Willow Creek Community Church (WCCC) was not the first nondenominational megachurch in the United States, but its reliance on market research and its seeker-friendly atmosphere were unique innovations. Celebrating its 35th anniversary in 2010, WCCC also operates the Willow Creek Association to share what it has learned about church growth and activities.
Number of Members:
More than 24,000 people attend services at Willow Creek Community Church each week.
Founding of Willow Creek Community Church:
The church started as a youth group in Park Ridge, Illinois in 1975, led by Bill Hybels. It got its name when it began holding Sunday services at the Willow Creek movie theater. The youth group raised money by selling tomatoes, and built a church in South Barrington, Illinois, the site of WCCC's main campus.
Prominent Willow Creek Community Church Founder:
Willow Creek Community Church has services at six locations in the Chicagoland area: the main campus in South Barrington; Auditorium Theater in Chicago; Wheaton Academy in West Chicago; Crystal Lake, IL; Christian Heritage Academy in Northfield, IL; and a Spanish service held at Lakeside Academy in South Barrington. Willow Creek's influence has been felt globally through the Willow Creek Association.
Willow Creek Community Church Governing Body:
The governing body is a board of 12 volunteer elders, nominated by the congregation. Senior Pastor Bill Hybels serves on the board and is also an elder. The board handles the financial, planning, and policy matters of the church, giving direction to the senior pastor, who manages his own staff.
Sacred or Distinguishing Text:
The Bible. WCCC's Statement of Faith says, "We hold that the Scriptures, in their original manuscripts, are infallible and inerrant; they are the unique, full, and final authority on all matters of faith and practice."
Notable Willow Creek Community Church Ministers and Members:
Willow Creek Community Church Beliefs and Practices:
WCCC teaches that each person can receive salvation by repentance and faith. Salvation cannot be accomplished by human effort or by being good. Jesus Christ, the second Person of the Trinity, died on the cross for the salvation of those who trust in him alone. The Holy Spirit, the third Person of the Trinity, "renews and indwells each believer upon salvation, becoming their source of assurance, strength, wisdom, and gifting for building up the church."
Willow Creek Community Church experienced explosive growth due to its seeker-friendly services, which were guided by extensive surveys and market research. To promote a familiar, nonthreatening atmosphere, the church buildings were designed to resemble a mall or auditorium. There are no crosses or traditional church elements. A food court and café are on site, and heavy emphasis is put on small groups, so there is a place for everyone.
Worship services feature contemporary music, plays, and dance. Willow Creek practices baptism by immersion, of people 12 years and above. The church also offers child dedication. Communion is served every five to six weeks.
To learn more about WCCC beliefs, visit Willow Creek Beliefs and Practices.