Here is my brief report from my trip to Chicago. I'm looking forward to being back around my family and RFC but was a HUGE privilege to travel and learn from these two trips.
Background. Willow Creek is a mega church in Chicago whose founding pastor is Bill Hybels. They have around 25,000 people attending their weekend services and their annual leadership Conference attracted 220,000 delegates in the Summer of 2014
RFC has been part of the Willow Creek Association since 2002. The purpose of this trip was to attend the Willow Creek's 'Partnering to Prevail (PtP)' Conference. PtP is an invitation only, annual five day conference attended by 150 international delegates. It is a behind the scenes look at Willow Creek with most of the speakers being from their executive team. I was one of 10 pastors from the UK.
Summary of Conference.
They were main sessions on the following areas: Creative Arts, Human Resources, Integration, Evangelism, Generosity, Children's Ministry, Justice & Compassion and Finance & Governance. Scott McKnight (theologian & college professor) led a half day on Kingdom & Church in the New Testament. A day was spent with Gordon MacDonald on 'Self Leadership' and the final day was Q&A with Bill Hybels.
All breaks and meal times were spent meeting with and learning from fellow delegates, thereby helping to process the learning.
Although it was the shortest session, Shauna Niquist (Bill Hybels' daughter) on raising a pastors kid had something for all parents so have included her 10 points below.
Points for further reflection & discussion.
How do we move Social Justice & Compassion from the fringe of RFC to one of our core values / activities? (We seem stronger on gospel proclamation than outworking gospel ethics).
How can we make a growing church feel like a small church? (Where members are known, loved & involved).
How do we encourage the artisans within RFC in their creativity and engagement? (The Arts can create unique moments of encounter and clarity)
What can we do to broaden and deepen both 'Evangelism' and a 'Generous lifestyle'? (Evangelism is more than Alpha; RFCers need to know what we want FOR them not FROM them).
What adjustments to our leadership culture do we now need to make?
10 lessons from a pastors kid - Shauna Niquist.
# Be the same person at home as in the church.
# 'Realise' and 'Release' the expectation on your kids. (Reality is more important than perception).
# Walk your faith journey in front of them.
# Let them see what you love about the church and protect them from what is hard about church. Children are great perceivers but bad interpreters.
# Let them find their own spot to serve.
# Give up on normal weekends and holidays and start meaningful rhythms and transitions for your family. Be free to enjoy the lifestyle.
# Treasure alone family time. Get bored together.
# Make your home a safe, off the record space, that is consistent.
# Invest in mentors that will mentor your kids.
# Never break relationship with your kid to show the church you can do tough love.