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HDFS 6003: Literature Table

Traditional Family – Christian Marriage Struggles


Use those 5 journals to answer these questions

Instructions: Complete this table by including relevant information from each of your ten (10) scholarly (empirical articles). Hint: if your results section is very long, include only the results that answer the main research questions or purpose. Try to paraphrase as much as possible so that when you are integrating the results, you are already processing the studies in your own voice.

Article

APA Citation (does not need to include hanging indent)

Sample size

Sample characteristics

Research Question or Purpose

Methods (design, measures or data sources, analytic strategy)

Results (if purely quantitative, include text that describes how the results are meaningful)

Interesting or controversial implications (this is what will lead to the ”gap” you are investigating)

#1

#2

#3

#4

#5

THE UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO

MAKING CHRISTIAN MARRIAGES, MAKING MARRIAGE CHRISTIAN:

MEGACHURCH EVANGELICALISM AND MARRIAGE EDUCATION

A DISSERTATION SUBMITTED TO

THE FACULTY OF THE DIVISION OF THE SOCIAL SCIENCES

IN CANDIDACY FOR THE DEGREE OF

DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY

DEPARTMENT OF COMPARATIVE HUMAN DEVELOPMENT

BY

JOHN DAVY

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS

JUNE 2014

All rights reserved

INFORMATION TO ALL USERS
The quality of this reproduction is dependent upon the quality of the copy submitted.

In the unlikely event that the author did not send a complete manuscript
and there are missing pages, these will be noted. Also, if material had to be removed,

a note will indicate the deletion.

Microform Edition © ProQuest LLC.
All rights reserved. This work is protected against

unauthorized copying under Title 17, United States Code

ProQuest LLC.
789 East Eisenhower Parkway

P.O. Box 1346
Ann Arbor, MI 48106 – 1346

UMI 3628068

Published by ProQuest LLC (2014). Copyright in the Dissertation held by the Author.

UMI Number: 3628068

ii

TABLE OF CONTENTS

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS IV

CHAPTER 1: INTRODUCTION 1

WILLOW CREEK WITHIN CONTEMPORARY EVANGELICALISM 4
WILLOW CREEK AMIDST CONTEMPORARY SUBURBIA 7
MANAGEMENT EXPERTISE AND THE CHURCH 10
EGALITARIAN EVANGELICALISM AND DUAL-EARNER FAMILIES 14
THEORETICAL ENGAGEMENTS 17
FROM “BELIEF” TO “RELATIONSHIP” AMONG US EVANGELICALS 18
SOCIAL MOVEMENTS, HEALTH, AND THE FAMILY IN THE UNITED STATES 23
“HEALTHY MARRIAGES” AS CULTURAL ACTIVISM 25
“COMPANIONATE MARRIAGE” IN THE US 28
THERAPEUTIC CULTURE AND SOCIAL COMMITMENT 30
SUMMARY OF THEORETICAL CONTRIBUTIONS AND ENGAGEMENTS. 32
SETTING AND METHODS 35
PARTICIPANT OBSERVATION AT THE MINISTRY AND CHURCH ATTENDANCE. 35
INTERVIEWS 37
TEXT AND OTHER MEDIA ANALYSIS. 38
OVERVIEW OF CHAPTERS 39

