There is a lot of talk and several examples of City Movements where we see public and private sectors join forces to make a sustainable impact in local communities, but I have rarely seen a connection point quite like the Global Leadership Summit(GLS) which has been produced annually for the last 20 years by the Willow Creek Association.
The Global Leadership Summit is a two-day event that is telecast LIVE from the Willow Creek Community Church campus near Chicago every August to more than 300 locations in North America. Then throughout the fall, GLS events take place globally in an additional 350+ cities, 105 countries and is translated into 50 languages. Every year the team at Willow assembles a world class faculty including speakers from business, nonprofits, government, education, research, churches and beyond…but they all capture and deliver content designed to improve the leadership capacity of every person that attends.
The Global Leadership Summit has served our church and our leaders for the last several years with tangible skills that are applicable in everyday life and ministry. We make it an annual priority.
But as a host site for the GLS in Western Kentucky and Southern Indiana for the last several years, we have discovered another level of impact that goes beyond the growth of our own internal leadership as a church. The GLS is having a growing value as a resource to start, build and sustain the heart of a city movement that can impact the city at large.
Here are some characteristics of GLS that can fuel a city movement:
1. GLS reaches across multiple sectors-While there are events and gatherings that cross various sectors in communities, there have been every few that reach the depth and breadth of the Global Leadership Summit. From the very beginning every year, founder Bill Hybels opens the GLS with a challenge to business and church leaders to “expand their bandwidth” and be open to learning the best of leadership from each other. The results for a local community is a gathering of church, business, nonprofit, education and government leaders in one room…growing together.
2. GLS builds year to year-We like to say that “GLS is not just an event to attend, it’s a resource to be leveraged”. With 20 years of growth globally, the GLS can be an annual gathering that not only improves leadership, but gathers more and more leaders every year to build momentum in raising the leadership quality of a local community.
3. GLS is a networking hub-Organizations in every community do a variety of things to connect. And while there are a lots of agendas in most community networking events, there is only one agenda at the heart of the GLS….to grow leaders. There is a value add to every leader that attends, but every attender is sitting beside other leaders with the same agenda. The networking that happens with leaders from a community committed to personal and organizational growth is a rare opportunity.
4. GLS is a mobilizer-When leaders gather to grow together, a natural by-product is action. When leadership capacity is enlarged in a community everybody wins. Churches get better, businesses get better, schools get better, government gets better, nonprofits get better…the opportunity to “build a great city” can become a practical reality.
5. GLS is about the church…and beyond-At the heart of the GLS is the church. The Willow Creek Association is unapologetic about their commitment to the local church and Bill Hybels is known globally for the quote “the local church is the hope of the world”. But the Bible is full of references to “the city” and at the heart of a city movement is a church that doesn’t just use the city to build a great church, but uses the church to build a great city. The GLS gives local churches the opportunity to be at the heart of “building a great city” and to serve local leaders by connecting and investing in their personal and organizational growth.
If I were planting a church or leading an existing congregation, I would connect to the Global Leadership Summit in my local community. If it didn’t exist in my community, I would be the first to bring it in. It is not only essential to my personal growth as a leader, but it’s vital to the growth of leaders in my church and community and with the GLS, we get to do it…together.