Join in the Mayhem

EuroBungy. Dodgeball. Laser tag. Bumper balls. Karaoke. Live comedy from Comedy Sportz. Inflatables. Pizza. Soda. And hundreds of junior high students.

At 7 p.m. this Friday, March 6, the doors of Willow Creek’s South Barrington campus open and more than 2,000 junior high students pour in to experience Elevate’s biggest outreach event of the year: Pineapple Mayhem.

“It’s crazy and fun in all the best ways,” says Elevate Director Scott Rubin. “We strategically create this event so junior high students can invite friends who don’t normally come to church. And every year, many of them come back to Elevate for a regular weekend service where they encounter the God who loves them.”

Pineapple Mayhem is a powerful “front door” for junior high students, but Elevate could never pull it off without help from 350 Willow volunteers. “It’s a fantastic event for the whole Willow family,” Scott says.

Here’s how you can join the mayhem.

“Pineapple Mayhem is a great ‘first serve’ at Willow because it’s so much fun,” says Mary Mayo, who manages operations for Elevate. “You meet wonderful fellow volunteers—it takes a ton of them to uphold our standards of safety and ensure every student has a fantastic experience.”

Sign up by midnight tonight!

Two-thirds of the students who attend Pineapple Mayhem are visiting Willow for the first time, so volunteers hold unique positions of influence. Each volunteer is screened and a short training is provided before the night begins.

“We still need 30 volunteers to serve at security posts or as game/event supervisors,” Scott says. “Volunteering is easy—and it’s fun! We’re hoping first-time students walk out Friday night thinking, ‘That place was full of really friendly adults who seemed glad I was here.’”

Today is the final day to sign up. 

“Year after year, we see this event make a huge difference in the lives of hundreds of junior high students,” Scott says. “Pray our students will be bold in inviting their friends this week and that God will do something remarkable in the lives of every student who is there.”

Get a glimpse of last year’s Pineapple Mayhem!

It’s Business and Personal

In a few short days, Senior Pastor Bill Hybels will launch a new message series titled Unwavering: A Story of Obedience, which explores the biblical story of an ordinary man who made an extraordinary impact in God’s kingdom.

“I’m tremendously excited about this series,” Bill says, “because this individual was a phenomenal leader with an intensely personal relationship with God. Studying his life is like having a front-row seat in a class at the Harvard Business School. His story of obedience is filled with leadership goldmines.”

Who is this man? Click here to learn more—and see a promo video you’ll want to share with your friends and co-workers.

“The main character in this series was neither prophet, priest, nor king,” says Bill. “Rather, he was a normal, working-class man from the Old Testament whose life was comfortable and predictable.”

His name? Nehemiah. And when he learned his beloved hometown, Jerusalem, had been decimated by Israel’s enemies, he was heartbroken. Yet God whispered—and Nehemiah’s mission commenced.

Whether you’re the CEO of a major corporation or the CEO of your family, you lead. “And we can all get better as leaders,” Bill says. “This high-challenge series is applicable to every single person who walks through our doors—and every weekend has the potential to rock your leadership world. Don’t miss out.”

Who will you invite? Put these five weekends in ink on your calendars—and prayerfully consider who you can bring to hear this life-changing series. Your friends, neighbors, and co-workers will be glad you included them in your plans.

Check out the promo video here—and spread the word about Unwavering among your social media circles.

You can maximize your spiritual growth and insight from the Unwavering messages by signing up to receive Unwavering devotionals in your inbox each morning, Monday–Friday throughout the series. Each devotional includes Scripture, some biblical context, and challenging questions to augment your personal “chair time” with God. Sign up here.

Celebrating Diversity

As a family of believers at Willow, we refuse to settle for being an ordinary community. We strive to be an extraordinarily diverse community, celebrating the variety of gifts, passions, and perspectives that make the church the hope of the world.

Why is this one of our rallying cries? And what are we doing to put this passion into action?

Our Elders and leaders are committed to building radically inclusive biblical communities that live and serve in reconciliation with one another and with God.

Our Section Communities are buzzing with activity that embodies this value of diversity. Just last Saturday from 9:00 p.m. to 4:30 a.m., the Atrium overflowed with more than 700 people watching the Cricket World Cup—India vs. Pakistan. For 80 percent of those who attended, this watch party was their first visit to Willow. Saray Rodriguez, Willow’s 102F section leader, organized the event and continues to find new ways to welcome all ethnicities to Willow.

“We want to keep holding the kinds of events that make every culture feel at home at Willow— so absolutely no one feels excluded,” says the Director of Section Communities Paul Jansen van Rensburg. “We build these communities for everyone—irrespective of background or ethnicity. Each one fully aligns with what our church is about—to welcome all!”

