During the pandemic, just a couple years after Bill Hybels's resignation, attendance at the Chicago-area megachurch fell by half.
Willow Creek Community Church, one of the largest and most highly regarded congregations in the nation, will lay off 30 percent of its staff due to post-COVID-19 declines in attendance and giving.
“Willow is about half of the size we were before COVID, which is right in line with churches across the country,” Dave Dummitt, Willow Creek Community Church senior pastor, told his congregation in a video announcing the cuts. “But as you can see, and as you can imagine, that has fiscal impactions.”
Founded in the mid-1970s, Willow Creek grew from a start-up congregation meeting in a movie theater to one of the most influential Protestant congregations in the United States, drawing more than 25,000 worshippers weekly by 2017, according toOutreach Magazine.
But the church has struggled in recent years after the resignation of co-founder Bill Hybels, who was accused of sexual harassment and abuse of power. The co-pastors who succeeded Hybels also resigned not long afterward, followed by the entire church elder board.
Hybels has denied any wrongdoing. A 2019 investigation by a group of outside Christian leaders found the allegations against him credible.
Before the layoffs, staff costs made up about 72 percent of the church budget, according to an update released by the church earlier this month. The layoffs will save $6.5 million, bringing staff costs closer to half of the current budget.
“These changes are difficult on staff members whom we love who will no longer have a staff role—some of them have been with us for many years,” the church said in the update. “We are providing generous financial care for each of these individuals, ranging between three months and …