Care Center: Giving Kids Hope Through Mentoring

One church, one school, one hour a week. Kids Hope USA, an outreach ministry of our Care Center, believes that it can make all the difference in the life of an at-risk student. You can be someone who helps make it possible.

Kids Hope matches volunteer mentors from Willow Creek with at-risk kids from our neighboring schools  in order to provide positive, one-on-one attention from a responsible, caring adult. Mentors spend one hour per week—usually the child’s lunch hour—at school with the student, listening, talking, and just letting them know they are valued.
“One of the things I love about working with Kids Hope is that you’re paired with one  student,” says Joy Stengel, a Willow volunteer who serves as a mentor at Lakeview Elementary School in Hoffman Estates. “Students will ask, ‘What other kids do you see at my school,’ and the mentor will say, ‘I’m only here for you.’ It makes them feel so special. They can’t wait to come and share things with you.”

“Some students really love and need help with their academics,” says Joy. “Other mentors take their students to the gym and shoot hoops while they talk. Our volunteers are different ages—men, women, professionals on their lunch hour, and retirees who have time during the day to contribute to the life of a student. It’s a wonderful thing.”

Willow is making a huge impact, partnering with nine schools throughout the area. We need more volunteers to help grow our great work.

To share the vision of Kids Hope, an informational meeting will be held from 6:15-7 p.m. on Wednesday, August 27 in the hospitality room at Willow’s Care Center. The meeting will explain how Kids Hope works, how it connects to the Care Center strategy, and the impact it can make in a child’s life. All are welcome to attend.
“Having a mentor can change the trajectory of a child’s life,” says Kellye Fabian, who oversees the relationship between Willow and Kids Hope. “The kids we mentor are used to being pushed aside and never being the center of anyone’s attention. Through Kids Hope and its partnership with Willow, we are able to provide kids with the opportunity to have the full attention of a caring adult.
Contact us to learn more about Kids Hope and the August 27 informational meeting.

Willow Creek’s Promiseland Kicks Off a New Ministry Season


Promiseland, Willow Creek’s children’s ministry for kids from infants through grade five,  kicks off a brand new season of ministry on August 22/23. And the focus this year is on two key values: relationship and response.

The Two R’s: Relationship and Response

“There’s a lot of research that says it takes five adults in a child’s life to help them really embrace their faith,” says Mindy Stoms, director of Promiseland. “We want kids to have relationships with each other and with trusted adults. And we do that through small groups.”

Relationships Start Here

Starting at the age of three, Promiseland kids who attend on a regular basis are welcomed into a specific small group so they can make friends, build relationships, and have a leader who shepherds them through each weekend’s experience. The small group model continues all the way through high school, giving kids a safe place to learn about God’s love, have meaningful conversations, and develop a faith that is personal and real.

To get the full benefit of small groups, consistency is key. As much as possible, parents are encouraged to attend the same service each weekend so their child can be with their regular group. Kids who aren’t able to be in Promiseland regularly also have an engaging experience, just not with the same group each week. Arriving early is also a plus, so kids feel engaged when the program begins and don’t miss out on any of the day’s journey. Promiseland opens 30 minutes before each service.

Responses Are Individual

Another high value in Promiseland is giving kids time for a personal response to what they are learning. The form will vary—perhaps art, worship, prayer, journaling, or sharing with their small group—but each weekend kids will have a chance to express what is happening in their heart as a result of what they’ve heard.

“We started this last year, and it’s been a huge win for our kids,” Mindy says. “I’m passionate about seeing kids connect with God,” she adds. “Many people think they’re not old enough. But I believe kids have not yet been jaded, so they actually have a very pure heart to connect with God. When you allow them the opportunity to do that, it’s amazing.”

Promiseland is available at all three weekend services: Saturdays at 5:30 p.m., Sundays at 9 and 11:15 a.m.


Never Go Back—Things Never To Do Again: Willow Creek Welcomes Dr. Henry Cloud

Cloud.smilingWillow Creek Community Church welcomes author, speaker, and clinical psychologist Dr. Henry Cloud as the guest teacher at weekend services on August 16/17 and 23/24 for two-part message, “Never Go Back: Things Never To Do Again, Part 1 and 2.”

