You’re Always In a Season

Leaders are always in a ‘season’. Over 200+ partner churches around the United States are at the height of Summit season. As you prepare your heart for what you’ll experience at the Summit this year, we encourage you take time to know what season you’re in. In this expert from Leadership Axioms Bill challenges our personal and organizational awareness.

What season are you in?

I’m in and out of local churches nearly every week, and I love to test leaders’ organizational awareness by asking a straightforward question: “What season are you in as a church?” The most perceptive leaders I know fire back an answer to that question without batting an eye: “We’re in a growth season right now,” or “We’ve been on a plateau for far too long, and people are getting frustrated,” or “We’ve run our volunteers ragged and probably need to slow the pace and let people catch their breath,” or “We’ve gone through more change cycles in the past ninety days than should be legal, but things are finally starting to settle out a bit.” A key responsibility of the leader is to know what season the organization is in, to name it, and then to communicate the implications of that season to his or her followers.

This leadership-seasons idea traces back to Ecclesiastes 3:1, which says that “there is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.” Most leaders nod consent at that line of thinking but simultaneously neglect to tell their followers what season they’re in! And based on my experience, people sitting in your organization will have no clue what season they’re in unless you tell them. Do yourself and those you lead the favor of learning to spot the changing of the seasons in your environment. When you see growth bloom or transition hit or feel the icy days of malaise descend, draw attention to the shift. Give voice to the realities of that season. Assign appropriate language to it, designate helpful parameters to succeeding within it, and confidently offer solutions for moving through it. You’re always in a season, leader. It’s your role to know which it is and what to do about it.

What tools do you use to stay in tune with the seasons of your organization? What about your personal seasons – how do you build the muscle of self-assessment?

Thanks to Bill Hybels for sharing his words from the book Leadership Axioms. To read more and to find Bill’s other titles check out our resources at willowcreek.com.

Bill Hybels: Vision and Strategy

This is an excerpt from an article titled, “Vision and Strategy for a Bible-Centered Community,” featured in the July–Aug ’12 issue of Bible Study Magazine, a publication that gives readers tools and methods for studying the Bible. To read the article in full, subscribe at BibleStudyMagazine.com/Hybels. Subscribe before July 31st with the coupon code BSMHYBELS to get $5.00 of the subscription price.. Hybels - Bible Study Mag


Bill Hybels pushes to develop leaders in the Christian community. Toward this end, The Willow Creek Association created The Global Leadership Summit, a two-day event that draws thousands of attendees to the Chicago area and tens of thousands to satellite and videocast events all over the world. “There aren’t very many places church leaders can turn that convene a world-class faculty to sharpen the leadership gifts. They need a regular investment—they need an infusion of vision, skill and training.”

“I sat down with a couple of my friends and said, ‘What if we try to raise up the value and the competence of pastors and Christian influencers all around the world in the area of leadership?’ I didn’t care if 15 people came or if 2,500 people came. My commitment was to find the best faculty that knew a lot about leadership to improve people’s ability to lead Christian organizations, local churches and businesses.”
“That was 15 or 16 or so years ago, and it is now simulcast all over North America; 85 other countries will translate it into 35 foreign languages. We are dumbfounded at the response. … We’re watching God do this amazing thing, and we’re very grateful and humbled to be a part of it.”

“I work with thousands of pastors around the country whose churches are flourishing and they have a white-hot vision for what God has for their future. They teach the Scriptures unapologetically, they have fantastic worship, they’re baptizing hundreds of people a year, young and old are coming, rich and poor are coming, and black and white are coming. … I stay pretty enthusiastic because I see these kinds of churches rising up. They are the ones Jesus said that the gates of hell could not prevail against.”

Bill Hybels reflects

The Global Leadership Summit is less than two months away! The best time to register your team is now – before Early Bird pricing ends on June 26th. We thought we’d share some of Bill’s thoughts from last year’s Summit – it’s a powerful reminder on the impact the event brings. Share this with other leaders in your life as you consider who might need an invitation to attend with you.

