Willow Creek Community Church is forced to cut staff by $6.5 million due to dwindling donations
Founder and Senior Pastor of Willow Creek Community Church Bill Hybel announced his resignation in 2018 after being accused of sexual misconduct by current and former leaders of the well-known church. Since then, the Chicago megachurch has seen its weekly attendance of 25,000 drop to less than 18,000.
The decline in attendance at Willow Creek Community Church can be attributed to the scandal that befell their senior pastor and led to the entire senior leadership and council of elders of the church. resignedas well as The named successors of Hybels.
The COVID-19 pandemic has also played a role in declining church numbers. In a church update out this week, Willow Creek Community Church shared that although they have seen an increase in attendance since late last year, average attendance is less than 50% of their pre-pandemic numbers. Moreover, the tithe is always decreasing.
According to Ministry oversightWillow Creek Community Church has received between $5 million and $10 million in government COVID-19 relief funds (Paycheck Protection Program).
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“We teach our congregation to be good stewards of all that God has given them: their time, their talents and their treasure,” reads the church’s statement. “We as a church want to do the same. We want to operate on a balanced budget, confident that God will provide everything we need to do the job He has called us to. During our projections in 2023, we identified a significant gap between our expenses and our reality. We have healthy financial reserves for emergencies, but we do not want to fund the ministry with reserves.
Leaders explained that church staffing costs would need to be 50% or less for a multi-site campus of their size. The church’s personnel costs are currently at 72% of their overall budget. That’s “too high to be sustainable,” the executives said.
In a video Posted on May 9, 2022, Senior Pastor Dave Dumitt shared that Willow Creek Community Church had to eliminate positions on its campuses and ministries. The update explained that the cuts had reduced the church’s personnel expenses in 2023 to 52% of the overall budget, saving around $6.5 million.
The decision to cut staff was “extremely difficult”, executives said.
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Noting the generosity of congregants at Willow Creek Community Church, leaders shared the encouraging news that “over $1.5 million has been donated in the past few weeks through Celebration of Hope, intended for our partnerships global; more than 4,700 people gathered earlier this month to assemble one million seed packets that will grow up to 150 million pounds of vegetables in villages across South America and Zambia; Last Sunday, 650 people signed up to run the Chicago Marathon to raise money for clean water in India.
The update also shared that for the past two months the church has witnessed baptisms during their Sunday morning services.
Leaders ask the congregation to pray for staff and their families as they navigate the days ahead.