Barbara Stewart, ed. Willow Creek Community Church, 1991. 177 pages.The Handbook is available by writing Seeds, Order Processing, 67 East Algonquin Road, South Barring-ton, IL 60010; (708) 765-5000. Cost is $14.95, plus $4.00 shipping and handling; 7 percent sales tax for Illinois residents.
The Willow Creek Community Church, under the leadership of Pastor Bill Hybels, has implemented an effective outreach ministry using drama, contemporary music, and stimulating messages to attract "seekers." While many people are aware of Willow Creek's effectiveness in reaching out to the "lost"—over 14,000 in attendance at three weekend "seeker" servicesómany are unaware of Willow Creek's other offerings: the New Community (believer's) Service—with 10,000 attending two mid-week services—and a large support system of ministries set up to disciple, nurture, and care for members and attenders.
The Handbook, for many years distributed in the form of a loose-leaf notebook to those who attended Willow Creek's Church Leader's Conference, provides a complete overview of this church's ministry. In making this Handbook available by mail, Willow Creek has done the church a great service, since the book's contents stimulate discussion, provide resources, and remind us of our responsibility to intentionally reach out to the lost.
The first chapter, "Willow Creek: Purpose and Structure," clearly lays out the foundation for Willow Creek's ministry and outlines their "Seven-Step Strategy":
1. Believers build bridges with unbelievers.
2. Believers share a verbal witness with unbelievers.
3. The church provides a seeker service where unbelievers can hear about Jesus Christ.
4. The church provides a believer's service where believers can glorify God and grow spiritually.
5. Members participate in a small group for fellowship and disciple-ship.
6. Members participate in service, using their spiritual gifts.
7. Believers recognize that stewardship is a form of discipleship and giving is a form of worship.
These principles, along with a well-defined and thoroughly biblical statement of purpose, provide the foundation for a well-developed strategy for reaching the unchurched and caring for church members.
The Handbook's initial chapter also includes Willow Creek's "Statement of Faith," their "Principles for Church Government" (including the roles of staff, elders, and deacons), their very stringent "Requirements for Membership," and a clear explanation of the principles and strategies for their "Seeker Service."
The remainder of the manual is divided into four key areas: "Chapter Two: Adult Ministries" (Counseling, Evangelism, Use of Members' Gifts, Pastoral Care, Small Group, and Women's Ministries); "Chapter Three: Family Life Ministries" (Marriage preparation, Marriage Restoration and Divorce Recovery, and Single Parents Ministry); "Chapter Four: Single Adult Ministries"; and "Chapter Five: Youth and Children's Ministries." In these four sections, each ministry is explained and includes a statement of purpose, a biblical foundation, a well-laid-out strategy, and a program for implementing the strategy. Each ministry description also includes a section of the most frequently asked questions (and their answers) and a helpful section on "Transferable Principles" that can easily be integrated in your local ministry.
In addition, the book provides two helpful resources: "A Membership Profile" (a questionnaire each person is required to fill out before becoming a member) and "A Staff Evaluation Guide" (an indispensable tool for self-evaluation or use by the consistory).
This Handbook is invaluable for church leaders, regardless of their present vision and direction of ministry. In studying these chapters, the reader will be impressed with the solidly biblical foundation, the clear vision, and the well-thought-out strategy for ministering to believers and unbelievers. Willow Creek's thoroughly integrated approach to ministry ought to encourage us to reexamine our purposes and perspectives on the church and its ministry in light of biblical teaching.