Feel free to check in with your section leader to find out about upcoming events. If you haven’t found a section to call home, jump in one this weekend. Click here to browse through our Section Communities.

This weekend after Senior Pastor Bill Hybels welcomes Jeff Manion to continue our Restart series, we’re going all out to celebrate Black History Month. Head over to Guest Central immediately after the service for a special reception in honor of the accomplishments of African-American Christians. Don’t miss the food, the exhibition of authors/artists, and live music from both our worship leaders and the Trinity International University Gospel Choir.

Clary Butler, our 105F section leader for the 5:30 Saturday service, played a huge part in creating the reception to reflect Willow’s goal of valuing diversity. “This event is important to the family of believers because even though our identity is in Christ, God made each and every one of us differently,” Clary says. “He gives us this precious gift of learning about and appreciating our differentness—and this reception is the perfect opportunity to receive that gift. In learning about others, we learn more about ourselves and the God that created us in His image.”

“Sounds like we’re in for a memorable time together,” says Paul. “Can’t wait to see you there!”

Restart Your Relationships

Every day, everyone encounters relationships—with family, friends, coworkers, neighbors, or a significant other—and God cares about them all. However, as ubiquitous and significant as these relationships are, we seldom take time to improve our skills in them.

This weekend author, speaker, and clinical psychologist Dr. Henry Cloud will teach us how to Restart our relationships. Bring a friend, coworker, or neighbor for a message that’s relevant to all of us—regardless of our relationship status.

Many would agree the most complex relationship to navigate is marriage. Take steps toward Restarting your marriage through the restoration, guidance, and community opportunities offered at Willow.

RESTORE: Hope and Healing for Your Marriage
Beginning February 25

RESTORE helps couples stuck in unhealthy relational patterns get out of those habits and deepen their marriage. “Unresolved conflict, unmet needs, emotional disconnect—you name it. Even the best marriages have to deal with these things,” says Deirdré Jansen Van Rensburg, director of RESTORE. “Marriage is hard at times. The lows can be really low, yet couples often wait too long before reaching out for help. The good news is RESTORE’s well-equipped leaders and teachers create a safe place for couples to heal and deepen intimacy so they can model healthy relationships for their children and grandchildren.”

RESTORE examines marriage holistically. Large-group teaching and confidential small-group discussions integrate spiritual, emotional, and relational truths that have helped hundreds of marriages. Many of RESTORE’s leaders are pastors or professional counselors who specialize in helping couples.

“Professional credentials are important,” Deirdré says, “but we also have stories of our own. We know it takes tremendous courage to say, ‘We’re not in a good place. Help!’ because we’ve been there. We know first-hand what it feels like to be in marital distress—and we know what it takes to heal. We’ve seen God’s faithfulness as we’ve experienced transformation in our marriages—and we hold hope for you in yours.”

This can be your story, too.

Read quotes from couples who have attended RESTORE:

“We are closer today than ever before. We are more conscious of each other’s feelings and are more open with one another.”

“Getting better every day. We’ve reconnected and recommitted to each other. We make time to be together and have learned to ask for what we need in the relationship.”

“We work hard to communicate fairly and effectively, using tools we were given at the workshop. Conflicts arise less often and when they do, we know how to resolve them.”

Restart your marriage with RESTORE. Click here.

Two to One Premarital Class
February 20–March 20

If you and your significant other are seriously considering marriage, what better way to follow up Valentine’s Day than by attending Two to One?

If you’ve taken the prerequisite class, The Marriage Dream, you’re ready to register for Two to One. If not, and you still want to attend Two to One this month, request the audio download of The Marriage Dream from Nancy Wendt, manager of Two to One ( Or, attend The Marriage Dream on Wednesday, April 8th at 7:30 p.m.

“We are excited to cast a vision for what marriage can be,” Nancy says, “There’s nothing like walking with couples as they learn about the power of marriage when Christ is at the center.”

For more details and to register, click here.

Section Communities for Married Couples
Weekend Services

Don’t miss out on the opportunity to build relationships with other married couples. Pick a section community, and discover the joy and power of doing life together.

Below is Willow’s master list of sections with a family focus and the section leader’s contact information. Shoot them an email, or feel free to just show up and introduce yourself. Note that some sections have the same focus (families, empty nesters, etc.) so choose any one that fits your situation. Give one a try this weekend as we continue our Restart series.

