Take Responsibility for Your Leadership

Bill Hybels says, “For the Church to reach is redemptive potential, it must be well led.”

Leadership matters. It matters in corporations, it matters in countries, and it especially matters in churches.

Most pastors I know would agree with this. Yet, some struggle to carve out space to invest in their own leadership development. Some even feel guilty if they take the time to stretch their own leadership skills.

Yet, when pastors invest in themselves, everybody wins—their families, their staffs, their boards, and ultimately their congregation. So, take a look at your week and make some time.

As a leader, where do you go to get inspired? Where do you go to learn alongside the other people you lead?


At Willow Creek Association we host the Summit so that you can increase your leadership bandwidth. We hope you’ll be there this year. (If you’re planning on going to the Summit this year, register by today to lock in the best rates.) But, even if you can’t make it to the Summit, we still hope you take the time to invest in your development.

We’re curious, what are you going to do to invest in yourself this week? This year?

By: Andy Cook (@wca_andycook)
WCA Membership Leader

Mind the Gap

Just two weeks ago I and a small team of technical artists and musicians (most of them volunteers) returned from Düsseldorf, Germany, where we had the privilege of serving alongside hundreds of local volunteers at Willow Creek Association’s Student Ministry Conference – Mind the Gap.

For 3 days, 3,800 enthusiastic German student ministry leaders and high school students gathered for inspired teaching and passionate worship. I have no doubt that God is moving in this generation of German students desperate to see their friends and communities experience life in Jesus Christ!

A highlight for many of us was the reminder of the gift we received through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross and how that compels us as Christ-followers to offer up our own lives as sacrifices so that others can also experience that same gift. Then, in a sacred and holy moment, we took communion together in small groups to seal the moment and remember the gift Christ gave us.

Here’s just a taste of what God did during Mind the Gap:


(Thanks to our video team in Germany and Brandon Grissom for the sweet background music!)

By: Jarrett Ruffino (@jarrettruffino)
International Conference Manager
Willow Creek Association



A Few Good Quotes

God moves.  God moves in our souls, in our teams, and in our church strategy.  A gathering with leaders this week produced tender God moments, dreams of what the Church can do, and sound bites for us to chew on for the days ahead.

What quote or Bible verse stood out to you this week?

  • “Grace is not opposed to effort.  Grace is opposed to earning.” -Dallas Willard
  • “The hand of God teaches you to be strong and sweet even when you don’t get what you want.” -Dallas Willard
  • “Does the gospel we preach tend to make disciples or consumers?” -Dallas Willard
  • “Cohesiveness in a body comes from the perceived need of the body by its members.”-Henry Cloud
  • “What kinds of norms (values) will shape what we envision and protect us from what we don’t want?” -Henry Cloud
  • “Is there grace in your accountability? Where there is not grace things will die.” -Henry Cloud
  • “There’s nothing about leadership that has to diminish our connection to God.” -Mindy Caliguire
  • “There is something cooler than a passionate vision. It’s the achievement of it.” – Bill Hybels
  • “The job of a pastor in a leadership team is to take the lofty ideas and make them operational in the lives of the people of the church.” – Bill Hybels
  • “The ball isn’t in the net until you’ve made significant progress towards your vision.”  – Bill Hybels
  • “As goes the leaders, so goes the church.”  – Pete Scazzero
  • “We’re are not about buildinga  crwod, we’re about building a chruch.  It’s mustard seed- it’s slow but it’s powerful.” – Pete Scazzero
  • “Everything has a life cycle.” – Pete Richardson
  • “Something that is God-breathed cannot have any person stand in the way” -Harvey Carey
  • “What would happen if you embraced the challenge of making disciples who don’t look like you?” -Harvey Carey


By: Craig Terrill (@craigterrill)
Leader, Engage
Willow Creek Association

Crying in the Bathroom

Dallas Willard Leading Communion at the Transformation Intensive

Aaron Niequist posted the entry below on his blog. We love it, so we’re sharing it!

In one of Sufjan Steven’s greatest songs (Casimir Pulaski Day), he sings a haunting line admitting “I was crying in the bathroom.”  Well, I did that today.

This week, I’ve had the thrill of leading worship at the WCA’s Transformation Intensive conference.  In many ways, it’s been an un-conference….unplugged, understated, and all about the content.  I couldn’t love it more.

The first teacher was Dallas Willard, one of my heroes.  He gave a lecture about transformation that shook me to my core and reminded me again why the invitation of Jesus really is the greatest news on earth.  (I’ll post the notes on my blog soon).

But this morning, I got to nervously share with him the 60 second version of my story:  “Dallas, I got cynical in college and my faith stopped working for me.  Christianity as “how to go to Heaven some day” was no longer compelling and I was thinking about leaving the whole thing.  But then someone recommended your book, The Divine Conspiracy, and while reading chapter 2, I was born again again.”

