A Tribute to Chris Cleghorn

In Chicago, Australia and other Crucible communities across the world, we are honoring Chris Cleghorn’s services to this growing tribe of 4,500-plus men … and now women. 

On a recent sunny day, Chris, the former Executive Director of The Crucible Project,  and I enjoyed a cool breeze and coffee outside of a Starbucks in the Chicagoland area. 

As I nursed my coffee for a few hours, I realized that I admire Chris for his organizational genius and accomplishments. But I really love and value him for his humanity and his humility.

Under Chris’s seven-year tenure as Executive Director (three of those years in a part-time role, and four years full-time) The Crucible Project grew exponentially. Consider this: 

  • Annual initial weekends have grown from 10 in three markets to 34 internationally.
  • Annual men initiated have grown from 230 to 869/year.
  • 1,000 men in 11 years 2002 – 2012 years to now over 4,500 in 2019.
  • Annual second level weekends increased from 3 to 8; men attending from 95 men to 157.
  • Annual weekend staffing opportunities – volunteer roles – have grown from 276 to 872.
  • Annual revenues increased from $378,000 to $1,058,000 as of May 2019.
  • The number of established and potential Crucible communities is now at 28.
  • Third and Fourth Women’s Weekends coming up in August and September.

Chris would never take all the credit himself, but he played a critical role managing and facilitating such growth by creating systems and infrastructure like the rigorous leadership development tracks to build a bench of strong and gifted leaders in every Crucible community.  Chris also facilitated a culture of innovation and pioneering ventures such as weekends in Mexico, the development of regional communities, and now we even have an adapted weekend prison ministry.  Chris was a primary force in the inception, planning, launch, and fulfillment of the Redwoods Campaign, which resulted in a clarified mission, growth strategies and at least $800,000 in funding. Additionally, the amount of paid staff has grown, volunteer staff stands at around 100 not including weekend volunteers, and the board is fully engaged.

As I talked and listened to Chris, I caught a glimpse of how hard it must be to lead through such dynamic growth and continued to be amazed at the lack of bravado in Chris’s tone as he listed the results of his leadership.  He is not one to do it through big speeches, or forceful demand, but through strategic discussions and relationship.

In fact, as a friend, I’ve been privileged to experience Chris … the quiet, regular guy.  And this Chris may be the one who impresses me the most.  He is a man of stories.  He tells them, he listens deeply to them, and he values them.  He has a deep love for the story but even more for the storyteller.

As a Crucible Project member and a man, Chris has served me remarkably.  I hope you can join me in thanking him and honoring him through this interview. And I invite you to gain insights from his experience.  

Here are his answers to a few of the questions I asked him:

What has life been like since “retirement”?

Well, it’s like I officially handed the keys over in April, but I’ve still been heavily involved in various projects, and even just supporting the new Executive Director — Roy Wooten — as he is getting up to speed with the current status of projects, by-laws, and other organizational functions.  The transition may still be playing out for me months from now.  

And even then, I still have a lot of energy to be involved at some level.  Though there is this process of letting go, I’m still involved on weekends, as a carpet leader, as a group leader in the Two-Year Transformation Program.  

Outside of Crucible, I’ve enjoyed spending time reading and taking care of the yard.  There’s something about weeding and composting, getting closer to nature and getting out of my head, where I had to be in a lot as director.  And playing with Read, one of my grandsons, like when we were tie-dying t-shirts yesterday, it’s great how he wants to include me.

How did you know it was time to retire?

Simply, I was losing energy to fight the battles that come with running a growing organization.  When leading an organization, you have to patrol the walls and stand up for the values. As rewarding as it is to be engaged in the growth, there’s challenge, pressure, conflict.  I’m moving into an elder stage of the journey.  

Richard Rohr, an American writer and Franciscan priest,  talks about how as men, we spend a lot of our time building our egos and our kingdoms.  I call it tower building.  And it’s necessary.  But at some point, we hit a crisis of limitation, and we need to let go.  

I really credit Greg Huston (the founder of The Crucible Project) with knowing that it was time for him to let go.  He didn’t cling on.  He led both the coaching side and the organizational side of The Crucible Project. But, when the organizational side of things was ready to grow and expand, he understood that his passion was in coaching and developing leaders. And, he had the humility to let go. 

