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How Willow Creek Has Embraced Social Media for the Global Leadership Summit #wcagls

2011 global leadership summit
Written by Paul Steinbrueck

2011 global leadership summitAlmost exactly 2 years ago I wrote what may still be the most controversial and widely read blog post every published on Christian Web Trends:

Why Willow Creek and Saddleback are Losing Influence While North Point and are Gaining Influence

To summarize the post… Willow Creek Community Church and Saddleback Church gained tremendous influence on American Christianity in part because they were masters of the mediums that were most influential in the 80s and 90s – preaching, books and conferences. In the 2000s, however, North Point Community Church and gained a lot of influence because they have been exceptional in their use of mediums that have been most influential this century – video, blogging, and social media, which Willow Creek and Saddleback were slow to embrace.

2 Years Later…

Yesterday was the first day of the Willow Creek Association’s (WCA) 2011 Global Leadership Summit, and it’s encouraging to see the strides they’ve made in the last 2 years.

Here are 8 observations about the WCA’s use of social media at the Summit yesterday.

  1. WCA was extremely actively tweeting today @wcagls.
  2. Not only were they speaking on Twitter, but they were also listening and retweeting others who were tweeting about the Summit.  Listening is huge!
  3. The Twitter hashtag #wcagls and blog were mentioned 2-3 times from the platform by Summit hosts.
  4. As a result, the Twitter hashtag was off the charts busy today.
  5. The WCA was also active on the Global Leadership Summit Facebook page today, posting quotes from speakers. They could have done more to engage by asking questions, posting links to blog posts, and responding to comments and wall posts, though.
  6. The WCA took a big step forward in inviting 6 skilled and well known bloggers to be the Summit’s official bloggers. Those bloggers also engaged their substantial numbers of Twitter followers with the Summit today.
  7. I am very impressed with how quickly the WCA posted to YouTube video of Bill Hybels announcement that Howard Schultz had backed out of his speaking commitment because of a small group of people who threatened to boycott the company.  (On a side note, Bill was remarkably gracious to Howard and Starbucks in his statement.)
  8. But perhaps the thing that best demonstrates the WCA has embraced social media is the fact that they didn’t just turn it on for the Summit. They’ve been consistently blogging, tweeting, Facebooking, and posting videos to YouTube throughout the year about the Summit, its speakers, and related topics.  You don’t do that unless you genuinely believe social media is an important way to build and maintain connections with people and commit the resources to make it happen.

The only significant social media hiccup that I noticed is that Michael Hyatt was reportedly interviewing the speakers backstage, but I have seen any mention of or links to those videos anywhere on WCA sites or social media. To be honest, though, I don’t know how anyone could watch those videos with so much packed into a full 8 hour day.

Have you been engaging in this year’s Global Leadership Summit through social media or the Summit’s blog? If so, what have your observations been?

If you’re interested, I’ll be blogging my notes live from the Summit as well as Tweeting and Facebooking the best nuggets of wisdom again today.

About the author

Paul Steinbrueck

Paul Steinbrueck is co-founder and CEO of OurChurch.Com, husband, father of 3, blogger. You can follow him on Twitter at @PaulSteinbrueck and add him to your circles at Google+ as +Paul Steinbrueck.


  • Without being in attendance yesterday, I feel like I caught most of what was spoken. That was directly in part to those that were a part of the conference sharing with us in real time the ideas being introduced. Numerous attendees were either blogging and/or tweeting bullets as the words flowed out of the speakers mouth. I think modelling social media efforts (the 6 official bloggers, mentioning outlets, etc.) almost effortlessly increased attendance immediately via online exposure.

    Feels like a homerun to me.

    Looking forward to even more delicious content today. Thanks!

  • There are some videos on the blog now. Check out to see them. I watched the Seth Godin one, nice work. It looks to me like they're highly produced and needed a little more turn-around time.

    I was hoping for live blogging, but JustinWise seems to be the only one doing it and he's doing it on his site, not the summit's site. That's a missed opportunity in my mind, but then again I always read liveblogs during the apple announcements.

    • I'm pretty sure all or most of the "guest bloggers" were live-blogging the event. I'm pretty sure they were on both the wca site and the individual blogger sites. It may be confusing in that the wca social media site was and the regular website was – could be a bit confusing but i'm sure it will get integrated over time.

      • Jon- you're right all of our WCA 'official' bloggers this year were LIVE-blogging (and they were all onsite). We were set up backstage in a social media 'green room'. Great insight about the two sites- and We're working to become integrated and love hearing your feedback. We decided to post updates on the blog b/c wordpress is such a great platform to work within 😉 Anways… thanks for your comments.

  • Paul! Thanks so much for this post! It makes the WCA social media team happy 🙂 Throughout the event the team of bloggers we're set up backstage, in front of their computers, blogging and tweeting away! It was pretty intense- but all good! Also, thanks for sharing your blog post with us on Friday.

    Have a great weekend and hope you enjoyed the event!

    • Hanna, thanks for all your hard work to engage people with the Summit through social media. This post is just my limited outsiders view. I'd love to hear more about the WCAs social media strategies, how many people and how much time were invested, what metrics were measured, and to what extent your believes it was worth the time and resources invested.

  • How does someone like me who is middle aged and works with many who are older and don't blog or tweet, etc. suppose to learn or understand how to do this or discuss it with people who don't understand it either? I can see it's the coming media, but how do you get on the wagon train without getting run over by it or left in the dust of it?

    • Chris, that's a tough spot where I think a lot of people find themselves. Is there anyone in your organization who does blog and use social media well? If there is, get up next to them and learn from them regardless of their position within your organization. If not, I can think of 3 options off hand:

      1) hire someone onto your staff who understands social media,
      2) hire a social media consultant who can teach you, answer your questions, and possibly set things up for you.
      3) try to learn by reading blogs and watching what those who are successful say and do.

      If you'd be interested in hiring me as a consultant, let me know. If you'd like to learn by reading blogs, let me suggest you start with this… 7 Practical Steps to Getting Started in Social Media –

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