CHAPTER TWO: WILLOW CREEK AND THE CONTESTED AMERICAN MARRIAGE 41

REFORMED PROTESTANTISM AND MARRIAGE IN US HISTORY 42
ESTABLISHING PROTESTANT MARRIAGE IN THE AMERICAS 44
AFFECTIVE INDIVIDUALISM AND RELIGIOUS “AWAKENINGS” 45
DOMESTICITY – PUBLIC AND PRIVATE SPHERES, RELIGIOUS AND SECULAR 49
THE FIRST “DIVORCE CRISIS” AND GROWING SECULAR AUTHORITY 51
THE EMERGENCE OF FUNDAMENTALISM 52
COMPANIONATE MARRIAGE AND “MARRIAGE ADJUSTMENT” 54
THE EMERGENCE OF NEO-EVANGELICALISM 57
“GOD’S FEMININE MYSTIQUE:” EVANGELICAL SEX AND POLITICS 60
EVANGELICAL POLITICAL IDENTITY LEADING UP TO ROE V. WADE 63
ROE V WADE, CARTER, AND THE MORAL MAJORITY 66
THE MORAL MAJORITY ERA 71
BIPARTISAN CONSERVATIVE CONSENSUS AND TURN-OF-THE-CENTURY EVANGELICALISM 77
EVANGELICALISM AND THE MARRIAGE MOVEMENT ERA 83
MARRIAGE EXPERTISE AND “DECLINE:” WILLOW CREEK AND THE MARRIAGE MOVEMENT 86
COMPETING NARRATIVES ACCOUNTS OF CHANGES TO MARRIAGE 87
“I’VE GOT SOME ‘GOOD NEWS’ AND SOME BAD NEWS”: MARRIAGE PROBLEMS AT WILLOW CREEK 89
CONCLUSION 94

CHAPTER 3: CHRISTIAN SPOUSEHOOD AS THERAPEUTIC PROJECT 98

MARRIAGE: ONE IDEAL, MANY STRATEGIES 101
BROKENNESS AND THE NORMALIZATION OF THERAPEUTIC MODALITIES 103

iii

BROKENNESS AT WILLOW CREEK 104
BROKENNESS IN EVANGELICAL MEDIA 108
“BRINGING THE WORD TO LIFE”: THE SOCIAL SURROUNDS OF THE MARRIAGE MINISTRY 112
MARRIAGE MATTERS: MODELS OF AND FOR EVANGELICAL COMPANIONATE MARRIAGE 117
“WIRED FOR MARRIAGE:” GENDER, SEX, AND IDENTITY 120
A MEGACHURCH “DRIVE THEORY:” DESIGNED FOR BASIC NEEDS 121
GENDER NORMS: FLEXIBLE EGALITARIANISM 124
THE “FAMILY OF ORIGIN:” PSYCHOLOGICAL KINSHIP 135
MAKING NEW FAMILIES OF ORIGIN 141
METACOMMUNICATIVE TECHNIQUES: AUTHENTICITY THROUGH STRUCTURE 143
DIVORCE AND NEW CONNECTIONS 146
CONCLUSION 148

CHAPTER FOUR: COMPETING AMBITIONS, CONFLICTED SPOUSES 149

NARRATIVES OF RELIGIOUS AND PSYCHOLOGICAL DEVELOPMENT 150
KAREN EDGAR- PRACTICAL AUTHORITY VIA SYMBOLIC “SUBMISSION” 152
GENDER AUTHORITY VERSUS RELIGIOUS AUTHENTICITY 154
TEMPORALITIES OF SUSTAINED MARRIAGE, CHRISTIANITY, AND HEALTH 156
MEN WHO WON’T YIELD 161
NAOMI AND BARB: EVANGELICAL FEMINISM AND AUTHENTIC CHRISTIAN FAMILIES 164
PERFORMANCE VERSUS AUTHENTICITY 166
TIME AND RUPTURE 169
REDEFINING EVANGELICAL BELONGING 171
THERAPEUTIC DISCOURSE AND THE MULTIPLICITY OF EVANGELICAL “JOURNEYS” 171
SOCIOCENTRIC EVANGELICAL INDIVIDUALISM 172
THERAPEUTIC TEMPORALITY AND CHRISTIAN AUTHENTICITY 175
CONCLUSION: RESILIENCE OF THE IDEALIZATION OF MARRIAGE AND THERAPY 176

