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Willow Creek Community Church (or simply Willow Creek Church) is a non-denominational, Evangelical Christian megachurch located in the Chicagomarker suburb of South Barrington, Illinoismarker. It was founded on October 12, 1975 by Bill Hybels, who is currently the Senior Pastor. The church has three weekend services averaging nearly 23,000 attendees, making it the fourth-largest church in the United Statesmarker (this ranking includes multi-site churches). The church has been listed as the most influential church in America the last several years in a national poll of pastors.


Bill Hybels
Willow Creek Community Church started when Bill Hybels and Dave Holmbo[86160] were inspired by the success of the South Park Church’s youth ministry, of which they were both leaders (Dave had invited Bill to work with him a few years earlier), and aspired to start a church that used relevant biblical teaching, music, and drama. On October 12, 1975, the church met for the first time, renting Willow Creek Theater in Palatinemarker, Illinoismarker.In 1977, the church purchased in South Barrington to build its own building. The first service was held in the new building in February 1981. Since then, the building has been doubled in size and the property expanded to .There are now nearly 100 ministries that are designed to serve a variety of needs for different age and people groups.


Willow Creek Community Church states that its mission is to, “Turn irreligious people into fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ.”The church bases its belief on the Bible, asserting it to be inspired by God, inerrant, infallible, and the final authority on matters which it covers.Based on its understanding of the Bible, the church then draws the following conclusions:
  • There is one God, eternally existing in three persons— Father, Son, and Holy Spirit— each possessing all the attributes of Deity.
  • Humans were created by God to have fellowship with Him, but due to their rejection of God, they need His saving grace, which must be received by repentance and faith, in order to end the separation from Him.
  • Jesus Christ lived a sinless life on earth and then voluntarily paid for the sin of humans with His death on the cross. This offers salvation for those who trust in Jesus. He rose from the dead and is the mediator between us and God. Christ will return to the earth to consummate history.
  • The Holy Spirit draws sinners to Christ and equips believers for personal growth and service to the church.
  • The church's role is to glorify God and serve those in need.
  • At the end, everyone will experience bodily resurrection and the judgment. Those forgiven through Christ will enjoy eternal fellowship with God.

Church organization

Willow Creek Community Church's leadership is divided into four sections:
  • Teaching Pastors
  • Board of Elders
  • Board of Directors
  • Leadership Team

Willow Creek has several “regional congregations” around the Chicago areamarker:
  • McHenry County
  • North Shore
  • DuPage County
  • Downtown Chicago

Willow Creek has different ministries depending on the age of the person:

The church holds three weekend services and on Wednesdays holds midweek classes. The weekend services are specifically designed to reach the unchurched. Midweek classes are an opportunity for people to move forward in their spiritual growth through targeted teaching. Under the banner of Classes@Willow, these offerings are in the areas of Biblical Theology, Spiritual Practices, Faith in Action, and Training. The slogan for Willow Creek and their regional congregations is “One Church. Multiple Locations.” The regional congregations each have their own worship team, student ministry, children’s program, and campus pastoral team. The main message is videocast from the South Barringtonmarker campus for the weekly services.

Aside from the suburban congregations, beginning October 1, 2006, the church has held one Sunday service before matinee performances at the Auditorium Theatremarker just south of the Chicago Loopmarker. The church will also use its downtown presence to develop its ministries for the homeless and prostitutes.

Willow Creek Association

In 1992, the Willow Creek Association was created as a way to link together churches for the purpose of “Reaching increasing numbers of lost people." The WCA develops training and leadership conferences and resources for its member churches. The Willow Creek Association is often confused with Willow Creek Community Church, or mistaken for a denomination. However, it is a distinctly separate organization which has close affiliations with Willow Creek Community Church.There are more than 13,000 member churches, which come from 90 denominations, and 45 different countries.There is an annual membership fee of $249 which gives the member church access to discounts on Willow Creek Resources and conferences, as well as a magazine, an audio journal, several web-based ministry tools, and a variety of Select Service Providers. Select Service Providers are ministries and organizations that provide products and services to member churches for a discounted price. Examples and more details about WCA Membership can be found on their website: WCA Membership

To be a member of WCA it is a requirement that the member church, ministry, or leader hold to an “historic, orthodox understanding of biblical Christianity.”

Since 1995, Willow Creek Association has held an annual Leadership Summit. Speakers at the Leadership Summit have included President Bill Clinton, Karen Hughes, who is the Special Advisor to President George W. Bush, Lady Vols'marker women's college Basketball coach Pat Summitt, Dallasmarker, Texasmarker pastor Bishop T.D. Jakes, University of Southern Californiamarker president Steven Sample, Yahoo!'s Tim Sanders, business author and leadership consultant Marcus Buckingham, and Rick Warren, pastor and author of The Purpose Driven Life. The 2005 Leadership Summit had over 53,000 attendees in over 100 locations across North America. The 2006 Leadership Summit featured Bill Hybels interviewing U2 frontman Bono.

The 2007 Leadership Summit served 80,000 leaders in over 130 cities. Speakers included Colin Powell, Jimmy Carter, John Ortberg, Richard Curtis, Carly Fiorina, Michael E. Porter, Marcus Buckingham and Willow Creek Community Church's Senior Pastor, Bill Hybels.

Worship Center

Willow Creek's state-of-the-art Worship Center (completed in 2004 at an estimated cost of $73 million) seats over 7,200 people, making it over twice as large as the Kodak Theatermarker in Hollywoodmarker and one of the largest theaters in the United States.

It was the first church in the world to make use of two Mitsubishi Diamond Vision high-definition LED screens 14'x 24' in size, usually seen in new sports stadiums. Each screen is movable on its own track system and can be combined into one giant screen. The Worship Center also has innovative dual, stacked-deck balconies.

Wheelchair seating has a "1 person to 1 LCD ratio" for disabled attendees. Back rows have LCD screens at an approximate "10 seats to 1 LCD ratio." Every TV broadcasts the service across the room utilizing 8-12 standard definition cameras. Although the room is HD ready, only one HD camera is currently used for weekly services.

Notable Members

Lee Strobel, New York Times bestselling Christian author, was a teaching pastor at Willow Creek Community Church from 1987 to 2000.

Shawn Christopher, a popular dance music vocalist, leads worship at Willow Creek's weekend services.

The formation of the Christian rock/Contemporary Christian music group BarlowGirl is associated by Willow Creek. The Barlow sisters' father, Vince Barlow, created youth CDs at Willow Creek. His work gained exposure throughout the United States, and he was hired to perform at events. He brought his daughters as his backup band in the late 1990s.

Another notable former member is Shane Claiborne who did an internship at the church. He is the author of The Irresistible Revolution and Jesus for President: Politics For Ordinary Radicals (by Zondervan ISBN 978-0-310-27842-9) and founder of The Simple Way.


  3. Rybczynski, Witold. "An Anatomy of Megachurches: The new look for places of worship," Slate October 10, 2005.
  4. BarlowGirl Biography at, Retrieved March 24 2008
  5. BarlowGirl Biography at, Retrieved July 16 2007

External links

Willow Creek websites

Perspectives and analysis

Books about Willow Creek Community Church

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