Tonight we are gathering for prayer and worship online at 7 p.m.—please join us as we seek God together and have a chance to hear from Dave Dummitt and North Shore Pastor Ed Ollie Jr. Additionally, we have a few more opportunities for you to meet Ed, in person and socially distant, this Thursday and Friday from 6–8 p.m. on the lawn. We won’t have a formal agenda or program, just a chance to talk and connect, so come by at a time that works for you!
I’ve also received a number of questions that we are adding to our FAQ. Please see them below.
As always, let me know if there’s anything I can do to serve you,
Executive Pastor of Campuses
When is Pastor Ed starting?
He already has! Come meet him on Wednesday night online, or Thursday or Friday out on the lawn. He can’t wait to hear your story.
I’d like to invite Pastor Ed to my small group or ministry team gathering, is that possible?
Yes! Ed would love to meet as many of you as possible. This week his focus will be on the “meet and greet” opportunities, as well as getting to know our staff. In the next couple of weeks, we will provide some opportunities for you to schedule time with Pastor Ed to meet with your team or group beginning in early December.
Where did our worship team go? Why was the worship portion of the service on Sunday coming from South Barrington?
The majority of the musicians chose to step away from volunteering when their leaders stepped down. One of Ed’s biggest priorities right now is to identify, recruit, and hire a new Worship Pastor for WCNS. We will be rebuilding the worship team, and as soon as possible, the services at North Shore will be led by a worship team from North Shore. In this season in between, some of our other campus worship teams have graciously stepped in to help.
*After this update was sent, we learned of some volunteer musicians who want to continue serving. We are grateful for their hearts and are working with them on a plan for the future.
Why can South Barrington have hundreds gathered to watch a service, and that is not allowed at North Shore?
Our team is working with village officials in each town where our campuses are located in order to determine what is recommended for in-person indoor gatherings. We’ve had favorable and productive conversations with Glenview this week and we hope to have some good news in the near future.
North Shore family,
I know this has been a time of tremendous change for you, and I’m grateful for the ways you’ve leaned in, asked hard questions, and pursued Christ. I first want to say, I am so sorry for your loss. I know many of you are mourning the departure of one or more of the pastors and leaders whom you love deeply. This is such a difficult time. I love the way many of you are responding by entering into a season of prayer and fasting. I truly believe that hearts change and mountains move through our prayers.
Secondly, I want to share that I am excited about your future. I am a “bottom line up front” kind of person, so I want to share that we’ve hired Ed Ollie as the next North Shore Campus Pastor and he will also serve on our teaching team.
Over the last few weeks, we have pulled people into multiple interviews with Ed to learn more about his fit for North Shore. This included some on our executive team, two campus pastors, some of the North Shore staff (all those who are staying), and seven North Shore lay leaders from the congregation. The input provided was invaluable.
Now about Ed. He has well-rounded experience in the business, non-profit, and church world having served as a director of development (Ross School of Business at U of M), in executive-level pastoral roles (Hermitage Hills Church, Harvest Bible Chapel), and on the boards of internationally-known nonprofits (Intervarsity Christian Fellowship, MOPS). He has led people, grown organizations, raised money, and helped shape culture and direction. Each place he has gone, he has sought to empower people in their God-given talents to pursue unity and love in a way that transforms communities. You can read more about his background and family here.
Ed will begin easing into his role in November and will be fully engaged by early December. He is eager to learn from the North Shore staff and congregation and build to the future. You’ll quickly learn that he is not afraid to have hard conversations—whether that be about church struggles or racial injustices—and he walks through each day with a true joy that comes from Christ.
You will find Ed to be a true pastor. He will walk with you through the pain of this season, and he will also call you into helping build a thriving community on the North Shore. He is also a leader—and will help ignite a renewed passion to reach the North Shore with the love of Jesus, carrying on the legacy that has been yours for the past 18 years.
This Wednesday evening you will have a chance to meet Ed Ollie at our prayer and worship gathering which you can stream on YouTube at 7 p.m. We are also planning some additional opportunities to meet your new pastor. For now, here’s a quick video from Ed!
Executive Pastor of Campuses
As Dave said, this is a challenging time of change, and our desire is to support and care well for both the staff and the congregation during this time.
I want to invite you to our Wednesday night prayer and worship gatherings beginning November 4. Dave and I will be there, along with some of the other campus pastors who care deeply about you. In addition to focusing our eyes on God, we will provide updates and answers to the most commonly asked questions. The in-person gatherings will be limited in attendance, and we won’t be running any programs for kids. Please register to attend, either in person or on Zoom, here. We’ll record these gatherings for those who are unable to attend.
Many of you have sent questions about what’s happening and what’s next for North Shore—thank you for doing that. We compiled the frequently asked questions below on this webpage and will add any updates and gathering recordings to the page each week.
Lastly, if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me via email. I may not be able to respond, but I promise to personally read every email, and your questions will help us keep the webpage updated with the most relevant information.