He got a little embarrassed and looked down, but I kept going.  “Dallas, I’ve never met you, but you’ve been one of the primary voices for why I’m a Christian…and why I still want to be.  Thank you.” He sheepishly said thanks and I shuffled out the room.

But as I walked down the hall, I could feel something building inside me…and so I walked over to the downstairs bathroom, sat back by the empty showers, and bawled my eyes out.

I cried because I almost missed out on LIFE to the full.

I cried because I was so thankful that someone like Dallas could show the gospel to be as beautiful as it really is – when all I could see was ugliness.
I cried out of thankfulness that God didn’t leave me to wallow in my cynicism, but rescued me.

If you know me, you know how rare this kind of thing is.  My Scandinavian male ability to bury my emotions is usually spectacular.  But today, I’m just so thankful to be a part of such a great Story:  getting to join God in what God is doing to restore all things.

“When we are invited into life in Christ Jesus, we are offered the greatest opportunity of our lives – the opportunity of a vivid companionship with Him, in which we will learn to be like Him and live as He lived.” -Dallas Willard


By: Aaron Niequist (@aaronieq)
Weekend Worship Leader, Willow Creek Community Church

Ministry Life Cycle

Day 2 at the Intensive got practical. How do we take lofty ideas about transformation and make the work in the context of the local church? 

After a powerful time at the Lord’s table and some breakout sessions (where we practiced some spiritual disciplines in ways that we not too familiar), Bill Hybels came and helped give perspective on the challenge facing pastors as they have to put legs to these ideas…

At PVC (Palm Valley Church) this is where we are at and have been for a while.  It was comforting to know that as a church leadership team, we just have to try something, throw it up on the wall and see if it sticks…  We don’t feel rushed and hurried, waiting for the Lord to give us clarity.  I’m grateful that we don’t have to do a lot of “deconstruct” but are able to move forward and “construct”.

Pete Richardson gave church leaders some fantastic tools to help in the process and perhaps the best take-away of the day: every living thing has a life cycle.

That’s normal and to be expected; however, churches are notorious for holding onto things way past their life giving potential and by the time you really look into them, it’s post mortem.  So there should be a place and permission for new ideas to be shared and developed.  Not all of them will work, but is there a place where they are welcomed and not shot out of the sky before ever given a chance to breathe. Without that, you could be trying to give life support to old ideas while trying to birth new ones at the same time.

Now, on to start day 3!


Rick Gannon, Lead Pastor
Palm Valley Church, Mission, TX


The Transformation Begins

Today marked the start of the Transformation Intensive.  53 churches signed up to get serious about their spiritual transformation strategy.  The eagerness in the room is evident as church leaders gather and make space for God to move within their own souls and within their teams.  As the Intensive unfolds we’ll be posting photos, updating facebook, and tweeting (#intensive).

Dallas Willard Asks 3 Questions

In his book, Hearing God, Dallas Willard writes, “God does take care of his church, and all of our efforts as leaders must be directed toward fostering each person’s individual adventure with him.”

During the Transformation Intensive this week, Dallas is sharing his insight with church leaders to help process their plan to foster their congregations’ growth towards becoming close to Christ.  Big topic!

So we asked Dallas to pose 3 questions for Pastors to process:

1.      Do you have a plan for developing your people into Christlikeness?

2.      Does the gospel you preach feed into the plan?*

3.      Are you prepared to lead by example?


*This questions is not only challenging for leaders, it’s also thought provoking.  If you’re looking for more resources on this topic, here’s an audio link from Dallas titled, Knowing What We Work With, and How It Takes “The Pressure Off”.


By: Mindy Caliguire (@mindycaliguire)
Transformation Ministry Team, WCA Founder, SoulCare (a Spiritual Formation Ministry)



You Are Not an Average Leader

You are not an average church leader.  Your church is not average.  You risk more, innovate more, and strive to have more impact locally and globally than the normal church.  Since I stepped into leadership of the Willow Creek Association in the 90’s, I’ve seen this movement of churches we get to serve in greater context.

Two thousand years ago, Jesus declared that the “Gates of hell would not prevail against the church.”  In every generation God ALWAYS calls a pioneering few to innovate, take risks, and adopt new practices.  Names like: Luther, Wesley, Spurgeon, Booth and Moody come to mind, but there are thousands over the years who, like these well-known leaders, have also been faithful to answer that call and risk everything for Christ.  They make a greater contribution than we can imagine.  When these leaders step out, movements get started.

Great movements start with a leader saying, “yes” to God.

