Power of 10

This weekend, Willow Creek kicks off the 10th Anniversary of Celebration of Hope. We stand in awe at the “only God” kind of kingdom impact we’ve witnessed since 2006.

Willow began Celebration of Hope 10 years ago by partnering with 20 churches in four countries in the fight against poverty and injustice. Today, Willow partners with more than 200 churches (10x), in more than 10 different countries.

“Celebration of Hope 2015 is a time to reflect and thank God for all He has done over the course of the past decade,” says Willow’s Global Ministry Director Mark Haugen. “We look forward to what God has in store for the next decade of Celebration of Hope. Hope is a long-term commitment. Change takes time—both in the communities we serve and in our own hearts. ”

Join our 10th year of Celebration of Hope—and make a lasting difference for those fighting poverty and injustice.

Pack Seeds
Willow Creek partners with churches to fight hunger by empowering families to grow food for themselves and for those who are most vulnerable in their communities.

“God opens my eyes to the effectiveness of Celebration of Hope when I least expect it,” Mark says. “In my role as global director, I’ll be traveling on a series of church visits in another country, turn a corner to the back of a small house, and find a large field of tomatoes or cabbages—vegetables planted with seeds we packed last year in South Barrington. The family in this home will harvest all that fresh food to feed themselves—and earn a small income by selling the surplus produce at market. That income will help pay for medical supplies, school supplies, and more. All because volunteers at Willow served a two-hour shift and filled seed packs during Celebration of Hope.”

Help fill one million seed packs for families in Zambia, Malawi, South Africa, Zimbabwe, and El Salvador, equipping them to grow vegetable gardens. Seed packing is a fun, meaningful activity that families, friends, neighbors, and coworkers can enjoy together. Gather a group and put this simple two-hour seed-packing shift on your calendar in ink. Sign up here.

Explore the Lobby
This weekend, Compassion & Justice introduces a brand new aspect of Celebration of Hope: 10 interactive exhibits in South Barrington’s Main Lobby—and exhibits in the lobbies of each regional congregation—highlighting the work of Willow’s ministry partners. Click here for a sneak peak.

Check out the family-friendly petting zoo—complete with chickens, pigs, goats, and sheep—located outside Entrance D after any weekend service during Celebration of Hope. Learn how Willow’s church partners around the world are thriving with sustainable livestock projects and how we can continue to support them through Celebration of Hope.

“Proceeds of this year’s Willow Creek 5K Race provide chickens for poultry farms for families in Africa and Latin America,” Mark says.

Invite family, friends, coworkers, or neighbors to join you for the Willow Creek 5K—a fun day that helps change lives. Register here.

“Celebration of Hope is an ‘all hands on deck’ event for Willow, and year after year I’m blown away by the incredible impact God makes through our efforts,” Mark says. “We have the privilege of partnering with Him by engaging our hearts in this amazing event.”

Spread the word about Celebration of Hope 2015 by sharing this video.

Take Strides into Spring

What a weekend! We were thrilled to see thousands of people crossing the bridge and making intensely personal decisions in their relationship with God. Celebrating Easter provides just the right momentum for striding boldly into spring. Check out these five ways to shake off the bitter cold of winter and take full, ambitious strides into spring at Willow Creek:

  • Celebration of Hope • April 18–May 3 
    Willow’s Compassion & Justice team is buzzing with an extra sense of excitement as they prepare for Willow’s 10th anniversary of Celebration of Hope, our campaign to raise awareness and fight extreme poverty. During Willow’s recent message series, Unwavering, Senior Pastor Bill Hybels described the major impact made possible when the church embraces the “power of everybody”—and it’s time to put that vision into action. Filling one million seed packs for families in Zambia, Malawi, South Africa, Zimbabwe, and El Salvador—and equipping them to grow vegetable gardens—will take the power of everyone. Sign up for a fun, easy, two-hour seed-packing shift and help make Celebration of Hope’s 10th Anniversary the most impactful year yet.
  • Willow Creek 5K Run • April 25
    Run, walk, or stroll to fight hunger! The Willow Creek 5K Run is not only a key event in Celebration of Hope—it’s also a great opportunity to invite family, friends, coworkers, or neighbors to a fun day that helps change lives. Proceeds provide poultry farms for families in Africa and Latin America. Register by April 22 to receive a free t-shirt. Limited walk-up registrations available on race day.
  • Mother’s Day with Jen Hatmaker and Christy NockelsMay 9/10
    Celebrate moms and the important women in our lives at an inspiring Mother’s Day service at Willow. Author and speaker Jen Hatmaker—from the HGTV series My Big Family Renovation—delivers a message of humor, relatability, and depth, and Christian recording artist Christy Nockels leads worship. Continue the celebration in the Main Lobby after each service.
  • Grace SeriesBeginning May 16/17
    Senior Pastor Bill Hybels launches a fresh series on the power and sufficiency of God’s grace—the bedrock of our Christian experience. This spring, discover how God’s grace toward us changes everything.
  • DadFest 2015June 20/21
    Kick off summer by celebrating dads and the important men in your life at DadFest 2015—Chicagoland’s biggest celebration of dads on Father’s Day weekend. Senior Pastor Bill Hybels invites dads and their families to enjoy an unforgettable day at this free event, featuring great music, a car show, outdoor sports competitions, family games and inflatables, and plenty of local food from favorite restaurants.

