Willow Creek Steps Up to Feed Its 20,000 Attendants

One size doesn't fit all when it comes to teaching believers from the fledgling stage to long-time churchgoers, noted a pastor at one of the nation's most prominent megachurches.

Leading a church of over 20,000 attendants each weekend, Gene Appel, lead pastor of Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Ill., announced the churchwide launch of new classes and tools customized for all of its attendants for this fall and early 2008.

"You need customized experiences for the next steps on your journey ... based on where you are on your [spiritual] journey," said Appel in a "Vision" sermon series on Sunday.

Helping people in every stage of their spiritual journey, whether it's exploring Christianity or committed to fully surrendering themselves to Christ, Willow Creek is currently developing tools to spur people's Christian growth and help them feed themselves spiritually on a regular basis.

Customized experiences is the second part of the church's newly launched "Vision 2010," which outlines the blueprint of Willow Creek's next four years for multiplied local and worldwide impact.

When Senior Pastor Bill Hybels unveiled the vision two weeks ago, he highlighted church survey results that showed less satisfaction among long-time or fully devoted attendants compared to newcomers who were exploring Christianity. In the upcoming years, Willow Creek leaders will be altering the way they coach to teach attendants how to be "self-feeding individuals."

But teaching a large mixed crowd of new and devoted Christians is "quite a challenge," noted Appel.

In efforts to meet the needs of all church attendants, Willow Creek has planned to continue its "Fuel Experience," where the entire church is taught the same Bible lesson but offered journals, additional teachings at midweek services, discussion groups and additional Bible commentary to cater to the various spiritual stages each person is at. An earlier experiment of the "Fuel Experience" revealed a positive response from all participants and results were consistent across age groups and spiritual stages.

Additionally, the Chicago-area megachurch is currently piloting and developing Biblical Literacy classes for launch this fall to give people the basics of Bible knowledge that will help them better feed themselves with Bible truths.

"Willow cannot do everything," Appel stressed, as he urged personal feeding and personal commitment for growth. "This church cannot give everyone everything they need."

Vision 2010, developed over the last 18 months, is a three-part plan that includes bolder witness to reaching people across the Chicagoland area, rethinking how to coach Christ followers and developing tools to help all churchgoers grow in Christian faith, and unleashing unprecedented levels of compassion into the world.

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