Dr. Cloud addressed the subject matter of his upcoming message in a recent interview with Willow Creek.

Willow Creek: What inspired your book Never Go Back?
Dr. Cloud: I observed that very high performers had something in common. After they go through specific “awakenings,” or doorways and learn a lesson, they literally “never go back.” They are forever changed, and get to a much higher level of performance and fruitfulness after making those realizations. So, I began watching high performers, and collecting the most powerful awakenings they had, and then I wrote about them.

WC: You write about the 10 things “never to do again.” Of those, what is most important for you—Dr. Cloud—never to do again?
Dr. Cloud: Never again neglect to do due diligence.

WC: Are Christians more susceptible to any of the 10 things?
Dr. Cloud: I would say “never again fail to ask ‘why you are where you are.’” It is so easy for us to spiritualize outcomes, or what is going on with us as being God’s doing in some way or another, yet in reality, we are often playing a BIG part in some area of life not working the way we want it to. God always requires us to look at the ways we need to change in order to get to the “promised land.” If we make some changes, it does not always require a long trip through the desert.

WC: Do you think it’s difficult for people to accept grace-based solutions because they are so accustomed to guilt-based solutions? (Go through a divorce and you’re a “unacceptable.” Blow your diet and you’re “bad.” Lose a job and you’re a “failure.”)
Dr. Cloud: When that happens, it is because we do not naturally think of grace in its entirety. The grace message is one that goes way past just being acceptable and forgiven. It actually says that God will not only accept us where we are, but He will help us to become the person we have to become to overcome whatever mistakes or patterns that we have. Grace is not about just being forgiven and “trying harder.” Grace is about being forgiven and God giving us what we need to get better. That is “unmerited favor.”

WC: How do you do a 180 on those guilt-based pathways?
Dr. Cloud: While certainly there is a cognitive or “belief” aspect to it, such as truly knowing that God does accept us, there is also an experiential maturity that has to take place as well. We need to memorize verses about His forgiveness and acceptance, such as Romans 8:1. But, we also have to be “perfected in love,” as 1 John tells us, which means we need a lot of experiences of being loved by other people in our failure and messiness. That changes the neuro-pathways in the entire emotional response system of the brain and heart, and you will actually begin to feel accepted instead of guilty.

WC: What do churches consistently get right? And what do they need to do a better job with?
Dr. Cloud: I think that for the most part, they get it right in preaching belief in God’s grace. Where we could always do a better job is in preaching and constructing opportunities for the experiential aspect of grace—teaching people that grace is not only a belief but an incarnational experience that we must vulnerably enter into with others.

WC: The 20th Global Leadership Summit is this week. You wrote a great book about leadership. What can leaders learn from Christian leaders?
Dr. Cloud: One of the lessons that I always learn over and over again is what Bill always says: “When a leader gets better, everyone wins.” I am reminded that leaders need to systematically take time away from leading, and invest in becoming better leaders by learning from others.

WC: What’s the one thing you wish people knew about you?
Dr. Cloud: I am more screwed up than some people think I am and less screwed up than others think I am. It all depends on who you ask!

WC: What do you love most about coming to Willow?
Dr. Cloud: I love what I would call the “feel” of Willow people…they are my “peeps.” It feels good to come to Willow because I am surrounded by non-religious people who love God, are truly fun, care about growth, and are engaging life and the world. What could be better? Besides, they like sushi and wine.

Weekend services at Willow Creek South Barrington are at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday and 9 and 11:15 a.m. on Sunday.

Celebrating 20 Years of The Global Leadership Summit

Willow Creek Association celebrates 20 years of the Summit at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, August 13 in the Main Auditorium at South Barrington. The celebration features a worship concert, stories of transformation from around the world, and an opportunity for people to hear the vision for the GLS.  Michael Jr., whose comedy is edgy enough for late night and appropriate enough for church, will also be part of the evening. This event at Willow Creek’s South Barrington location is FREE and open to the public.

In 1995, Bill Hybels addressed WCA’s first Summit with a challenge to care about leadership. “A lot of great ideas will never become reality unless we learn about leadership,” he said.

The driving force behind what has become The Global Leadership Summit (GLS) was a desire to bring like-minded, like-hearted people together and challenge them to commit to learning about and growing in leadership.