The Celebration Continues

Baptisms last weekend, the final installment of Unwavering this weekend, and Easter next weekend—the celebration continues!

Teaching Pastor Steve Carter brings the Unwavering series home this weekend with a final message on the life of Nehemiah. Then Senior Pastor Bill Hybels and the programming team gear up for five identical Easter services the following weekend:

  • 1:30, 4, and 7 p.m., Saturday, April 4
  • 9 and 11:45 a.m., Sunday, April 5

Give your family, friends, and co-workers a heads-up today. Celebrating the resurrection of Jesus is a profound experience that has the potential to change lives. It’s worthy of every ounce of our invitation-giving efforts. For service details, click here.

Get a sneak peek at what’s in store from Nick Benoit, creative director for this year’s Easter services.

“This year during Easter services, we’ll be retelling the life of Peter, a disciple of Jesus,” says Nick. “Peter’s story is everyone’s story.”  “He’s hard at work, feeling the burdens of life we all feel, thinking today will be just like every other day. Yet in an instant, Jesus invites him to the radical, holy ambition of being one of His closest friends and a ‘fisher of men.’”

Like each of us, Peter had his hang-ups. He wasn’t great at relationships. He lied and betrayed Jesus; yet Jesus astounded Peter with His grace, gave him a second chance, and offered him another life-changing invitation: “Follow Me.”

“Peter’s story of acceptance despite failure provides hope for all of us,” Nick says. “We’ve all made mistakes, and many of them seem so terrible we can’t imagine God would ever want anything to do with us. But He does. And that’s a message we all need to hear.”

Nick hopes this highly relatable story will encourage people to extend Easter invitations to everyone they know: neighbors, co-workers, family, friends—even strangers.

“Through Peter’s eyes, we’re able to revisit all the grand, earth-shaking moments of the Easter story while allowing those moments to feel personal, real, and relevant,” Nick says. “Our team will be posting thoughts and behind-the-scenes photos on Twitter and Instagram using hashtag #WillowEaster, and we’d love for everyone to join the conversation. Let those who follow you see why you’re looking forward to Easter at Willow this year.”

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One Church, Eight Locations

Senior Pastor Bill Hybels continued the series Unwavering last weekend with a high-challenge vision: “I want Willow to be a church where everybody gets out of the spectator stands, puts on their work gloves and boots, and does something for the glory of God.”

This vision doesn’t just apply to our South Barrington congregation. Willow gathers at eight regional locations in Chicagoland, and Bill’s vision extends to each one. “Our regional congregations exhibit a true ‘work gloves and boots’ commitment to furthering God’s kingdom in their local communities,” says Heather Larson, Willow’s executive pastor. Three regionals—Casa de Luz (Willow’s Spanish-speaking community), Huntley, and South Lake—are great examples of the catalytic growth that occurs when everyone takes Bill’s challenge seriously.

Learn about the breakthroughs these regional churches are experiencing as they model “the power of everybody.”

Willow Creek Huntley

This February, Willow Creek Huntley launched a second Sunday morning service.  More than 900 people now fill the Huntley auditorium each week at 9 and 11 a.m.

“From the very start, the vision of Willow Huntley has been to create community—a place people can call home,” says Lead Pastor Todd Katter. “This culture of a ‘church family’ is contagious! People invite their friends and family—and they come back because they sense something special going on here and they want to be a part of it.”