CHAPTER FIVE: ACHIEVING THE RELATIONAL SELF: THERAPEUTIC CULTURE AND

EVANGELICAL THOUGHT 178

“RELATIONAL CHRISTIANITY?” THE PROBLEM OF THE INDIVIDUAL-IN-RELATIONSHIP 179
“RELATIONAL CHRISTIANITY:” EVANGELICAL CHALLENGES TO INDIVIDUALISM 180
CREATING INTIMACY AND EMOTION IN A LARGE “MARKET SEGMENTED” CHURCH 181
THE MARRIAGE EXPERIENCE: BIBLICAL INTERSUBJECTIVITY 183
INDIVIDUALISM TAKES A STAND 188
KNOWING WHAT GOD WANTS: THE RETURN OF THE CHARISMATIC TO EVANGELICALISM? 191
CONCLUSION 197

CONCLUSION: MARRIAGE EDUCATION AND THE REDEFINING OF EVANGELICALISM 198

THERAPEUTIC MARRIAGE EDUCATION AS RELIGION: ETHNOGRAPHY OF EVANGELICALISM 201
COSMOPOLITAN MIDWESTERN EVANGELICALISM: KUYPER AND THE REFORMED TRADITION 203
EVANGELICAL MARRIAGE TEACHING AS CULTURAL ACTIVISM 207
THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THERAPEUTIC MARRIAGE ACTIVISM FOR EVANGELICALISM 209
CONCLUSION 212

BIBLIOGRAPHY 214

iv

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

I have been given much by my family and friends and over the past ten years. They are

owed most of the credit, and none of the blame, for what is in this dissertation.

My parents, Tom and Sarah, have always reinforced the value of good reading and good

conversation. Well before I learned words like “ethnography” they showed me the value of

talking, and listening, to strangers and neighbors. Their generosity and support and that of my

sisters Annie and Kelly, and of Mary Kay, Tony and Zeke, made this possible. My spouse, Sarah

Osten, has been a source of ongoing support and inspiration. I’m glad we went through the last

few years of this together.

I wouldn’t have been able to finish without the insight, support, and company of my

friends and fellow students in Human Development. I wouldn’t have bothered starting if not for

my friends who were with me before I began my graduate education.

I have learned much from my dissertation committee and others at the University of

Chicago. My dissertation advisor, Jennifer Cole, has made me a much better reader and writer,

setting an example of how to encounter new ideas with both generosity and critical rigor.

Richard Taub’s gregariousness, insight, and aversion to lazy buzzwords provided his students

with an environment both intellectual and grounded. (It was also nice to be able to show up at the

Department and have a good conversation about the NFL.) Eugene Raikhel helped me see how

my research might connect to other studies of health and wellbeing in the United States and

elsewhere. Dain Borges’ curiosity and expansive reading suggestions reminded me that

intellectual work can be fun, and represent what I liked best about the University. Jennifer Cole’s

v

ethnographic writing seminar and the US Locations and Clinical Ethnography workshops helped

me turn a few fuzzy ideas into chapters, and also provided great company. Bert Cohler, Betty

Farrell, Don Kulick, John Lucy, Tanya Luhrmann and Rick Shweder were all generous with their

time and insight.

Finally, and probably most importantly, it is my pleasure to thank the individuals who let

me interview and otherwise spend time with them for my fieldwork. Their patience and warmth

made research thought provoking and fun. Many around the marriage ministry helped me a good

deal; most important among them are G. and L. who made me feel at ease and valued in their

company. They suffered immense tragedy during my fieldwork, and the grace and love they

showed around that time will stay with me always. I know that my account in this dissertation

can only be insufficient to many who helped me. Please know that you taught me very much.

1

CHAPTER 1: INTRODUCTION

This dissertation is a study of marriage education and counseling in a prominent

evangelical Christian megachurch in suburban Chicago, Willow Creek Community Church.

