Megachurch Willow Creek Community Church will lay off 30 percent of its staff due to post-pandemic declines in attendance and tithing.
“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.”
Willow Creek was initially launched in the 1970s before becoming one of the most prominent Protestant churches in the nation. In 2017, the church had more than 25,000 worshippers each week, according to Outreach Magazine.
The church, however, started to struggle after co-founder Bill Hybels resigned from the church following accusations of sexual harassment and abuse of power. The co-pastors who took over after Hybels also resigned, and later the church’s entire elder board stepped down, Christianity Today reports.
Hybels has denied the claims.
Attendance also fell at the church during the COVID-19 pandemic. At the end of 2021, attendance dropped by 57 percent from 2019. With that, giving and tithing also dropped.
Earlier this month, in a financial update, the church said that staff costs accounted for about 72 percent of the church budget. The new layoffs will save about $6.5 million.
“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 wrote in the update. “We are providing generous financial care for each of these individuals, ranging between three months and one year based on tenure.”
Willow Creek applied for a Paycheck Protection Program loan during the pandemic. The $5.63 million loan was forgiven.
This is not the first time Willow Creek has laid off staff. The church also laid off employees in 2019 and 2020.
“I’d like to ask you to join me in praying for our entire staff in the coming days and weeks,” Dummitt said. “We’re trusting God to lead and guide each of us as we take next steps with him.”
Photo courtesy: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/Jantanee Rungpranomkorn
Amanda Casanova is a writer living in Dallas, Texas. She has covered news for ChristianHeadlines.com since 2014. She has also contributed to The Houston Chronicle, U.S. News and World Report and IBelieve.com. She blogs at The Migraine Runner.