The 20th GLS will be broadcast live via satellite on August 14/15 to more than 310 locations in North America. Throughout the fall, the Summit takes place in an additional 350+ cities in 105 countries, and is translated into 50 languages. This year the leadership principles are expected to reach more than 200,000 church leaders.

Make leadership a priority
“At the first Summit, I told people that they would be very glad if they made developing their leadership skills a priority. I feel the same way today,” says Bill. “Join me for this special event as we celebrate 20 years of The Global Leadership Summit.”

There are still Lakeside Auditorium seats available for the Global Leadership Summit on August 14/15. Seats are also available at three of Willow Creek’s regional locations (Chicago, Crystal Lake, and DuPage). Learn more. Learn more

John Ortberg Teaches at Willow Creek on August 2 & 3

John Ortberg, former Willow Creek teaching pastor, best-selling author, and pastor at Menlo Park Presbyterian Church (MPPC), returns to Willow Creek to teach at weekend services on August 2 and 3.

Recently, Willow had an opportunity to chat with him.

Q: You’ve written numerous books, and your podcasts are very popular. How do you decide what topics to write about/teach about?
A: I have all different kinds of methods. Sometimes I ask people, sometimes I’ll assemble a team of folks, sometimes I read about something that fascinates me, sometimes it’s a still small voice. And sometimes I throw darts at a dart board.

Q: Are you working on another book now? 
A: My next book I’m super excited about. It’s based on Revelation 3:7-8 where God says, “See I have set before you an open door.” It’s about how to recognize divine open door opportunities in our life—what helps us go through them, what makes us hold back, how does our life change when we actually embrace them?

Q: Your most recent book is Soul Keeping: Caring for the Most Important Part of You. (Zondervan, 2014)  Did you learn anything about yourself as a result of writing this book? 
A: Soul Keeping was a deeply personal book for me, partly because of my personal journey with Dallas Willard, who was a friend and mentor to me. In the course of writing this book, Dallas passed away and I learned a great deal about how to face life and death. By spending time with Dallas, I learned what living in the reality of the kingdom truly looks like.

Q: What is the biggest takeaway you wish people would have after reading Soul Keeping?
A: I hope the biggest takeaway folks have after reading Soul Keeping is to come to realize that they indeed have a soul, and that caring for their soul…keeping, guarding, protecting it, making sure that it’s intimately connected to God…is the most important priority in life. In fact, that’s the message I’m going to be giving when I come to Willow this weekend (August 2 and 3).

Q: Your church in Menlo Park, California has recently undergone significant changes and now has more opportunities to strengthen the multi-site church model. What’s ahead with that strategy for MPPC?
A: We’re thrilled about moving forward in this area. Our church, MPPC, is going to be launching new sites around the Bay Area. We just hired a terrific leader named Josh Hall to launch our next site, and we’re looking for the facility that can house it. (Real estate in the Bay Area tends to be just the tiniest bit costly.)

Q: What most excites you about the big “C” church  today, and what most concerns you?
A: I’m most excited in the church today about people’s hunger for authentic transformation from God. I think that old denominational barriers as well as other barriers keep coming down, and there’s a sense of unity in connection to the church that is inspiring.

What most concerns me is the growth in what are sometimes called “nones.” (People, who, when asked to describe their religious affiliation, put down ““none.”) There is a growing percentage of folks, particularly among young people, who would characterize themselves as spiritual, but their “spirituality” is not grounded in a faith in God or in the person of Jesus. And there’s lots of work to be done there.

Q: Can’t let you go without asking about the family!
A: The family is doing fantastic. Nancy is as energized, feisty, and fun as ever. Our oldest daughter, Laura, has been married for 4 and 1/2 years to a terrific man named Zack Turner. And Mallory and Johnny both live in the Bay Area and are thriving in their lives and work.

Q: Any words of wisdom/encouragement for the Willow family?
A: For Willow Creek, I have only to say that my gratitude, appreciation, and admiration grow across the years. I am so glad there is a place of innovation, boldness, faith in Christ, and restless energy for the Gospel.

Weekend services are at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday and 9 and 11:15 a.m. on Sunday.