Willow Creek’s main campus, in South Barrington, Illinois, draws over 20,000 attendees per

week to its services, and also offers a variety of social services and educational programs that are

made available to members and to the community at large. One of the most popular and

prominent such services is Willow Creek’s marriage education ministry, a recurring multi-week

course that draws on both religious teaching and contemporary mainstream psychology. While

many critics within evangelical Protestantism decry engagement with contemporary psychology

and other forms of secular expertise, Willow Creek actively bridges religious and psychological

expertise. Further, much of Willow Creek’s success in attracting a large membership and

establishing itself as a major influence in contemporary evangelicalism is due to its combining of

evangelical Christianity and contemporary professional expertise; Willow Creek employs current

therapeutic techniques while offering believers a distinctly Christian way of being. Evangelical

movements also use marriage counseling to reach those outside the church, and in their political

and other civil discourse offer fluency in marital counseling in support of a role for the church in

defining American family norms. This dissertation explores how Willow Creek’s fusion of

evangelicalism and counseling expertise affects religiosity and marriage around the church. It

also examines a dilemma faced by contemporary US evangelicals: how can a religious tradition

that has long defined itself against the secular and the modern incorporate contemporary secular

expertise?

2

The first major theme of this dissertation is how contemporary psychology, when

incorporated into religious marriage teaching, reflects and encourages new conceptualizations of

religious commitment. The predicament of how to remain distinct from the broader world

outside the church while evangelizing to it is a long-standing one for Protestant movements in

the United States, and evangelicalism has used debates around marriage to define itself as

distinct from the broader culture. This predicament is heightened by the generativity of marriage

counseling and other therapeutic discourses, which offer religious leaders a language to articulate

models for Christian personhood for its believers, and a domain in which religious institutions

can assert their own expertise in public debates around marriage. In order to promote a religious

model for marriage, evangelical churches have come to use practices that are not “religious” in

the sense that evangelicals themselves, and their non-evangelical neighbors, understand the term.

The theoretical frameworks through which marriage is often discussed, and the practices the

church teaches to individuals to use in their marriages, are deeply informed by psychotherapeutic

models of communication and of individual development. Willow Creek’s ministers and

members alike are keenly aware that engagement with the ways of “the world” has some

potential to lead individuals astray, but the theology of the church also holds that God can act

through any agent or event, which can sometimes justify the use of non-religious expertise. In

this case, the marriage ministry marks contemporary American and therapeutic intimate practice

as, at least potentially, within the domain of the religious.

The second major theme of this dissertation is how US evangelicalism promotes its

marriage expertise as a form of social activism by asserting that Christianity is the best, and

perhaps only, means to achieve marital happiness. Willow Creek’s leadership has actively

worked to avoid the partisan affiliations of other prominent Christian social movements that have

3

engaged in electoral politics to enforce their own mores of marriage and family. Yet the church’s

leadership sees itself as called to influence the wider world, and has been particularly influential

in the United States. The late 20
th

and early 21
st
centuries have seen a proliferation of political

and social science movements that have sought to promote heterosexual marriage as a means to

sustain a functioning social order. So by addressing marriage, Willow Creek steps into an area

of contemporary political resonance, but it does so by appealing to individuals via teaching and

therapy, rather than by aligning with partisan political movements. Although Protestantism has

had a significant influence on the US ideal of freely chosen, love-based marriage, Christians and

non-Christians alike in the United States have tended to view marriage as a social institution that

has become increasingly secular. Many evangelical churches, Willow Creek included, see

“bringing marriage back to God” as part of their social mission and religious obligation. This

dissertation uses the church’s marriage ministry as a case study of contemporary

evangelicalism’s engagement with the broader world.

