NEW YORK - For 14 years, the Willow Creek Association has helped hundreds of thousands of pastors and ministry leaders become more effective in their respective fields. And this year, the global ministry is ready to show reality not as it is, but how it might be at the vision-casting Leadership Summit, hitting more than 130 locations worldwide.
The annual conference will draw more than 70,000 men and women together on Aug. 10-12 to expose church leaders to ideas and experiences outside their own box - ideas that could classify pastors as one of "America's Best Leaders."
Referencing a 2005 report published by U.S. News & World Report in partnership with the Harvard University's Center for Public Leadership, the Rev. AR Bernard, founder and pastor of Christian Cultural Center in Brooklyn, listed four critical elements, including one of his own, of leading in the 21st century: a clearly articulated vision, measured results, audacious goals and perseverance.
"All of their [the 50 best leaders] visions began with an idea," said Bernard as he addressed a room of church and ministry leaders at a regional pre-summit meeting in Brooklyn, "[which] came to them exposed by people outside their circles."
The report listed such influential and diverse figures as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Bill Gates and Pastor Rick Warren.
People from all walks of life attend Willow Creek's Leadership Summit every year. "They're bringing their ideas and experiences that came from other ideas and experiences, and we get the opportunity to listen," stated Bernard, who leads more than 26,000 people every week.
The worldwide summit provides an environment that is designed to make ideas flow.
"I believe that someone has an idea outside of my box ... and I want that idea," said Bernard as he noted, "Sometimes a teacher, but always a student."
Broadening the leadership elements to the church, the reverend said, "I don't believe the 21st century church is about bigger and better ... It's about who can serve the people effectively and efficiently."
"How effectively are we reaching people?" he asked, pointing to the problem of the quality of leadership more than the absence of leadership.
New York began hosting the Leadership Summit at several local sites last year. The Brooklyn Christian Cultural Center gathered over 600 and this year, local leaders are looking toward 1,000, according to the Rev. Dr. Mac Pier, president of Concerts of Prayer of Greater New York. In total, New York drew the participation of 2,500 leaders.
"I want to promote and try to get as many leaders as I can to attend the summit," commented the Rev. Jefferson W. Bannister, senior pastor of Grace Church of God in Brooklyn.
With Willow Creek's proven leadership, Bannister added, "You need to fly with the eagles."
The Rev. Lloyd Gift, head of Renewal Ministries, Inc., in Brooklyn, hopes to "move to another level" through the widely anticipated event.
This year's summit is themed "See reality Not As It Is, but How It Might Be," with successful church leaders encouraging fellow ministers to do more than just scale the next mountain.
"It's not about leadership development," said Jim Mellado, president of Willow Creek Association, at the Brooklyn meeting at New Hope Fellowship. "It's for the sake of leading great local churches ... for church transformation."
With church transformation scaling towards changing the world, Mellado noted, "All that goes back to a transformed leader."
The Leadership Summit will be broadcasted live at ten satellite sites across the tri-state area. For more information, visit www.willowcreek.com/leadership.