Monday, October 28, 2013

Leader Friends

By Tracey Bianchi

I play favorites. Unabashedly, unashamedly, I hand pick women to love on deeply within the ministry areas I lead.

When I served as a High School Pastor I spread out my smiles and prayers to students as evenly as I could. I encouraged boys and girls alike and helped them know God loved them all deeply. But, I had favorites. A small group of girls into whom I poured more leadership capital. A strategy that makes me wince when I consider the fact in ministry we try to spread out the love of God to as many people as possible. How dare we pick a few to dote upon?!

To lead well and bring people where God is calling us to lead them, most of us choose a select few to be with tightly. We don't like the appearance of favoring a few, but we default into this stance. When we feel pressed by leadership responsibility, we think, "Now who do I pour into to get this done now and into the future?" It's how we get work done and leadership multiplied. It's why Jesus had a tight circle of three and an inner circle of twelve.
"My girls" were not the snappiest dressers, the most extroverted students or even the ones with the most leadership potential. They were the girls God etched on my heart and called me to mentor and befriend. And as they moved from High School Ministry on into college and now, into adulthood, these are still the gals I chase after and lead differently than others and they are now in ministry leadership themselves. The strategy worked.

Leadership cannot exist separately from friendship and mentorship. The three are inextricably linked and yet, in order to lead and mentor well, we can only befriend and mentor a small number of our teammates. If we spread ourselves too thin, we make lousy friends and leaders to many and powerful partners to very few.

So as you consider your teams, the groups and communities you lead, think through the "favorites" that God has pressed upon your heart. If you are called to lead some differently and more intimately than others, consider how you can do that well. What boundaries do you need to set with other teammates? How do you address what can be perceived as a lack of care for some and overt care for others? Can other mentors share your load so that all are cared for?

As a leader, the energy and time you have for friendships and mentorships is precious. Moses in Psalm 90:12 calls us to live within the boundaries of our limited time. As a leader, consider what it looks like to live wisely and well by investing your friendship and resources into the pockets of a few so that for the Kingdom, you can impact many.

Tracey Bianchi is the Worship Pastor at Christ Church in Oak Brook, Illinois and author of Green Mama and Mom Connection. You can purchase her recorded webinar on Leader Friends at

Monday, October 14, 2013

An Old House

By Sarah Kovac

I live in an old house. Not Pinteresty-vintage old, but paint-chipped-slant-floored old. When we bought this place, I imagined the peeling baby blue trim would soon be replaced with a fresh coat of a classy grey. We plotted about how we’d remodel the partially-finished basement. We priced screen doors and light fixtures and deck construction, but there was never the time. There was never the money. There was never the energy. We settled in seven years ago and still haven’t painted most of the walls, which, thanks to my aversion to decorating, are largely barren. 

This is far from our dream house. But it has certainly housed our dreams. I have the sneaking suspicion that one day, I’ll drive down this street for old time’s sake and my heart will break a little as I remember being up all night with my son for the first time. I’ll remember him jumping down the stairs like Superman and Daddy flying him through the living room, Iron Man style. I’ll remember our races for the front door to watch every ambulance that would drive by, and I’ll remember praying with him for whoever the ambulance was on its way to help.  I’ll remember the day we brought home his little sister and the elation in his eyes when he’d perch on the arm rest beside me to touch her soft, black hair. I’ll remember the beautiful life we were given in this imperfect house on this imperfect street in this imperfect town. 

This house will never be on the cover of Better Homes and Gardens, but within it so much beauty has been lived. So many priceless memories and such a rich part of our lives has been experienced here… the ugly trim and barren walls will be something we will remember fondly.

Some days I feel like this house. Broken-down, in need of so much work. Work I should have done but haven’t. Sometimes I fear I’ll be unfit for any sort of real purpose until I tidy my life up. Could God really use such a fixer-upper as me?