Willow Creek’s marriage ministry is just one part of how the church claims its middle

class suburban environs for God, but the political centrality of marriage—and the profoundly

psychological ways in which US Americans understand the institution—makes it a particularly

generative and influential one, at a particularly influential church. This dissertation shows that

Willow Creek’s marriage ministry is a productive way for the church to distinguish its form of

evangelicalism against “fundamentalism” and the religious right, as well as from more

theologically “liberal” mainline Protestantism, but one that may have profound consequences for

how participants in evangelicalism come to understand religious commitment. Evangelical

counseling education does provide evangelicals with ways of understanding therapeutic norms as

authentically and meaningfully Christian, but in so doing cedes theological and ideological

4

specificity, and may undermine the “re-institutionalizing” goals of contemporary marriage

education movements.

Willow Creek within Contemporary Evangelicalism

For much of the late 20
th

and early 21
st
centuries, most non-evangelicals have associated

evangelicalism with the partisan religious right and fundamentalist Christianity. While Willow

Creek’s assertion of Biblical literalism (the claim that the Bible presents a literal and true

historical account) is shared with fundamentalists, its media ambitions are similar to those of the

televangelists, and many (though not all, or even most) of its members share the Republican

political sympathies of the Christian right, Willow Creek actively works to define itself against

these movements. The evangelicalism of Willow Creek is a contemporary iteration of what many

scholars of US religion term neo-evangelicalism. This was a movement that emerged in the mid

20
th

century in response to the hostile and separationist rhetoric of Christian fundamentalism at

that time, which was overwhelmingly racially segregationist and increasingly marginal to

American public life (Hankins 2008). The National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) was

formed in 1941 as an umbrella organization for churches that eschewed the separatism of

Fundamentalists but (in contrast to mainline Protestant denominations) also asserted the

inerrancy of the bible and the need to be born again in Christ to attain salvation. NAE-affiliated

institutions such as Billy Graham’s ministry, the Fuller Theological Seminary, and the magazine

Christianity Today, all established in the 1950s, set out to convert the United States through

outreach rather than jeremiads, and to provide “bible-believing Christians” with institutions

through which they could partake of middle class life as Christians.

5

In the late 20
th

century, evangelical churches (some of which were affiliated with formal

denominations, like the Southern Baptist Church, though many, like Willow Creek, were non-

denominational) saw rapid growth while mainline Christian churches experienced declines in

membership and attendance. The “new voluntarism” (Wuthnow 1988) that characterized US

American religion saw millions joining new churches, leaving those in which they had been

raised, most commonly the Roman Catholic church or the larger Protestant denominations such

as the Episcopal and Methodist churches. The rise of non-denominational evangelicalism in the

suburban United States has often been pointed to as evidence of a resurgence of American

religion (especially when considered alongside the growth of global fundamentalisms in the

same era; e.g. Turner 2011), but it was also enabled by a variety of demographic, geographic,

and economic factors (Wilford 2012). The large growth of suburban areas after World War II

continued and expanded into exurban areas in the decades that followed, fueling the growth of

what are sometimes known as “edge cities,” (Garreau 1991) such as the Rolling Meadows-

Schaumburg area near Willow Creek. By 1990 these suburban and exurban areas were home to

46 percent of the US population, and they fed new churches with a growing population of

upwardly mobile nuclear families moving to areas where they commonly lacked social networks.

Megachurches
1
like Willow Creek and Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church in Orange

County, California, are the most prominent examples of churches that flourished in such exurban

areas. Megachurches gained much attention for their size and aesthetic that consciously breaks

1
Megachurches are not unique to the non-charismatic, more “modern” neo-evangelicalism of Willow

Creek and Saddleback. The largest church in the United States is Joel Osteen’s 43,000-member Lakewood Church,
which shares Willow Creek’s non-denominationalism, but offers a Word of Faith theology that includes “prosperity
gospel” teachings and a Pentecostal/charismatic emphasis on healing miracles. The term “megachurch” was coined
to describe Protestant churches with large—typically, when a definition is provided, 2,000 members or more is the
cut-off—memberships (Thumma 2008).

6

from those traditionally marked as religious, exemplifying what sociologist of religion Donald E.

