What has Willow Creek Learned in 30 Years?

Willow Creek is a church that has had a dramatic impact on my life and my philosophy of ministry (this same statement could have been written on the blog of hundreds of pastors around the country who are modeling themselves and their churches after Willow). Through its program-driven, seeker-friendly emphasis, Willow has reshaped the way Sunday morning service operates in thousands of churches.

So how do we react when Willow's pastor, Bill Hybels, says things like this,

Speaking at the Leadership Summit, Hybels summarized the findings this way:

Some of the stuff that we have put millions of dollars into thinking it would really help our people grow and develop spiritually, when the data actually came back it wasn’t helping people that much. Other things that we didn’t put that much money into and didn’t put much staff against is stuff our people are crying out for.

Having spent thirty years creating and promoting a multi-million dollar organization driven by programs and measuring participation, and convincing other church leaders to do the same, you can see why Hybels called this research “the wake up call” of his adult life.

Hybels confesses:

We made a mistake. What we should have done when people crossed the line of faith and become Christians, we should have started telling people and teaching people that they have to take responsibility to become ‘self feeders.’ We should have gotten people, taught people, how to read their bible between service, how to do the spiritual practices much more aggressively on their own.
On a few of the blogs I read people are showering Hybels with kudos, declaring this a some kind of public repentance over the way Willow has organized it's ministries. I doubt that Hybels sees his confession that way, but I do admire his willingness to say something went array. I am inspired that his devotion to Christ influences his leadership so much that he is willing to switch gears and do something new after 30 plus years of seemingly successful functioning.