Leadership Summit Distillation – Part One

I attended the Willow Creek Leadership Summit – now going by the fancy name of “WCAGLS” (Willow Creek Association Global Leadership Summit) this year at Atlee Community Church.

Atlee rocked, by the way. Amazing volunteers, great technology, beautiful facility. They did a tremendous job. Can’t wait to go back next year!

I took fifteen pages of typed notes. I have a lot to process!

Part of the work I’ll do now is to distill everything that went into my mind and heart into something workable, manageable, doable. I know there were things I needed to hear at this conference. I think I heard them. By far, this was the most holistic conference I’ve attended in a while. A combination of personal timing (my current situation) and a great lineup of presenters with a wide variety of topics made for a terrific experience.

Here’s a few keys thoughts, culled from my notes:

Bill Hybels
Always a passionate, powerful champion of leadership culture in the local church, Hybels gave a great introductory message. He has long advocated the idea (which we have adopted) of valuing the “Three C’s” in team-building: Character, Competence and Chemistry. This year, he added a fourth for our consideration: Culture. This really resonated with me, as I contemplate assembling people around our leaders who can help execute the mission of our church. When they “get it” – understand and are committed to the culture of our church, which is unique in this area – we are much more effective. I am becoming more convinced that a strong filter up-front when looking for leaders will help prevent difficult issues later on. If folks get our culture early on, of their own accord, I can invest my energy into other areas.

Hybels talked about frustration and burn-out – the feeling of wanting to give up, of asking “What is the point of all of this? Why am I doing this?” He seems to mention this every year, but this is the first time it’s resonated with me. And the answer was powerful and affirming. He said, “Remember: You are a treasured child of the most high God. Don’t quit. He is on your right. He is on your left. He will be with you in the end. Don’t quit.”¬†

I’m not tempted to quit, but this season of ministry has been draining. This was a good thing to hear.

Jim Collins
Great with lists and definitive “how-to’s”, Collins’ talk was brilliant. We are currently reading How The Might Fall for our upcoming staff retreat, so this was great insight. Most powerful statements for me were: The signature of mediocrity is chronic inconsistency and Invest more in being interested than being interesting. He ended his talk with another challenge to never give up. Good stuff.

Christine Caine
A powerful communicator – a preacher – this woman was fired up for Christ. No bullet points, no leadership lessons – just conviction. She talked about Jesus with passion and power. The statement I cannot forget was her challenge to us, coming from someone outside of the church, someone far from God, someone who is broken and hurt and in desperate need:

If what you believe is true, then where are you?

Tony Dungy 
This iconic football coach stressed the importance of mentoring and the fact that is, above all, a relationship. That’s pertinent to my life choices in a major way.

Adam Hamilton
This was a difficult message for me to hear. However, it was also affirming and hopeful. Hamilton’s talk was “When Leaders Fall”, and he addressed the church’s reaction to the moral failing of a leader. The details were specific and accurate.

I’ve heard pastors talk about moral failure and end their messages with some declaration of faithfulness to their wife and how their devotion to God and other accountability measures keeps them from falling into temptation, which always seems to turn a needed discussion into an opportunity for self-righteous proclamations. Hamilton ended his talk with a comment about his lengthy marriage to the same woman, and my mind steeled for the expected, “…and I’ve never been unfaithful to her…” statement, delivered with a pious look of humility to mask the pride of moral superiority. But he disarmed my heart and his words were able to reside in my spirit when he said, “I’ve been married to my wife for ____ years and so far, neither of us have been unfaithful.” He elaborated. All of us are vulnerable.

Grace.

Authenticity matters. We are all one step away. Hamilton will probably never know how two simple words – “so far” – softened my heart and made a difference in a 48-hour conference in which God needed me to hear his whisper. I’m grateful.

Obviously, this post is long. I’ll pick up part two later. Stay tuned for more exciting Summit distillation!