Still Thirsty?

Willow Creek’s weekend Thirst series is making us thirsty for more—more understanding of how we hold ourselves back and more desire to live in freedom.

But how?

“In Exodus, we learn about people who were enslaved in Egypt,” says Teaching Pastor Steve Carter. “After 430 years of living in an environment of oppression, they were set free to live new lives and the joy resulted in heartfelt worship to God for His deliverance. But since they knew nothing but slavery, they had no idea how to live these new lives they’d been given.”

As they adjusted to their new lives, they saw how God was with them, fathering them, providing a way to showcase His story to the world—through them.

“The Cross is the new Exodus,” says Steve. “Jesus offers us freedom from sin and when we accept His offer we can step into the fullness of the life God desires for us.”

It’s through our new lives that we, too, can showcase His story to the world, but like the Israelites, we don’t know how to live in freedom.


“I see and hear from people who are wrestling with secrets and fear and how it holds them back,” says Steve. “They know there is something more.

Join us this weekend as Steve Carter concludes the Thirst series with a message on how to live a profoundly new kind of life.

View previous messages in the Thirst series.

Willow Creek Offers Opportunities for Long-term Volunteering

Jeffrey knows the value of serving others. “When I was in eighth grade, I had to do a school project called the ‘Take Action’ project,” he says. He chose local poverty as his topic and had to write a letter to someone who could help make a difference. “But I decided to change it up,” he says. He decided to see what it meant to be part of a group that made a difference, so he began volunteering at Willow Creek’s Care Center.

Only one year later, Jeffrey says, “It’s been a great experience. I get to meet new people and help in my community, and what I like most is how grateful everyone is and how happy they are.” At a young age, Jeffrey already understands firsthand the value of volunteering.

The Care Center Vision
“When the Care Center relocated to South Barrington last year, we had a vision that it would offer volunteer opportunities to the congregation to live out a life of compassion and justice,” said Josie Guth, director of Willow Creek’s Care Center.

While some volunteers at the Care Center participate in one-time serves, the majority connect with a long-term role and they serve for a couple of hours on a regular basis—once a week, twice a month, or whatever fits into their schedule.

Unique Serves for Unique Gifts
“There is a need for dentists, eye care professionals, lawyers, and qualified mechanics,” says Kellye Fabian, volunteerism manager at the Care Center. “But there are many opportunities for everyone to use their gifts in unique ways.”

Each shift requires between 50-60 volunteers. “We have 11 shifts per week,” says Kellye. “We have a need for more people to serve.”

The Care Center offers opportunities for volunteers to foster relationships with the guests or to help with basic services in the grocery store (food pantry) and the clothing store—assisting guests, stocking food, sorting clothes and helping out in the warehouse.

“Without enough volunteers, the ministry at the Care Center is short changed,” says Kellye. “We want to be freed up and truly live out our mission statement—‘so that Jesus is known!’”

Everyone has something to give. “When people step into a volunteer role, they realize how much they learn about life and faith from those they are serving,” says Kellye.

And, like Jeffrey, they can make a difference.

Explore volunteer opportunities at the Care Center.

Serve at Willow Creek’s Leadership Summit

Serve at the Summit

While Care Center volunteers generally serve on a consistent basis, there are great one-time serves at Willow. With Willow Creek Association’s Leadership Summit coming in a month, there is a need for hundreds of volunteers who can help create a great experience for the thousands of guests who will be visiting South Barrington. Summit volunteers will also be able to watch parts or all of various Summit sessions, as there will be screens available throughout the building.

“We have a need for people to check in guests, serve as hosts during lunch and breaks, assist in Seeds bookstore, or help with set-up and strike down,” says Charlene Armitage, the volunteer champion working with the Leadership Summit. “Volunteers play a vital role in serving guests and providing a distraction-free environment.”

“Whatever it Takes”

Although the best volunteers have a “whatever-it-takes” attitude, Charlene and her team are adamant that people serve in the right role for them. “We want to make sure people get plugged into a role that is fulfilling, meaningful and lines up with how God wired them,” she says.

Check out how you can participate as a volunteer at the Leadership Summit.