Executive Pastor of Campuses
Deb DaSilva will be continuing to lead our Compassion & Justice ministries at WCNS.
Beth Heinemann has been promoted to Promiseland Pastor. Kristen Daniels will continue to work alongside Beth in Promiseland.
Melissa Payne has been promoted to Student Pastor.
Jean Choi has been part-time in operations, and is moving to full-time as Campus Coordinator.
Willow Creek North Shore has been known as having a staff that loves the congregation, and is well-loved by the congregation. The following individuals who are leaving will be greatly missed.
Staff who have been on staff at Willow for more than 10 years: Kim Gann, April Gregory, Caleb Gregory, Jon Lake, Wes Payne, Matt Skrzypczynski, and Jason Young.
Staff members who have been here between 5 and 10 years: Aimee Daly, Tyler Hoff, Brenden Lang, Rachel Lang, Kaleb Wilcox, and Grace Zuercher.
Newer staff members who will also be missed: Nathaniel Dulski, Andrew Kang, Kelly Kang, Shae Kelsen, Traci Lee, Amy Mikal, Ken Norton, Gari Ochs, Elena Rios, Matthew Roehr, Emily Rowan, Kathryn Swanson, Jeremy Yap, and Rebecca Yu.
We are setting each date individually based on their responsibilities. Most are finishing up between November 30 and December 15, with a few exceptions.
This is our highest priority. Please pray that God would lead us toward an individual who will love, lead, and pastor our congregation for the season ahead. This role may be posted publicly later for open applications if our current leads come to a dead end.
The Campus Pastor is the “face” of Willow Creek Community Church at a campus. He or she is a pastor at heart, and is a high-capacity leader who builds teams to ensure the success of the local campus. Success is defined as a growing campus fulfilling the mission of Willow by helping people take next steps with God, and fulfilling the vision by multiplying at every level.
We are currently exploring a few candidates and may post the position publicly if those do not lead to a hire. Remaining staff, Elders who attend North Shore, and some congregants are involved in this process.
Ideally we will fill the Campus Pastor role first, and then he or she will work with our HR team to fill these additional open positions:
Note: The plan is to open these positions internally (to existing Willow staff members from any campus), and then to open publicly if needed.
No, Amy did not get fired. In fact, she was asked to stay in a different role. But we knew the change in job description would be a big shift for our campus pastors, and for Amy in particular. She is passionate about teaching and preaching, and as she has been able to do that more, her passion has grown. Amy does not feel that the new job description fits her passions and strengths.
One of the things that attracted our new leaders to Willow Creek was the way that Willow has opened doors of opportunity for women in all levels of leadership. Dave comes from a church where he moved them from a more conservative stance to a church that opened doors for women to preach on the weekends. One of Dave’s first staffing decisions at Willow was to secure Megan Marshman on our teaching team. We are in the process of building our executive team, and this remains a very high value in our process.
There are three converging realities driving the changes:
This is the driving reason for roles that were eliminated.
As we studied healthy growing churches across the country, it was common for these churches to have a staff to congregation ratio of 1:100 overall and 1:160 at the campus level. Willow was at 1:57 at the beginning of 2020. That is nearly twice as many staff as other similar churches. With a two-year slide in finances across nearly all campuses, this puts a strain on our ability to do ministry. As attendance dropped at almost every campus, these ratios were getting worse, not better.
This is the driving reason for roles that were moved from the campus to the core
The Elders selected a senior pastor based on their desire for the church to grow once again and rediscover her DNA of reaching people far from God. They wanted someone who could pull the church together and use the strength of the whole to have a greater impact in Chicago and beyond. Our model of multi-site is so heavy financially, that we haven’t been able to multiply disciples into new places in our city for the past five years. This is about next steps—taking our own next step with God as we grow deeper in our faith, and also helping others take their first step with God. In order to do that, we need to restructure our staff to support campuses by lifting administrative and redundant tasks (moving it to the core) so staff are freed to pastor people to take next steps.
This is driving the pace of change.
Every business, every organization, every mission agency, and every church is having to grapple with the fact that the world post-COVID will not be the same. We don’t know what it will look like, but we know it won’t be the same. Airlines aren’t planning for a return to 2019 numbers until 2025 or beyond due to people’s fear. Commercial office space experts anticipate a downturn for years as many in the workforce will continue to work remotely. And for more than six months, church attenders have grown accustomed to worshiping online—many of them discovering they can still grow spiritually without driving to a building. The large churches we network with are expecting it to be years after COVID before they get close to previous in-person attendance numbers. And some are realizing they never will.
This is not a thing to fear. The Church throughout history has always been at her best when challenged. We will figure this out, but it’s going to require a leaner model that allows us to innovate and pivot quickly in an ever-changing world.
