicting parties.  Often times, people are misunderstood.  A meeting of this type should provide an opportunity for both parties to get their frustrations on the table.  With reasonable individuals and situations, conflict can often be resolved here.

2.  Sometimes it’s necessary to get a mediator involved.  Here’s where I would suggest getting involved along with another manager.  If the two parties in conflict are let by different individuals, it would make sense to get the other manager involved.  The managers should facilitate a discussion in an effort to bring resolution.  This may take a couple of meetings, but it shouldn’t drag out.

3.  If all else fails HR (Human Resources) and higher level leadership may need to get involved to drive a resolution.  The may mean a change in assignment(s) for one or both parties.  Or it may represent a more drastic transition towards other employment opportunities inside or outside the company.

4.  In all cases, rumors should be avoided.  As leaders, managers should squash any rumors.  Rumors only lead to further conflict.

Handling conflict can be a real challenge, but leaders must deal with it head on.  I wish I could say I always get it right.  I’m certainly challenged and stretched by this topic.

What tips would you add for leaders to follow in handling workplace conflict?


Look What I Found In My Closet – Notes From My Last Willow Creek Group Life Groups Conference

Okay.  I have a confession to make.  Many of you will find this surprising as I am generally known as an organized person.  I’m not always great at dealing with smaller paperwork.  As I learned today, many of the receipts and small notes that I carry around in my pockets end up in a pile in my closet.  Today, I had an opportunity to get in there and do some clean up, and I discovered a small sheet of notes from my last Willow Creek Group Life Conference.  I thought I’d share them with you here, because I think they still apply.

Conference Overview:

– Just like water and oxygen, COMMUNITY is essential to living.

– I don’t remember all the details, but the speakers, worship, breakout workshops, and discussion groups were excellent.

– The conference gave me a chance to:

– Rub shoulders with “Group Life” people from around the world (there were roughly 4,000 people at the conference and 13,000 viewing via satellite.

– Get new ideas and resources.  (These conferences are always great for this!)

– Recalibrate, Recharge, and Re-vision

My Big Take Homes:

1.  I need to be in Community.

2.  Check my centerline (Community helps keep me in check).

3.  We as Christian leaders have an opportunity to leverage technology for Community.

4.  Caught a deeper vision for how discipleship can happen in Community.

5.  We have a hope that we need to take into the Community.

I realize that these notes make seem a bit sketchy, but they bring back some great reminders and memories for me.

What conferences have had an impact on you?  What conferences do you recommend and why?

Book Review: Leadership is Dead – How Influence Is Reviving It

I recently finished reading Jeremie Kubicek’s new book, Leadership is Dead – How Influence Is Revising It, and I would definitely recommend this book to leaders who want to leave a legacy that out lives themselves.  Kubicek contrasts the leadership of those who are self-preserving and those who are self-fulfilling.  He outlines very clearly how a leader can have a much more positive and significant impact on others by giving themselves away to serve others.

It seems fairly basic, but these are concepts that every leader needs to hear again.  I know that I was challenged in my leadership at work, at church, and at home to be intentional and purposeful in serving others and providing positive influence.  I was also challenged with the fact that I need to make sure I’m plugging into people who can have a positive influence on me as a leader, husband, parent, friend, and Christ-follower.

Who is influencing you in a positive way?  Who are you investing in to be a positive influence?

Clearing the Bases by Mike Schmidt

I’m a big sports fan.  My favorite teams are the Eagles, the Bears, the Cubs, the Phillies, and the Bulls (I guess I’d throw the Flyers in there as my hockey team).  My favorite players of all time are probably Walter Payton (football), Julius Erving and Michael Jordan (basketball), and Mike Schmidt (baseball).  So when Leanne gave me Clearing the Bases by Mike Schmidt as part of my birthday gift, I was clearly looking forward to hearing what Michael Jack Schmidt had to say about his playing career and about his thoughts about the current state of the game of baseball.

I wasn’t disappointed.

Schmidt talks about the ups and downs of his playing days from his insecurities to his 3 MVPs and World Series Championship.   Schmidt also shares about his feelings about the Steroid area, free agency, and Pete Rose.  (The book was written in 2006, so I would be curious to know if Schmidt’s views on the Steroid era have changed as more information has been disclosed since then.)  It was interesting to get his perspectives and each of these, but this wasn’t my biggest takeaway.

I was first of all surprised by Schmidt’s expression of his faith.  Growing up, I can’t remember hearing anything about his faith, so it was refreshing to hear this.  I’d love to sit down over a cup of coffee or lunch with the legend and talk more about our common bond.

The other thing that had a big impact on me was Schmidt’s discussion about managing.  Obviously, he was talking about managing baseball, but one paragraph in particular spoke to me as a manager and leader:

“The sixth and most important attribute of a good manager – and this one’s a straight fastball right down the middle – is the ability to communicate.  To be a good manager, you must be a good communicator.  That means being able to talk to your players, not at them.  You need to work at relating to them, but at the same time, you need to keep a respectful distance.  Show you care about them personally. You can’t just stroll out of your office into the clubhouse one day a week and fake it; you have to have a consistent presence.”

I’ll be hanging this one up in my office.

If you’re a baseball plan, I’d recommend this book.