“It’s a Family”

Willow Creek | January 31, 2022

Taking that Leap of Faith

Patty began attending Willow back in 2015. She was a regular attender and even tried joining a small group. However, Patty’s life became hectic at the same time: she began going through a divorce and was trying to figure out a new way of life with her kids. The change in her life and the change and the changes at Willow compounded on each other in 2018—it became too much for Patty, and she left the church.

Over the next couple of years, she continued having a relationship with God, but it wasn’t as deep as she hoped. Although part of her life belonged to God, there were some parts she kept to herself. But little did she know the spiritual awakening God had in store for her.

This past October, Patty was ready to try church again; in her own words, she felt “a calling to go back.” She went on Willow’s website and saw a location just down the street from where she and her kids had moved: Huntley

She attended church one weekend and attended a “Coffee with Todd” event after, where she met some of those in leadership. One of the people she talked to was Frank, the Groups Pastor at Huntley. After chatting a bit, Frank asked Patty to attend his and his wife’s small group. A little hesitant, Patty agreed. 

For Patty, showing up to her first small group was like “going on a first date.” Outside of Frank and his wife, there were five others. But Patty jumped right in. 

She found herself sharing about her life, the recent changes she had made, and even the depression some family members were struggling with. The small group gathered and prayed over Patty. After leaving the group, Patty began to notice a change in her life. 

In the weeks to follow, she knew there were situations where she shouldn’t have had peace, but she found a calmness. In challenging circumstances, she was able to surrender. She remembered how she used to find joy in people and things, but joy started to come to her in attending church, worshiping, and spending time with her small group.

“It’s a family,” Patty responded in describing what her small group means to her. “We’re not just talking on the weekends. We ask and send prayers throughout the week and check-in. We’re connected, and we genuinely care about each other. We get together and pray boldly in faith.”

Patty can see how the timing wasn’t right those years ago, but God’s timing is perfect, and her group has helped inspire her and her children.

Her children began to notice a change in their mom’s behavior, especially when she’d come home from small group. Her children, some of whom described themselves as “not religious” and “wanting nothing to do with church,” saw the enthusiasm growing in their mom. They became interested. One of Patty’s daughters attended with her mom in early November and has been a consistent volunteer since Christmas. Through God, her kids are now following in their mother’s footsteps.

When asked how she would encourage others to try a small group, Patty responded, “You don’t know what’s out there for you until you put yourself out there. With God and others, you don’t have to go through anything alone. Just go on that first date and see what happens.”

Reflecting on the past few years, Patty now says, “My heart is different.”

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