The deadline party is still going strong! Today we’re giving away a stack of Bill Hybels’ books. Share this post on Twitter or Facebook and leave a comment below and let us know what moments from 2011 have stuck with you. We’ll select a winner on Monday.

Leading the leaders

This is an excerpt from an article titled, “Lead Where You Are” printed in the May/June 2012 edition of Quintessential Barrington magazine. Read the full article at QBarrington.com.


2012 Faculty photo

As the leader of one of the largest churches in the United States, with an average weekend attendance of 24,000, Bill Hybels knows something about leadership. And he tends to think big. So when he and WCA president Jim Mellado started brainstorming ways to disseminate leadership knowledge to church leaders around the globe, Willow’s staff sensed something substantial was on the horizon.

Global Leadership Summit Executive Producer Corinne Ferguson knew it from the start. “When Bill first approached us with the idea, he said ‘It doesn’t have to be big; just a gathering of pastors with some folks who can teach them leadership skills’,” Ferguson says. “We knew better.” It turned out those “folks” were the likes of bestselling author and leadership expert John Maxwell, megachurch pastor Rick Warren, Good to Great author Jim Collins, and football great Mike Singletary.

In 1995, the Global Leadership Summit’s (GLS) first year, 2,000 gathered at Willow Creek Community Church to hear Hybels and business author and consultant Pat MacMillan talk about leadership. The energy in the room told Hybels they’d struck a chord. He said, “By noon the first day, I thought, ‘This is going to be unbelievable—everybody’s going to win!’” Pastors left equipped to lead their organizations; leaders of secular organizations returned to work with a renewed sense of purpose. By 1998, the event was selling out a year in advance.

So why do church and lay leaders go out of their way to attend the once-yearly GLS when training is readily available elsewhere? Google returns nearly 26 million results for “leadership training,” and one click buys any of Amazon’s 75,169 leadership books. Yet the same leaders allocate time and resources to return to the GLS each year, bringing increasingly large groups—and often entire organizations. Many come for the interdisciplinary approach: an MBA with soul. The Summit’s faculty of high-caliber religious and secular leaders, each delivering a compelling message in the context of a world-class production, forms the core of the GLS. Yet Willow has come under fire from those who believe business leaders have no place teaching pastors how to run their churches. “But if we can just humble ourselves to learn from one another, everyone benefits,” Hybels says. “We’re not inviting the business leaders here to teach theology—if Jack Welch or Ashish Nanda has a theology, I’m sure not aware of it.” What they do have is proven leadership knowledge, and a desire to communicate it to the GLS’s receptive audience.

The giveaway party continues!
Has The Summit rocked your world yet? Do you know someone who needs an infusion of leadership training like only The Summit can bring? As a part of our Early Bird Deadline Party, we’re giving away a stack of CDs from some of our favorite Summit messages. Leave us a comment about your experience with the Summit and share this post on Facebook or Twitter. We’ll select one comment tomorrow afternoon. Don’t forget to register your team before best pricing ends on June 26th!

5 Ways to Embed Evangelism in Your Culture

Bill Hybels is the founding and senior pastor of Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Illinois, and the chairman of the board for Willow Creek Association.


Bill Hybels

Few people would claim that evangelism comes naturally. In fact, for most, it means taking risks and stepping outside their comfort zones. But Christ doesn’t ask those with the gift of evangelism to be the only ones to share their faith. He asks all of us. When it comes to embedding a culture of evangelism in a church, it boils down to this:

1. Live a lifestyle of personal evangelism
Pastors can engage in very specific steps to embed a culture of evangelism in their church, starting by living it themselves. When the pastor and the leadership of the church are fired up about living a lifestyle of evangelism, they are sending a clear message to the congregation that it is a priority.