Willow Creek North Shore giving is $596,000 under budget as of 10/1, and $399,000 behind last year’s giving YTD. However, expenses are also down $527,000. This is similar at all our campuses. Giving is down. But expenses are lower because our buildings are closed. Also, with the PPP forgivable loan from the government this year, we do not have a cash flow problem. All our campuses will end the year in the black. Today isn’t the problem. It’s the trajectory that is concerning. Giving is down partially as a result of people leaving the church over the past two years due to the scandal. But that is not the only reason. People are losing their jobs during COVID, some are relocating to find work, and some are retiring earlier than they planned. It’s likely those dollars will not return anytime soon post-COVID. However, the expenses will return as soon as our buildings reopen. Staffing costs are the biggest portion of our budget at each campus, and without some changes, facing similar expenses in 2021 with considerably less revenue would result in significant challenges.
Some have wondered if this change is a take-over by South Barrington. Actually, it’s quite the opposite. In our new model, South Barrington is becoming one of the campuses. We are building a core team that will resource and serve all campuses. We are building an executive team comprising 18 people, and only one of those will be a South Barrington staff member.
While the transition to a new model changes very little for what an attender experiences on a week-to-week basis, we do recognize the loss and change of staff has a big impact on you.
In regards to the week-to-week experience, each campus will still have pastors who are dedicated to their campus to love, care, and shepherd the congregation. They will still hear from their pastors every week. Their campus pastor will still preach in-person on occasion. They will still have local worship leaders who will lead them. The campus will still have compassion and justice happening locally with partner ministries that make a difference in their community. Prayer, Bible study, and discipleship opportunities will happen in groups at every campus.
The big change is in how we are structured. Instead of people writing different content at every campus for kids, students, and small groups, we will have one team in the center who will collaborate with campuses to write this curriculum. Our staff at each campus will be freed up to pastor at a deep level, and anything that is administrative or redundant will be done at the core.
We know these changes are impacting staff families deeply, and in a church, that always hurts. What changes for the congregation is losing staff members whom you love deeply—people who have walked with you through the ups and downs of life. We are sad with you about losing so many good people.
The role of the core is to serve the campuses as we deliver exceptional care and ministry to the people who connect through Willow. The core, working directly with the campus department leaders on the same team, will create the ministry structures, philosophies, and strategies. The core’s emphasis is on systems and strategies, while the campus emphasis is on the people impact and how the ministry strategies are implemented. We’ve had “central services” for years in areas of accounting and human resources, now we are adding central services for our ministry areas.
Each ministry department will be made up of the specific ministry representative from the core and the campus. For example: The Promiseland Director at the core level will have a team made up of each Promiseland Pastor from the campuses. That team will collaborate around strategic and directional decisions impacting Promiseland at large. When it comes to implementation, that team together determines how those decisions play out at the campus level. The local director has the freedom to make adjustments based on the local context. But those decisions are made as a team and not in isolation. The ultimate goal is to provide the best support to our campus staff and service to those we are ministering to. If it makes sense to adjust the execution, the campus will have the freedom to do that within the overall framework of that particular ministry strategy and philosophy.
On multiple occasions, Dave has said, “Wouldn't it be amazing if God gave us a dream to go from 7 campuses to 70 campuses across Chicagoland..." as a way to stretch people’s thinking. There is not a specific plan built around 70 campuses. We do, however, believe that God wants us to continue to multiply our witness and reach more people with the love of Jesus.
This idea of multiplication comes from Jesus’ Great Commission, and we believe it starts at the personal level—each of us praying for how our own story can be used to reach people far from God. As this happens, small groups will multiply. More people will engage in serving others. As the church grows, we will multiply services. Together we will pray about where God wants us to launch additional campuses throughout Chicagoland, and where we should start churches around the world.
In the past, money that came into WCNS funded the ministry at WCNS. A small amount of these funds (about 3%) was sent to South Barrington to pay for central services (i.e. accounting, IT, and HR). South Barrington carried the financial weight of all other central services such as salaries for weekend teaching and central leadership.
We are still assembling next year’s budget and are working with campus pastors to determine what it will look like. There are are couple things we are certain about:
We decided to offer an off-ramp to anyone across our entire staff who no longer wants to be on staff. We knew people might choose this path for any number of reasons:
Whatever the reason, it can be scary to quit a job during a pandemic. So we put together a generous financial care package for every person on staff who chooses to leave, or for those whose position was eliminated and they are not interested in applying for any other roles.
This is a question we have asked several times in the past week and we did not see it coming. WCNS is known to have a very gifted team, and we know how devastating it is to the congregation to lose so many good people. We are praying for each family, for each of you as you grieve, and for our entire congregation as we move ahead. We know you have been through a lot in the last couple of years. We wish we could spare you the hurt. We believe this is the direction God is leading us in order to have the greatest long-term impact for the kingdom, and we will do everything we can help you walk through the days ahead.
*In the initial distribution of these FAQs, a chart reflecting the number of positions eliminated and the number of staff who opted out at North Shore and all other campuses was provided. Here is the updated chart: