Thursday, Friday and Saturday of this past week I attended the Willow Creek Leadership Summit hosted via satellite at Eagle Brook Church in Lino Lakes, MN. I have put this conference on my yearly must do list. This year was in my opinion better than last year, though it is very good every year.

Day One:

Session #1 : Bill Hybels – The Life Cycle of a Leader

Bill Hybels is the founding pastor of Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, IL. Bill Hybels is in the process of recovering from a serious bout with the flu, and you could tell it zapped him of energy. The presentation was still quite good, but a good bit of it was review of things he has spoken on previously. I think the key item I will take from this session was his reminder to us that we cannot let the limiting factor of the growth of our church (organization) to be ourselves.

Session #2: James Meeks – Enemies of a Growing Church

For those not familiar with Pastor James Meeks, he leads Salem Baptist Church in Southern Chicago area. Salem is one the largest churches in Chicago, and is also located in one of the poorest areas in Chicago. James Meeks also is a state representative for the area where his chuch is located. Meeks was a very good presenter, and was quite funny, often at the expense of Bill Hybels.

The keys Pastor Meeks laid out that are enemies of church growth are:

1) Lack of faith – we must believe that growth is possible.

2) Lack of knowledge – we need to know best practices to help our churches get or remain healthy.

3) Failure to realize that God is no respector of persons – It is not about an individual, and the fundamental principles that causes churches to be successful are not dependent on individuals, and are transportable from church to church.

4) Growth is always the goal of a New Testament Church – the pattern clearly laid out in Scripture is for churches to be growing and new churches being birthed.

5) An unsure pastor – people are looking to the pastor to have answers, and the pastor cannot lead with ambiguity. This also means to not be afraid to preach the Truth, say what the Bible says, not what is politically correct.

6) Failure to build upon small victories – pretty simple, but easy to miss.

7) Failure to preach the announcements – what you want the church to know or do you must preach. Simply saying a group of us will be serving at the homeless shelter isn’t enough. Preach on it, and then invite people to join you in serving at the homeless shelter.

8) Lack of corporate fasting and prayer – again, very simple, but difficult for many in praxis.

9) Getting started – it can be difficult to get started, but that is no excuse. There is no better day than today!

10) Motive – why do you want a growing or big church? If it is not only for God’s glory, then you are doing it for the wrong reasons.

Session #3: Andy Stanley – Focused Leadership

Andy Stanly is the founding pastor of North Point Community Church, located in Buckhead, a suburb of Atlanta Georgia. You may also recognize his name from his father, Charles Stanley, who also ministers in the Buckhead area. In typical Andy Stanley fashion, he was outstanding in his presentation.

Andy spoke on “my best leadership decision.” His whole presentation was about how early on in his ministry he made the decision that he would build the best church he could in 45 hours a week. To spend more time working on that was cheating his family out of having a father and a husband. He encourages his staff to cheat the church before they cheat their family. Their families are places they minister, so they aren’t “leaving” ministry to go home. He encouraged pastors to remember that they are called to love their wives, not to love their churches. We are to love our wives as Christ loves the church. Because the church is Christ’s love God has promised us that the gates of Hell will not prevail against it (Matthew 16). By limiting his hours, he also created an enviornment where he can focus on working on his strengths and delegating his weaknesses. It also gives him permission to say “No” to many things, be that outside speaking engagements or other things that take away from his hours with his family and his church. He suggested that most people are only good at a couple of things, and that we should focus on those and bring others in to do the parts we are not gifted in. This is the way the church is supposed to operate. He also emphasized that we as pastors need to priortize the success of the church over our own personal success. As Rick Warren would say, “It’s not about you.” Our race is a marathon, and not a sprint, so we need to create church environments to sustain ourselves and our staff/volunteers. Another great thing Pastor Stanley said was “You don’t gain or maintain God’s blessing by violating His principles.” This session was one of the better ones that I have heard, and I strongly encourage all pastors to give it a listen and give it some real thought. Expecting your staff to work 60 hours a week is asking them to cheat their families, and leads to ministry burnout instead of ministry effectiveness.

Session #4: Peg Neuhauser – Tribal Warfare

Peg Neuhauser is an author and a consultant who works with conflict resolution. This was the session that I got the least out of from the whole Summit. Both her presentation and her presentation style did not seem quite right for the Summit. I think she has some good ideas, but she chose not to good into depth on her expertise area. Instead she gave a fairly basic and generic overview of one of her books. The ideas sounded good, but lacked the depth and insight needed to make it useful. More of a primer for her book I would suspect, but not enough to leave me wanting to read it.

More to come!

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