2. Teach regularly about evangelism
Walking the walk is key, but so is talking the talk. Pastors need to teach about evangelism on a regular basis.

3. Provide training to equip the congregation in how to engage in personal evangelism
It’s important to offer training classes that can help people learn how to share their faith. At Willow we recently began offering Alpha and Just Walk Across the Room trainings to equip the congregation in personal evangelism. And we didn’t just offer it to adults; we also offered an age-appropriate training for kids. If kids can learn the importance of personal evangelism at an early age, it can set them on that path for the rest of their lives.

4. Vision cast the importance of evangelism every few months
Every time there is an opportunity to vision cast about the mission of the church, evangelism should be at the top of the list. When we offer support groups to those who are hurting, we want people to get healing and meet the great Healer—Jesus Christ. When we open the doors to provide immediate relief (food, clothing, etc.) in times of crisis, we want to introduce people to Christ because He is the One who meets all our needs. At the heart of outreach, there is a burning desire to see people come to faith. Don’t pass up an opportunity to vision cast to every ministry about the impact they’re having on reaching people for Christ.

5. Celebrate!
And it’s always important to celebrate. The Bible says that every time someone crosses the line of faith, there is rejoicing in heaven (Luke 15:10). For us at Willow, every June the entire congregation gathers at the lake on our campus for a lakeside Baptism. People bring picnics and sit on blankets on the shore and as people are baptized, there is a lot of shouting, cheering, and celebrating!

Have you developed an evangelism strategy that’s working? We want to hear about it!

Bill Hybels’ hardest years

This post wraps up our Meet the Faculty series. We hope you’re as excited about this line up as we are!


Bill Hybels FacultyAs one of the founders of Willow Creek Community Church, Bill Hybels knows the sacrifice that comes with starting a church. At the 2012 Exponential Conference on April 25 in Orlando, Florida, he spoke with church planters about their early successes and struggles planting Willow. And he invited his wife, Lynne, and two grown children, Shauna and Todd to join him for the interview.

“The first five years after Willow started were one of the hardest experiences of my life,” Bill shared with church planters. “I did a lot of scrambling. In the first five years it was like 25, 100-yard dashes a day.”

Willow Creek began meeting in a theatre in Palatine in 1975 with approximately 100 people in attendance—most of them from a youth group who had met in the suburbs of Chicago. After six years of steady growth, the church took a leap of faith and committed to build a building at its current location in South Barrington.

“When I look out at a crowd like this and see how many of you are in the first five to ten years of a church plant, I just want to sprinkle pastor dust all over you and wish you well,” he said. “I think [church planting] is inherently messy. I think it’s inherently confusing. I think it’s inherently complex. We can help, and council, and bless each other, but one of the toughest things I’ve ever been through is the first five or ten years of planting Willow,” he said.

It was hard on his family, too. “We didn’t have anybody giving us any direction or council,” Bill’s wife, Lynne said. “We weren’t a part of any organization. There were no church planters’ organizations that we knew of back then.”

But as a family they were still able to make some good decisions. “We made a decision that if we had to choose between disappointing people in our congregation or our kids, we would disappoint the congregation because if they don’t like us they can go to another church, but our kids are stuck with us,” said Lynne.

“It was important for us to keep focused on our family while building into the church we were planting,” said Bill. “When our two kids arrived, nothing ever touched me as deeply. The thought of leaving these kids in the jet stream of a fast-moving church was unconscionable to me,” he said. “[My family] is my ultimate, lifelong small group. They are my permanent community. What do you have when you drive away from your church after 35 to 40 years if you don’t have an ultimate community?”

With a belief that after a church planter has established the fundamental commitments and isn’t going to quit, Bill believes it is becomes a matter of managing the commitments. “The idea of bailing on this, and I don’t mean this unkindly, I think it’s the coward’s way out. I think it requires more courage to be a covenant keeper—your covenant with your calling to God, your covenant to your marriage, and your covenant to your children,” he said. “I had to pray to God, that unless you take my life or release me from my call at Willow, I’m going to serve this church with my heart, soul, mind, and strength every day. I’m not breaking that covenant.”