Todd says being a part of the Willow Creek Huntley church family fosters a community that supports each other. “Huntley rallied together at a new level for the launch of our second service,” he says. “More than one hundred new people stepped up to volunteer! God is working powerfully in the hearts of His people and it’s a privilege to have a front row seat.”

Follow Willow Creek Huntley on Facebook and Twitter

South Lake

Viper Alley doesn’t sound like a church location—but this Lincolnshire concert and event venue is where Willow Creek’s newest regional, Willow South Lake, launched its first Midweek service on March 4 with a message series aptly named Be Part of the Start.

“Starting in a theatre—just like South Barrington did 40 years ago at the Willow Creek Theatre in Palatine—is really exciting for our new church,” says Lead Pastor Matt Wright. “I love hearing people say ‘These are the theatre days!’ They’re right. We’re in a season we will look back on and never forget.”

“One of the best parts of this experience is seeing so many people diving in to serve,” Matt says. “There is so much to be done, and we love inviting everyone to get in the game. It’s exciting to see God building something beautiful through this community of people.”

The core group of South Lake members brought their friends to the launch—and those friends are already inviting their friends to check out a South Lake service. “The energetic look on everyone’s faces speaks volumes,” Matt says. “They wholeheartedly believe this part of Chicagoland desperately needs a thriving, welcoming church.”

Follow Willow South Lake on Facebook and Twitter

Casa de Luz

Casa de Luz, Willow’s Spanish-speaking congregation, gathers for an all-Spanish service in Willow’s Chapel every Sunday morning at 11:15 a.m.—and it’s standing-room only.

“That’s why we’re adding a 9 a.m. pilot service on March 22,” says Lead Pastor Juan Guillén. “We’ve seen God move in the lives of so many individuals and families. I’m excited about the potential for growth with this new service.”

March 22 also marks the start of Casa Café, a coffee venue located in Room B100 (beneath the Chapel), which will offer 31 flavors of coffee. “Volunteers have already stepped up to serve there,” says Juan. “They’re eager to help our first 9 a.m. service be a celebration of our thriving Casa de Luz community.”

Also, this past weekend, 88 Casa de Luz volunteer leaders graduated from Casa’s six-month course designed to equip them for leadership opportunities with Casa. “I’m amazed by our leadership core,” Juan says, “They’re committed to giving their all toward the success of the new 9 a.m. service.”

Follow Casa de Luz on Facebook and Twitter 

Read the latest about what God is doing at Willow’s other regional congregations in Chicago, Crystal Lake, DuPage, and North Shore:

Chicago: http://www.willowcreek.org/chicago
Crystal Lake: http://www.willowcreek.org/crystallake
DuPage: http://www.willowcreek.org/dupage
Northshore: http://www.willowcreek.org/northshore

Hundreds of Lives Changed

This weekend Senior Pastor Bill Hybels continues the series Unwavering: A Story of Obedience, followed by a church-wide celebration during the service: Baptism.

Every person’s Baptism continues their story of obedience to God—and it’s never too late to take this pivotal step in your spiritual journey. If you haven’t been baptized since becoming a Christ follower, click here to learn more about this weekend.

Willow’s student ministries, Elevate and Student Impact, join us in the Main Auditorium this weekend, which adds to the excitement. Don’t miss this opportunity to celebrate hundreds of people of all ages coming up out of the waters of Baptism and marking a fresh start through faith in Christ. Bring a friend, coworker, or family member for a service they won’t soon forget.

Full Circle: An Inspiring Story of Baptism

Jeff became a follower of Christ last spring through Alpha—a series of interactive sessions at Willow for those exploring the big issues of life, such as purpose, meaning, and faith.  He decided to be baptized last summer and then dove right back into Alpha for its next session in the fall—this time, assisting one of the discussion facilitators.

During Alpha’s winter session, he not only became a facilitator with a group of his own, but four people in his group decided they wanted to be baptized this spring. “I was so excited when they told me,” Jeff says. “The beautiful thing is, each of them come from completely different places in life: one woman in her 40s, one grandmother and her 16-year-old grandson, and a 19-year-old girl. And this weekend, they join one family of faith. I’m telling you, nothing beats watching God change peoples’ lives!”

Check out this video for another powerful story behind a recent Baptism at Willow.