Willow Creek History

Willow Creek Community Church started as a whisper in a college classroom in 1972.

At Trinity College, 20-year-old Bill Hybels sat captivated by the beautiful picture New Testament professor Dr. Gilbert Bilezikian painted of the first church as described in Acts chapter 2.

“When I left Dr. B's classroom that day," Bill says, "I went out to my car, put my head on the steering wheel, and cried. The dream of being part of such a church had taken root in my soul.”

From a College Classroom to a High School Youth Group…

At the time, Bill and some friends were leading a high school youth group in Park Ridge, IL. As they began to apply the Acts 2 principles taught by Dr. B, the youth ministry exploded. “Kids were coming to faith in Christ,” Bill says, “their lives were being transformed, and they were loving one another with the kind of unconditional love you see described in Acts 2." 

…to a Movie Theater

On October 12, 1975 in the Willow Creek Theatre in Palatine, IL, Bill and friends launched the very first Willow Creek church service. The church thrived, quickly outgrowing their space at the theatre. In 1977, they purchased a plot of land in South Barrington, IL—the site of the central church campus today—and construction began. In February 1981, the fledgling church met for the first time in its new home.

…And Beyond

God has taken Willow on quite a ride since those early days. And throughout the past 40-plus years, Bill and the Elders and leaders of Willow Creek never lost sight of that original vision of being an Acts 2 church. While much has changed over the years, key themes—taken straight from the Acts 2 passage that gripped Bill’s heart in 1972—have transcended individual leaders, ministries, and eras. These themes are part of Willow's very DNA as a church. And the church’s passion for helping people become fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ remains its laser focus..

Today, more than 25,000 people worship at one of Willow Creek’s seven regional locations each weekend. Churches from around the world look to see what God is up to at Willow, and to find encouragement and equipping for their own ministries. Willow Creek remains, above all else, a local church of Christ followers—a place where people matter to God and to us, where together we seek to live out God’s vision of being an Acts 2 church.

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
   — Acts 2:42-47