God promised me life, and an abundant one, at that. I wonder… what if I don’t need a tidy life for his promises to be true? What if I never “arrive”? What if his promises are not to be earned, but only accepted?
His promises are for me. For you. As flawed as we may be, he wants to use us. He wants to give us purpose, hope, a future. All he asks from us is the key. To fill us up, he needs access to our junk drawers. The closets piled with stuff we’ve shoved away when company was coming. The journals and the photo albums and the memories we’d rather forget. We must be filled to be fulfilled. 

Dig out that key and be amazed at his creativity. Who needs Pinterest? You’ve got the Restorer of All Things knocking at your door.

Sarah Kovac is an inspirational speaker and author of the book, In Capable Arms: Living a Life Embraced by Grace. She lives with her husband and two children just outside of Kansas City, MO. Visit  for more.

Monday, October 7, 2013


By Karen Schelhaas

I forgot my bras on a weeklong trip to Scottsdale, which constitutes an emergency.  If you knew me, you’d know just how much of an emergency it was.

My husband offered to buy me a “gift”, a Hail Mary of an offer, something I refused when I realized it was a test.  I’d made a decision 8 months earlier to give up personal spending for a year after reading a book whose author found some real freedom, and so I got the “freeing” opportunity to wear my $5 sports bras as a teaching moment in the land of the naturally (or not so naturally) endowed.  Trust me when I say there’s nothing lovelier than a fitted t-shirt and a $5 sports bra when you’ve nursed 3 babies and you’re in the over-40 crowd.

I thought the year would offer some new perspective on contentment, but what really happened was far more thorough, a purge of deeply rooted issues.

On Day 1, I went in to my closet and reintroduced myself to my clothes and shoes and bags and promised to find new attitudes about them.  What didn’t fit me went to the homes of others, the first purge.

The change of seasons scripted the most trying moments; I’d trudge back in to my closet, attempting to muster new excitement for what greeted me there.  I’m an American girl with a decent supply and I have nothing to complain about on a global scale.  But too much stuff made me numb. Granted, I’m pretty sure I’m the only living female under 50 in my suburban radius without a pair of skinny jeans, but it matters less and less to me as time marches on.  I’m hoping that it won’t matter one bit at some point.

While the focus on the external was halted in its tracks, God turned on the internal spotlight in corners I wasn’t expecting.   I began to see that not only was I hinging my first (and perhaps best) impression on the cute clothes or shoes I wore, but also the body on which they hung.  I realized that there was a marked difference between staying strong and healthy and being critical of every curve of my body, hyperaware of how things drape and present to the outside world. 

Real freedom came gradually, and I began to get dressed quickly and without obsession, genuinely focused on the people and the tasks in front of me.  I found I cared less and less about what other people were wearing (or how their bodies looked) and more about the real offerings in their lives. I don’t greet women with the up-and-down “once over” anymore.   Freedom.

The initial buzz of a new shirt or a sparkly pair of shoes is indeed that – a buzz.  Like a good cocktail, it makes us feel warm and fuzzy and noticeable.  But in the end, it loses its thrill and needs refilling, which can get expensive for the soul as well as the pocketbook.

At the end of the year, everybody wondered what would happen, what I’d purchase when I got out of “buying prison.”  I bought what I needed, exactly two tank tops, a pair of black sandals, and a new shirt.  When you buy what you need for a body that needs to be clothed and not for a body that needs to be cheered to glory, some real freedom emerges.   I’m still surprised by the results of the no-buying year, how I don’t feel the same. Freedom is a buzz unto itself, and I feel lighter than I have in years.   

The unexpected highlight of the experiment came when I offered to buy my 12-year-old daughter a black shirt at a store, and she responded with “Mom, I already have a black shirt.  I don’t need another one.”    That’s right, babe.  You don’t.

Karen Booker Schelhaas lives in Highlands Ranch, CO with her husband and five children ranging from ages 7 to 15. When she's not teaching, cooking, jogging, cleaning, gardening, entertaining, chauffeuring or volunteering, she can be found at her kitchen table with coffee in her veins, slowly putting her stories into words.