Does Bill’s experience resonate with you? Leave a comment – we want to hear about it!

The Summit party continues

Only 87 days til the 2012 Summit kicks off in full force! But who’s counting? Yes, we’re a little bit excited – and you should be too! The speakers are great and we’ve got amazing musicians! In case you hadn’t heard, we’re having a little party this week – giving away cool Summit stuff. Just our little way of reminding you to register before the price goes up on 5/22 and tell everyone you know how fabulous you think the Summit is!

Today is a big day for another reason – and aren’t you glad you didn’t miss it? Making its blogosphere debut is the 2012 Global Leadership Summit promo video! Let us know what you think & don’t forget to pass it along!

Since it’s such a great day we’re throwing in TWO giveaways today!

First, free to all for a limited time is Bill Hybels’ classic Summit talk from 2002: The Sky-High Stakes of Leadership (mp3). Get it now because it’s only here through 5/22!

Second, our friends over at Zondervan were kind enough to send us a set of Bill’s new releases: Leadership Axioms, Courageous Leadership & The Call to Lead. Give this post a shout on Twitter or Facebook and leave us a comment telling why you’d like these books. We’ll choose one random winner on Thursday at 3:00.

3 lessons from great leaders

Bret NicholsonThe following post is written by Bret Nicholson, the Lead Pastor at One Life Church, a GLS site in Henderson, KY. One Life is a young church started in October of 2010 and preparing to launch their second site this coming summer. Follow him on twitter and check out his blog, One Life Leaders Blog.


As a part of our hosting The Global Leadership Summit sponsored by the Willow Creek Association, I have the privilege of gathering with other pastors to talk about our leadership challenges. Bill Hybels leads the time and I’m convinced that the leaders in the room are some of the most high impact Christian leaders of our generation.

Here are 3 things that struck me as I spent time with them recently:

1. The Best Leaders: Reflect
Reflection simply means to stop and think about what you’re doing and ask why. If I could characterize Bill Hybels’ leadership style and strength I would call it: the ability to reflect on life, leadership, patterns, principles and behaviors and then boil things down to meaningful ideas he can articulate and act on. My personal nickname for him is, “The Philosopher King”. What that means is he is an observer and student of leadership (including his own) and then a brilliant teacher of those observations.

I come away determined to think and observe more.

2. The Best Leaders: Experiment
One of the most freeing and encouraging observations about people who lead successfully at very high levels is they are willing to try…and fail. I’ve been to a lot of Willow Creek conferences and training sessions and I know they are constantly trying to improve. They tweak, re-org, pursue ideas and take risks almost constantly. It’s part of their DNA. By this I don’t mean they don’t know where they want to go. They are vividly clear about their vision. They just stay fluid on HOW to get there.

I come away determined to take more risks.

3. The Best Leaders — Listen
This is what strikes me most. World-class, highly accomplished and experienced leaders are amazing listeners. I lead a church of a thousand that has been around a year and a half. Hybels has a church that has been around for 36 years with weekend attendance of several thousand. The Global Leadership Summit is a juggernaut impacting nations around the world. And the team behind it all asks me questions and lets me participate in the process of how to improve what they do. Me? Why would they bother? They bother because they are humble and gracious, insatiable learners.

It’s interesting to me that a theme of the book of Proverbs is that wise people are marked by their listening and learning ability. That was true 3000 years ago. It’s true today. Being around some of the best leaders on the planet reinforced that simple but profound lesson.
I come away determined to ask good questions and listen more intently.

Have you ever been around a great leader? What did you learn?