I still want to make an impact, but I see strong leaders around me and it’s time for someone else to be the organizational head — someone younger.  I still have energy to nurture and build, but I don’t want it to come from a place obligation, as a job.  I want it to flow out of my mission: I build a just world by building relationships of love and truth.

What are you proud of?

Well, I don’t know about proud … but I am happy that I have led the organization through a time of accelerated growth — more weekends, more communities, increased giving.  I’m happy I’ve helped set up systems and infrastructure for future growth.  

I’m particularly happy about the inception of the women’s weekends.  It would not have happened if I didn’t advance the cause.  A few others and I were definitely in the minority.  

I’m proud that my family has been so supportive of this work and my involvement.  I’m proud that I always focused on the greater good of the organization.  I believe I have honored Greg Huston’s legacy and built upon it.

Over the years, other men’s work communities have grown and developed outside the Crucible.  How is Crucible distinct?

Yes, there are many men’s communities, and I don’t know about all of them.  I know there is overlap as well as differences.  I can speak best for Crucible, that we assure quality through rigorous leadership development.  We have high standards for our leaders and tight systems of leadership development, feedback and accountability.  We also have a strong cycle of men giving back in volunteer service and financially.

What would be an ideal role for you going forward?

I don’t know, I still may have 10-20 years to give.  I want to support and invest in men, not necessarily leaders, though they might become leaders, just in an individual, personal way, I want to invest in men’s journeys without conditions or qualifiers.

How would you like to see Crucible evolve?

I’d like to see the continued growth, but I see tribalism in the world and in the Church.  I see how people will follow whichever “Big Chief” they like at the time.  They follow their ego desires rather than the mission and ideals of the organization.  I’d like to see the organization change from within, and despite its flaws continue to stay unified and true to its ideals as it continues to develop.  I want to see us grow in all the quadrants, towards balanced, healthy masculinity.  I hope to see every man continuing to do his work, and remaining open to continually learning.  Our growth and impact will be limited only by the health of our leaders and leadership development.  So I want to see people get involved and give back.

What is “men’s work”?

Richard Rohr writes and talks a lot about the male spiritual journey, and maybe it’s not just for men, but we start out, this often clueless and often angry young man who has to act out, follow his ego, prove his power because of a sense of powerlessness.  Then we move into Heroic period, where we build our kingdom, our domains, with our ideals and achievements. Eventually, we hit a crisis of limitation, we realize our limits and we have the choice to accept the limitation, accept the mystery, and let go of the ego, or become an old fool that keeps trying to ascend and build his kingdom, or a bitter man who blames everyone else for his wounds.  Ideally, at least as men approach my age one would become a holy fool who can hold paradoxes, mystery, and tension like God does.

Though anyone can learn from a Crucible weekend, the ones who come have usually realized they are “stuck” and are open to learning. 

Men’s work is the journey in and down, where men learn to embrace and love themselves and connect with God and who He is.  

At an initial weekend, men have a safe place to better know themselves, God, Jesus as the connector of all things, to strip away masks and personas and experience a life reconciled, experience love and grace.

How has the project and leading it affected you personally?

Honesty was always a high value, but I became even more honest with myself.  When I was 45, I told a group I needed to see a counselor, and I didn’t reach out to one until 10 years later, after I came to Crucible.  I’ve learned a leader has to be even more attentive to self-care and self-leadership when leading.  So I’ve learned to see myself more honestly and see others more honestly and accept people. I’ve learned the ability to hold paradoxes and ambiguity. 

What blessing do you have for our community?

I bless you, men, your open hearts to go deep, to look deeply at yourselves.  I bless your honesty, courage to face honestly who you are, to be on a journey with God and toward God.  I see the amazing impact you are having in your lives and families,  and your doing your work is changing the world.

Bless Chris:

  • What gold do you see in Chris?
  • What blessing do you have for him?
  • How has your life changed in the last seven years while he led the growth of our global band of brothers?

By Marc Mantasoot

Marc completed his initial Crucible weekend in 2004 and graduated from our two-year transformational program in 2008. He wants to help others pursue their God-given joy and free the world of ego. He is an award-winning poet, writer, small groups/discipleship coach, high school English teacher and martial arts trainer.  He provides powerful methods for life transformation at marcmantasoot.com.  His greatest joys: Creating scenes with his son, lining up My Little Ponies with his baby girl, and pursuing his irresistible wife.