History shows over and over, when the pioneering few prevail, untold others follow their lead and prevail themselves!  But pioneering is lonely business and sometimes pioneers don’t prevail because they lose heart, grow weary, or become overwhelmed.  It’s a tragedy!  The truth is that each generation can’t afford the lost impact of even one pioneer.

So, just as God ALWAYS calls a pioneering few to innovate and take risks, God also calls other ministries to serve the pioneers—to resource them, encourage them, and remind them that they are not alone!

I think that at the WCA, we are called to make sure that the church innovator—the pioneering few—prevail! I really believe that the WCA is called to serve the church leaders who are fired up about the Matthew 28 mandate.  We’re called to serve you as you work tirelessly to become increasingly more effective at living Matthew 28 out in ways that stay connected to people living in a rapidly changing reality.

We’ve started to study God’s activity in some of the most effective churches in the world and want to share best practices and strategies.  As we’ve studied more than 300,000 people in 1,300 churches of all different denominations, cultures, and sizes, we’ve found a few things that are consistent with the most effective churches at disciple making.  Here’s what they are the best at:

  1. Getting People Moving. That means that there’s a clear simple process.  Leaders communicate and equip their people to get engaged in the spiritual journey.
  2. Embedding the Bible into Everything.  The Bible is central to every facet of ministry life. Church leaders equip their people to actively and regularly engage the scriptures.
  3. Creating Ownership. Pastors transfer ownership of Spiritual Growth from the church to the individual.  It’s the individual’s responsibility to take ownership for moving their own heart toward Christ while the church provides tools to support their own journey.
  4. Pastoring the Community.  I love that this comes out in different ways for different churches, but the point is that these churches find all sorts of ways to get engaged and involved in the things that matter most in their communities (schools, government, social services, etc.).

In MOVE: What 1,000 Churches Reveal About Spiritual Growth(…to be released in August at the Summit), Cally Parkinson and Greg Hawkins  reflect on a select number of churches who scored high on REVEAL’s Spiritual Vitality Index. Cally and Greg write about the leaders of these churches, “they truly are not distracted with wondering how to increase attendance by 10 percent.  They are obsessed, instead, with challenging their congregation members to move close to Christ.  To live a sold-out life.  To surrender it all.  Nothing else is more important than that.”

Every church can do this.  It’s not dependent on size, culture, resources, money, or staff.  Matthew 28 can and should look a thousand different ways, but the non-negotiable is that it’s happening!

Today is a big day at Willow. Fifty church leadership teams are gathered at the sold-out Transformation Intensive to get even more intentional and effective at transformation as a church community.  Leaders of all different denominations, sizes, and regions are gathering Wednesday- Friday to be more than average.  They’re standing up to be innovative pioneers in their communities.

Looking forward to the days ahead!

By: Jim Mellado (@jimmellado)
President, WCA


Who You Are Really Matters

Dr. Henry Cloud says that, “No matter what ‘potential’ someone has, or what talents, brains, or opportunities they possess, unless they also have the character to bring it all to fruition, success rarely happens.  Who you are really, truly matters.”  Here’s a clip of Henry Cloud talking about his session for The Global Leadership Summit.  Enjoy!

By: WCA (@wcagls)


PS- In an effort to deliver a shameless plug :) Later this week, Dr. Henry Cloud will be at Willow Creek’s campus to serve an incredible group of church leadership teams at the Transformation Intensive. If you want to follow the conversation on twitter we’re using #intensive.




I am most keenly aware of when it is gone.

Momentum is that force that propels our work forward with a force and reckoning we simply cannot manufacture on our own.  Momentum begins with sustained focus on our corporate inspiration.

As leaders in the church, our primary inspiration is the life of Jesus. So often we forget this. We look to other church models, new books, or even ourselves and in so doing we cheapen our vision and our motivation as the local church. Give your people a fresh and clear picture of Jesus and they will consistently be motivated to live the life he has called them to live.

As leaders we’re also called to be intentional with our leaders. Society is full of influencers who grasp for the attention of our folks. It is our calling to love them & lead them. This comes when time is spent with one another in the context of both friendship and mission. Meaning we need to both love within our communities as well as on the way towards reaching people who are without the love of Jesus.

So, when it seems as though momentum has been lost, I ask myself some questions.

  • How have I failed to give my brothers and sisters a clear picture of Jesus?
  • How have I failed to love them well over these past couple of weeks?
  • Or perhaps how have I failed to force us to stay on mission?

One obvious caveat is that only the Holy Spirit in us can do the real work of the Gospel in our midst, but we are stewards of this work. We are stewards of how our churches view Jesus and how well our churches love one another. Momentum comes when we are engaged in both.

by: JR Kerr (@jrkerr)

Teaching Pastor, Park Community Church