Announcing The Global Leadership Summit

Maybe you missed it, or maybe you just can’t get enough – either way, we’re glad you’re here! This webcast marks the launch of our 2012 Global Leadership Summit season and the team behind the event is so excited. Here’s a recap of the webcast, along with a process tool that you can work through on your own or with your team.

GLS Faculty 2012 Announcement

Bill Hybels and Jim Mellado on The Global Leadership Summit

Leaders know they need an annual injection of vision, encouragement, and skill development because the pressures of leadership are relentless. Bill Hybels believes The Summit is that injection – for any leader – “because it’s about the subject of leadership which is transdenominational, transcultural, and transdisciplinary. Everyone who leads anything needs to get better. There’s an adrenaline rush that comes with knowing that you’re getting better and your organization is getting better.”

There is a collection of tensions that makes the Summit unique. It is first and foremost, and unapologetically Christian event. At the same time, Bill and the team behind the Summit pull from the world’s best experts when inviting speakers. The Summit is leader focused but it’s also inclusive of everyone because everyone is a person of influence and must improve. There is a world-class, global perspective to the Summit that is balanced with a high level of local ownership. And the Summit is packed with both tactical, skill based teaching as well as inspiration and motivation. It’s the tension that sets the Summit apart and makes it what it is.

This year the GLS is pleased to announce a powerful faculty including:

  • Bill Hybels: Senior Pastor, Willow Creek Community Church; founder of The Global Leadership Summit – @BillHybels
  • Condoleezza Rice: Former US Secretary Of State; Professor at Stanford Graduate School – @CondoleezzaRice
  • Jim Collins: Nationally acclaimed Business Thinker and author of newest release Great by Choice
  • Marc Kielburger: At age 18 co-founded Free the Children, which has become the largest network of children helping children – @RealMeToWe
  • Sheryl Wudunn: Pulitzer Prize Winner for Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide – @Wudunn
  • Pranitha Timothy: Strategic leader with International Justice Mission who champions restoration and reintegration for thousands of freed slaves in India
  • Craig Groeschel: Founder and Senior Pastor LifeChurch.tv known for leveraging technology to reach a new generation – @CraigGroeschel
  • William Ury: Professor at Harvard with 30 years experience negotiating and mediating corporate, state, and civic conflicts
  • John Ortberg: Senior Pastor, Menlo Presbyterian Church; best-selling author and prominent voice in the spiritual formation movement -@JohnOrtberg
  • Mario Vega: Senior Pastor of a 73,000-attendee church in El Salvador with a successful cell group strategy
  • Geoffrey Canada: Pioneering leader in urban education featured in acclaimed documentary film, Waiting for Superman; CEO/President Harlem Children’s Zone.
  • Patrick Lencioni: Sought-after business speaker teaching from his upcoming book The Advantage about the significance of organizational health – @PatrickLencioni
  • Patrick Lencioni on Meetings

    For most of us working in churches or businesses, meetings occupy a significant portion of time. To admit to not liking meetings is akin to not liking our jobs. Often meetings are equated with corporate penance but the truth is meetings are not inherently bad. Most meetings lack two critical components: drama and context.

    Every good movie must have conflict which is carefully managed by a good director. Likewise, Lencioni argues every meeting must have an issue at stake that people truly care about, “otherwise we are actually asking them to sit around the table and plan their day, or plan dinner, or picture everyone else in the room in their underwear.” We as leaders need to do a better job of being the director; people want tension, anxiety, conflict and a mechanism for resolution.

    Too often we produce “meeting stew” – all topics thrown into one big meeting that nobody is really enjoying. If we focus on the context of a meeting then each topic can be given the attention it requires. Lencioni prescribes four types of meetings: the daily check-in, the weekly staff meeting, the monthly strategic, and the quarterly review. Add each of these up and it comes to about 15% of a leader’s time. That’s not much in the grand scheme of things.

    People don’t hate meetings. They hate bad meetings. Add conflict and context to transform your meetings and the health of your organization. Here is a process tool to help you evaluate your meetings.