A Sneak Peak at the 40th Anniversary Service

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For Willow Creek’s executive team, the months leading up to the 40th Anniversary service have been a time of reflecting on the work only God can do. “Two thousand years ago, God whispered to Jesus’ followers, who were gathered in someone’s home,” says Senior Pastor Bill Hybels. “He filled them with dreams and infused them with passion. They believed that all men and women were gifted to further the work of Christ—and with their hands open, God used those believers to start the first church.”

Fast-forward centuries later to the 1970s: “Only God could have paved the way for a church to be started in a theater by a bunch of high school and college kids,” Bill says. “But He had a plan. He was on the move, and the Willow Creek we know today is evidence of that.”

As we march toward the 40th Anniversary service on October 18, Willow’s programming team has been capturing stories of the ways God has led our church. Creative Directors Nick Benoit and Blaine Hogan offer these hints about what the 40th celebration will entail:

From the moment the service begins, you will be immersed in an interactive experience with worship, videos, spoken word, and stories of what God has done. Each segment will highlight how God’s whisper has led us, grown us, and expanded our hearts.

It has been very moving to span our entire 40-year history and paint a picture of all God has done through Willow, both locally and globally, and we are excited to bring you on the journey. There will be some surprises in the 40th service that you will remember for years to come—trust us! But the heart behind this event is to honor the God who leads us!

Sunday, October 18 is a day for all campuses to celebrate the past and look ahead to where God is leading Willow. “This is a don’t-miss event for our entire Willow family,” says Bill, “If you have tickets, use them! If you can’t use all your tickets, please gift them back to the church. We want everyone to be able to attend!”

“There Was Nothing God Couldn’t Do!”

A story from the early years

The Soundtrack series has taken us through the early years of Willow Creek and the number of “Only God” stories from those years are countless—many of those involved from the beginning are still making an impact at Willow today!

Forty-three years ago, Bruce Horgan was a student in the high-school singing group at a small church in Park Ridge. The students wanted to grow in their relationships with God, so they began a Bible study and asked for a leader to guide and challenge them. Shortly after, a college student named Bill Hybels showed up with big dreams and an even bigger faith in what God could do in and through high-school students.

With the support of their parents and a challenge from Bill, the students began inviting their friends to take part in the Bible study. Their invitational passion turned the Bible study into a youth group named Son City, which quickly swelled to more than 1,000 students—and the growing group caught a vision for what God could do.

“I vividly remember all 1,000 of us trampling through the neighborhood to the park to play games before Bible study,” says Bruce.  “The neighbors were not happy! And we made a mess of the church auditorium and even put a few holes in the wall, but our parents and church leaders saw what God was doing in our lives, and they supported us wholeheartedly.”

Three years after Son City began, the group moved from Park Ridge to a theater in Palatine to start Willow Creek Community Church. “What stands out most from that era,” Bruce says, “is that we believed there was nothing God could not do, so we kept dreaming and kept inviting—and we watched God move.”

Bruce and his family still attend Willow today—they are part of Willow Crystal Lake— and Bruce is on staff as a building manager at the central campus in South Barrington. “Early on,” he says, “Bill painted a picture of how everyone could use his or her gifts for God’s Kingdom. I learned that even as a back-row sitter and a set-up guy, I had a vital part to play. And the irony isn’t lost on me: my staff role today includes helping with the cleanup ‘aftermath’ of youth group activities like Pineapple Mayhem—just as my dad and church leaders had cleaned up after us in Park Ridge. I know how important it is to value students. Look what God did through the students of Son City!”

With an office across from Promiseland, Bruce sees hundreds of elementary kids every weekend run into their classrooms excited for church. “Willow’s future is bright,” Bruce says, “as the generations rise up as leaders and staff, using their gifts for the Kingdom of God.”

Invite Your ‘Everyone’! Soundtrack Begins This Weekend!

Over the past three weeks, Teaching Pastor Steve Carter led the Willow community through a time of deep reflection and high challenge as he asked the question, How wide is your ‘everyone’?” He taught that the invitational life is not one of selectivity, but of being an ambassador for Christ to each and every person. The Invitation series has led up to this weekend, where we can put our invitation skills into practice!

Senior Pastor Bill Hybels is kicking off a brand-new series this Saturday and Sunday titled, Soundtrack: The Songs & Stories that Shape Us. The five-week series will bring us right up to Willow’s 40th Anniversary service at the United Center on October 18.

“With Soundtrack, I will be teaching about how God has shaped our church over the past 40 years,” says Bill. “This is a very reflective, music-intensive series, and you won’t want to miss what our musicians have in store!” Soundtrack is a defining series that will highlight God’s work in this church thus far, and will look ahead at where He is leading us in the years to come. “Think through those you know who need an infusion of hope for their future—invite them,” Bill says. “I am confident this series will be one that will move us all!”

Parents: Who hold the greatest influence over your kids?

Did you know that the most impactful people in a child’s life are not teachers, small-group leaders, siblings, or even a friends; it is his or her parents whose influence speaks the loudest.

“Parents have an incredible opportunity to walk alongside their children as they explore what it means to know God,” says Scott Rubin, Elevate director. “Most moms and dads take this responsibility seriously—and so do we! We want to partner with them to help maximize the potential for spiritual growth in every child who attends one of our Willow Creek ministries.”

See for yourself! Attend a Next Gen service.
Scott Rubin and the staff across all of Willow’s Next Gen ministries at South Barrington want to meet you! At specific dates this month, Promiseland, Elevate, and Student Impact invite all parents to experience a weekend service in their child’s program, meet the staff and leaders, connect with other parents, and receive resources on how to play an increased role of influence in their child’s spiritual development.

Parents: Each staff team has set aside specific dates and times just to meet you. Click the appropriate link below to learn more and mark your calendars.

Promiseland: Infants–Grade 5
Click here for a list of dates/times

Elevate: Jr. High
Saturday, September 19 at 5:30 p.m. Activity Center
Sunday, September 20 at 9 & 11:15 a.m.Activity Center

Student Impact: High School
September 27 at 11:15 a.m. Lakeside Auditorium

Let’s Pack the House This Friday!

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This Friday night, Willow Creek’s Special Friends actors and their peer mentors put their months of hard work on stage as they tell a “Tale As Old As Time,” Disney’s Beauty and the Beast.

The attendance of every person in the audience matters to these kids and students,” says Pat Cimo, Willow’s Family Life director. “Each seat filled represents Willow’s love and support for our Special Friends and their families. So round up a group or make it a date—and be our guest!”

The production is more than just a show. It’s a momentous achievement—not only for the actors and their peer mentors from Student Impact and Elevate—but for the Special Friends ministry as a whole.

“Every student standing on that stage represents an entire family that has stood behind them for the past four months—helping them muster all their courage and memorize their lines so they can shine with confidence,” says Pat. “It will be a privilege to witness their accomplishments and cheer them on. See you there!”

7 p.m., Friday, August 28
Main Auditorium, South Barrington

Free Admission
Doors open at 6:30 p.m. Come early to get your choice of seats!