Skip to main content

The Journal Gazette

  • Hybels

  • Lisa Green | The Journal Gazette About 375 people attended the Habitat for Humanity Build on Faith leadership conference Thursday at Parkview Mirro Center.

  • Chad Ryan | The Journal Gazette Lisa Green headshot

Friday, February 24, 2017 9:54 am

Leadership, vision, politics among topics at Habitat conference

Lisa Green | The Journal Gazette

Leaders excited about potential new ventures should be careful about how and when they cast new vision, even though that's part of their responsibility.

"Vision is a picture of the future that produces passion in people," Bill Hybels, founder of the Global Leadership Summit, said during a Thursday Fort Wayne visit.

But a sudden change in direction could alarm the team, said Hybels, who has written more than 20 books and pastors Willow Creek Community Church, a megachurch in South Barrington, Illinois.

Leaders who attend training conferences often return feeling energized, ready to start new initiatives. Hybels suggests leaders gather key stakeholders, even going off-site, to discuss the vision. After that, it can be more broadly shared.

Without the extra step, Hybels said people might roll with the plan, but the initiation process could "undermine trust."

Launching ventures was one of more than a dozen topics Hybels discussed in a question-and-answer session facilitated by Kelly Byrd of Sweetwater Sound at Parkview Mirro Center.

Hybels was in Fort Wayne for Habitat for Humanity's "Build on Faith" leadership conference. About 375 people registered.

Justin Berger, Habitat's local CEO, said he hopes the conference is a catalyst.

"Our community is only as strong as our churches," he said.

Byrd said Hybels' appearance "was a rare deal." It helps that Fort Wayne has the largest attendance of communities that every August broadcast via satellite the Global Leadership Summit, which trains thousands with speakers from faith-based, political, business and non-profit backgrounds.

Cindy Baker of Columbia City attended Thursday's "Build on Faith." She's director of United Way of Whitley County.

"I love Bill Hybels," Baker said. "I have followed Willow Creek and have known of him and his leadership for years, and so when I learned he was coming to Fort Wayne I wanted to be here. I think he's a great leader, and anytime you can have interaction with someone of his caliber I think it's worth my time to be here."

"Build on Faith" was interactive, allowing those in attendance the opportunity to text or email questions for hosts to ask speakers. Hybels' session was all Q&A. A few other topics touched on:


* How do you find encouragement during "political tumultuousness?" Hybels said it's "a pretty incendiary environment" with a new president whose style is to "provoke and push." Leaders have to decide whether they want to reflect Christ, their leadership model, he said. You "can differ with people without demonizing."

* The mix of Republicans and Democrats in his congregation? Hybels said Willow Creek has tried to create an environment that welcomes everyone. It's hard to do because each statement made is "being measured" by political parties. But he likes diversity -- age, race, gender and political.

* How does a leader know when to move on? Hybels, who started Willow Creek 41 years ago, said constituency sometimes demands change. He is in a multi-year leadership transition with his congregation, based on succession planning his board encouraged. Hybels, 65, has an associate pastor who is 35 and seems to have a stronger connection with some younger members.

* Advice to a lead pastor in the first year? Don't quit, Hybels said. Startups are difficult. If you've been called to it, you will be faithful. Without that "underpinning you're going to cave" when it gets rough. He noted some people like to say -- with "a certain amount of drama" -- that it's lonely at the top. Hybels says, "It's only as lonely as you want it to be." It's about relationship building.

* What really grows a church (or organization)? Hybel said it's when the leader grows. He's talked to people who have left churches because "it got stale."

He offered these suggestions --

* Read everything you can on leadership and read as a discipline, which could be 15 minutes a day or a book once a month.

* Go where leadership is taught, which is also a discipline. But Hybels said only about 5 percent of people "who hear this will do it."

* Identify someone who is ahead of you in leadership. Ask them for 30 minutes of time. Offer to buy the coffee or lunch. Ask them three questions and be done. You're not asking them for mentoring or a lifetime commitment. "A surprising number of people will say yes," Hybels said.

* Go to work every day and challenge yourself to get incrementally better. Go in and "put a little stress into the equation." See what you can do for less money; see what you can do in two hours that used to require three.