Saturday 5:30 p.m.
Families: 103F
Young Families: 103B
Marriage Enrichment: Atrium
Families: 202
Families with Promiseland Kids: 207
Families/Empty Nesters: 201

Sunday 9:00 a.m.
Young Families: 102B
Families/Empty Nesters: 105F
Marriage Enrichment: Atrium
Families with School Aged Children: 103B
Young Couples/Young Families: 203
Families: 209

Sunday 11:15 a.m.
Young Families: 102B
Young Families: 103F
Young Couples: 203
Families with Teens: 206
Building Strong Marriages: 208

Personalize Your Restart

You’ve heard it since the New Year, but we’ll say it again: Restart is all about recalibrating our priorities and relationships. We believe God is not only doing a new work in our hearts during the weekend—He’s giving us a fresh perspective on steps we can take to energize our Restart journey!

Read on to find how you can personalize your Restart journey at Willow with workshops that strengthen your relationships with others, God, and yourself.

RELATE: Build Better Relationships
February 25─March 18

Gain insight about yourself and others—and receive practical tools to recalibrate your relationships—in this four-week workshop aimed at helping you identify and overcome barriers to build better relationships. Scott Vaudrey, Willow’s Pastoral Response director, teaches this workshop, which is open to anyone. Topics include:

  • When Life is Hard: Making sense out of pain
  • Origins: When the past is present
  • Triggers and Blind Spots: Your truth may not be true
  • Difficult Conversations: Wisdom when it matters most

RELATE is both a helpful first step for anyone looking to navigate relational or emotional aspects of their lives and a great next step for those wanting to strengthen the good things already happening in their relationships. The workshop offers large-group teaching from Scott, followed by table discussions led by trained RELATE facilitators. Participants have the option of continuing the conversation with their groups after the workshop ends via materials written by Scott and the Pastoral Response team.

Click here to register

RESTORE: Hope and Healing for Your Marriage
February 25─May 27 in the Atrium

Marriage is hard work and every couple struggles at times. “Unresolved conflict, emotional disconnect, unmet needs, broken trust, you name it─ even the best marriages have to navigate these things,” says Deirdré Jansen van Rensburg, director of RESTORE.

The RESTORE workshop helps couples whose marriages are in a hard season—or who have experienced a hard season in the past. “When we find ourselves struggling,” Deirdré says, “the tendency can be to isolate. It can be scary to share your struggles with others, but isolation will never bring the movement or change you desire. By engaging the concepts in this workshop with other couples—along with gifted teachers and skilled leaders—you can see your relationship in a new light, find more effective ways to engage each other, and even begin to heal from past wounds.”

Whether you’ve been married for one year or 30, God can breathe hope and life into your relationship. It’s never too late for Him to strengthen and recreate your marriage.

Learn more and register

RECOVER: Redeem Your Past, Reclaim Your Future

We all have hurts, habits, and hang-ups that hold us back from the life God dreams for us to experience. At Willow’s RECOVER workshop, participants gather every Wednesday for powerful large-group teaching and issue-and gender-specific small-groups in a confidential environment where everyone is welcome.

Chris Hurta directs Willow’s RECOVER workshop. “If you spend your days quietly struggling alone,” he says, “my hope is you will show up on a Wednesday night and check out RECOVER. You’ll find a safe harbor filled with people like yourself who are addressing their addictions or wounds so they can be set free.”

Everyone has a unique story—and everyone has experienced struggles that have left a mark on their lives. “RECOVER is a place people can begin a genuine restart,” Chris says. “No matter our past, in RECOVER we walk alongside one another to crush the shame that keeps us in the dark, and advocate for the hope we find in Christ.”

7:30 p.m., Wednesdays
Room: Blue Sky 2

No registration necessary. Click here for details.

REBUILD: Finding Life After Loss

Willow’s REBUILD team offers an assortment of workshops that offer comfort, hope, and practical tools for navigating significant loss, such as the death of a loved one, the end of a marriage, ongoing health issues, unemployment, or the loss of a home. Utilizing large-group teaching and small-group discussion, workshops are designed to help you process a variety of emotions such as anger, guilt, sadness, loneliness, and hopelessness.

REBUILD is a safe place to share your pain and receive comfort and hope with others who have been there. “REBUILD group leaders have experienced many types of loss,” says Deb Gerlach, who leads the REBUILD team. “We will walk alongside you as you do the work of processing your grief. Our ultimate goal is to help you heal as you engage a life that’s different but can still be full, rich, and joyful.”

REBUILD offers an eight-week core workshop three times a year (fall, winter, and spring), a three-week summer workshop, and a “Handling the Holidays” workshop late each fall.

  • REBUILD: The Basics of Life After Loss (Wednesday, April 8)
  • REBUILD: Finding Life After Loss Workshop (Wednesdays, April 15–June 3;
    registration required)
  • REBUILD: The Land Between (Wednesdays, July 15, 22, and 29)

Learn more about REBUILD