Bill Hybels, the founder and Senior Pastor of Willow Creek Community Church, announced the names of two leaders who will take on new roles to replace the role of senior pastor as he transitions out of the church leadership next year.
Heather Larson, currently executive pastor, will step into the role of Lead Pastor over all Willow Creek locations, and Pastor Steve Carter, currently teaching pastor, will become Lead Teaching Pastor.
Senior Pastor Hybels, who founded the church in 1975, will continue coaching and developing the two until he steps down from his role as senior pastor in October 2018, when Willow Creek celebrates its 43rd anniversary. He will then assume the title Founding Pastor.
"We're welcoming two tested, respected leaders who embrace our values to assume roles that fit their unique gifts and talents," Hybels said. "The staff and congregation have been enthusiastic about their leadership, and I have every confidence that this new model — with these specific people at the helm — will help Willow continue to thrive as we move forward."
Larson joined Willow's staff about 20 years ago, and has taken on various leadership roles, mostly in the church's compassion efforts, locally and internationally. Five years ago, Hybels asked her to step into the executive pastor role.
"Heather has flourished in every leadership role I've given her," Hybels said. "Her impeccable character and significant leadership abilities make her one of the best church leaders I've ever known. In this new role as Lead Pastor over all Willow Creek locations, I have no doubt she will continue to lead our church into a fantastic future, following where God wants us to go."
Carter joined Willow's teaching team five years ago, after a 15-year mentoring relationship with Hybels. He has earlier worked with Rock Harbor Fullerton in California and two churches in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
"The greatest attributes Steve brings to this new role at Willow are his pure, genuine teaching gift and his deep love for people," Hybels said. "He's one of the most gifted communicators I've ever worked with, and he gets our church's values."
Hybels said he plans to "invest myself more fully into training and coaching church leaders around the world" through a Willow Creek Association, an international Christian ministry. He also wants to take The Global Leadership Summit, a movement of 400,000 leaders in 130 countries, to "some of the most under-resourced, oppressed countries in the world, where pastors and leaders are hungry to be developed."
Hybels launched The Global Leadership Summit in 1995.
"My wife, Lynne, and I plan to remain part of the Willow Creek congregation," he said. "I plan to use my gifts to serve the God I love, just as I've challenged each person in our church to use their gifts. I look forward to spending even more time with Lynne, our kids, and our grandkids — and I see a few sailing adventures on the horizon as well. It's my deepest desire to live every day of my one and only life for the glory of God."