UPDATE: If you're here searching for Gene Appel News here's a link to Gene's new location.
I have to say that I have a new respect for Gene Appel. Hearing him talk about "Can Willow Change" was eye opening. Imagine the challenges of succeeding Bill Hybels! I loved his line about the old African saying, "The problem with finding ivory is that it is usually attached to an elephant!" Quite a powerful session.
Appel walked us through the challenges facing Willow and they're facing quite a list. Think about the challenges of this list:
- Willow is aging. The average age has moved from 38 in 1995 to 48 in 2005.
- Demographics are shifting. South Barrington was almost entirely Caucasian when the church was founded. Now, within a 20 minute drive the northwest suburbs are increasingly multi-cultural.
- Seekers are changing. The early strategy assumed that a seeker wanted to be anonymous. Today, it is clear that there is a desire to connect and to experience.
- Lives today are increasingly busy and fragmented.
- Waning # of Creekers know their neighbors.
- Deepening value of compassion. In 1995, 771 were involved in compassion related ministry. 2005 saw over 10,000 involved.
- People with the biggest hearts for God and people are the ones at greatest risk of leaving.
- Leaders spread too wide with margins too thin.
Really quite a list. Daunting. But what I found myself thinking throughout was how they seem to care about what is at stake. I'll post more later about what they're doing about it. Really a very compelling session.
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Here's a link to the story that broke January 26, 2008: Big Changes at Willow And here's the link to the story from Willow's own enewsletter: Kingdom Redeployments: Appel, Frazee Pursue New Ministry Options