The Land Between

Imagine being in a desert, feeling lost, craving the familiarity of the past and desperate for the wandering to end so you can get on with your life. Life After Loss: The Land Between, Willow’s Wednesday night class, addresses the process of moving through the desert of loss after experiencing a significant life change such as the death of a loved one, end of a marriage, loss of a job, or other painful circumstances that have left you reeling. The three-week class, which begins July 16, offers video teaching by Jeff Manion, pastor and author of The Land Between: Finding God in Difficult Transitions.

When life is not as it was

In his teaching, Jeff calls out the story of the Israelites’ journey to the Promised Land to describe being in an undesired, transitional place.  Unable to go back to Egypt, Israel is incapable of moving forward. We may not be traveling through the Sinai desert, but we often find ourselves in difficult seasons of transition. “It’s a place where life is not as it was and the future is in question,” says Jeff. “And you’re trying to regain your balance.”

“While the circumstances of our individual transitions may be drastically different,” says Deb Gerlach, who leads the class as part of Willow’s pastoral care team, “our human responses to unwanted, unwarranted, unanticipated change or loss are universal: We grieve, we protest about how unfair life is, we rail against a God who ‘promised’ to protect us, our child, spouse, marriage, health, home, or job, etc.”

Journey of trust

But what if the dizzying and disorienting times of life that we dread are the times of transition we most desperately need? “It’s a journey of trust,” says Jeff. What if these “Land Between” times are there to remind us that God is present before, during, and after these difficult changes in our lives?

Life After Loss: The Land Between offers insight and guidance on how to respond to God during your own seasons of difficult transition, and provides biblical insight into how you can find God in the midst of your pain and trust Him even if you feel you’re stuck.

“It’s during our times of greatest need that God does some of His best work in us,” says Beki Grissom, who helps oversee Willow’s Life After Loss workshops. “Painful? Yes. Time consuming? Yes. But it’s well worth it. None of us would have chosen the painful experiences that have come our way, but by facing our loss head-on, we can steward our pain in healthy ways—and experience a deeply meaningful life nonetheless.”

The Land Between meets at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesdays, July 16, 23, and 30. Register

Special Friends Weekend at Willow Creek

“One of the creedal beliefs of our church is that all people matter to God,” says Bill Hybels, senior pastor of Willow Creek Community Church. “ He pours out His love with no exceptions—and this weekend our church will witness an extraordinary outpouring of His love through the unique services we have planned.”

The weekend of June 28/29 marks Willow’s annual Special Friends Weekend, which celebrates the abilities found amidst the disabilities of kids and adults with special needs. The stage is set to tell the courageous stories of incredible people who are truly overcomers.

“Prepare for the unexpected as we showcase their remarkable abilities,” says Blaine Hogan, who is directing Overcomer, the creative program for the services. “Through a blending of video storytelling, live music, and dance, you’ll see kids and adults who are overcoming the challenges—and doing so with great dignity and joy,” he says. The service includes a powerful message, “Overcomer,” from Willow’s Executive Pastor, Heather Larson.

“Working with the Special Friends community as we’ve prepared for this weekend has been one of the most moving experiences of my years on staff here at Willow,” says Blaine. “Don’t miss the chance to celebrate these talented people with me this weekend. They will mark you as they have marked me. You won’t leave the service the same.”

Special Friends Fishing Derby

Special Friends weekend begins on Saturday morning with the Special Friends Fishing Derby.

“This annual tradition is designed especially for individuals with special needs and their families or caregivers,” says Paul Von Tobel, pastor of Special Friends. Poles, bait, and fishing helpers are provided for catch-and-release fishing in Willow’s stocked lake. The morning includes face painting, music, dancing, a petting zoo, a sensory area for participants, and more. Photographers are on hand to take pictures of each participant with their catch. Plenty of volunteer opportunities make this event a great first-time serve in Special Friends.

Know someone whose life has been touched by special needs? Invite them to join you at one of these events!

Overcomer: A Special Friends Weekend
No tickets or reservations required. Just show up! 5:30 p.m., Saturday • 9 & 11:15 a.m., Sunday

Special Friends Fishing Derby
Please pre-register to volunteer or participate in this free event.
Attend Fishing Derby