Miller termed “new paradigm churches” (Miller 1997). These are churches that attempt to meet

what they perceive to be the psychosocial needs of nuclear families in their region, by providing

a range of services not traditionally associated with churches in the United States. White-

majority megachurches (megachurches are a large segment of both the largely segregated white

and black evangelical communities, but the style and rhetoric of these “new paradigm” churches

describes those of white-dominated churches; Edwards 2008) are famous for their casually

dressed pastors and their use of media such as “indie”-style video and Christian rock in their

services. The church growth movement that Willow Creek exemplifies is also renowned for

combining contemporary techniques—podcasts of sermons, online registration for major holiday

services, therapeutic language—with a claim that churches follow the word of thousands of year

old religious texts.

In contrast to fundamentalist and other church movements that speak to working-class

and marginalized communities, the middle class orientation of neo-evangelical megachurches

engenders a less desperate and apocalyptic theology (Balmer 2006). In terms of landscape and

building architecture, they tend to fit in with the large shopping malls, stadia, and real estate

developments in their usually exurban settings, typically featuring large parking lots and

auditoriums (Thumma and Travis 2007; Willow Creek is only accessible by car). The interior

design has a similar sensibility: Willow Creek more or less has the feel of an upscale mall, with

large clear windows, a bank of escalators draped by an indoor waterfall, multiple places to buy

food and Christian media such as Bibles, Christian fiction and Christian psychology and self-

help books. A sociological account of the development Willow Creek argued that seeker-

oriented churches like Willow Creek “present a more plausible model of Christianity” to

7

contemporary US Americans (Sargent 2000: 33), in line with dominant middle class cultural

models of authentic self-fulfillment (Bellah et al 1985), through a therapeutic form of

evangelicalism (Hunter 1987).

The emphasis on immediate, individual-level pragmatic concerns of the church’s social

ministry is also a way to distance the church from partisan debates (Gallagher 2004) in which

churches affiliated with the Religious Right (such as Jerry Falwell’s Thomas Road Baptist

megachurch, or Pat Robertson’s fundamentalist Christian charismatic media empire) have

engaged. This pragmatic non-partisan strategy allows the church, at the level of the institution, to

appeal to seekers of diverse political persuasions, and allows individual members to defuse

political disagreements. As one Obama-supporting church member explained, he was able to cut

off a recurring argument with an aggressive Republican member of his men’s group
2
by pointing

out how their disagreements were interfering with their group’s ability to serve as a source of

mutual accountability and spiritual growth.
3
Many observers have argued that Willow Creek’s

influence is in part due to its success in defining itself against the religious right.

Willow Creek Amidst Contemporary Suburbia

Willow Creek’s founder and lead pastor, Bill Hybels, is a prominent and oft-cited (e.g.

Swartz 2012) example of “post-partisan” evangelism. An affable, self-effacing Midwesterner,

Hybels presents himself as an easily-flustered grandfather in khakis who would spend his

weekends fishing for Muskie on his boat if he hadn’t been inspired to lead one of the largest

2
“Men’s groups” and “women’s groups” are popular forms of small groups within megachurches, in which

church members often discuss issues of sexuality and psychological wellbeing in gender-segregated groups of six to
ten.

3
The prominence of several public Obama supporters in the church is one way that Willow Creek might

work to avoid the “role conflict” experienced by white evangelical Democrats in the United States, most of whom
attend Republican-dominated evangelical churches (Rhodes 2011).

8

churches in the United States. Hybels plays an important symbolic and pragmatic role for

Willow Creek. Through Hybels and his direction of Willow Creek we can observe the

intellectual and theological traditions of American evangelicalism interact with the contingencies

of life (Hybels’ own and others) in the Chicago area, particularly the larger sociological trends

that shaped the growth of the church.

Raised by a prosperous Michigan family who attended a small Christian Dutch Reformed

church, Hybels was poised to take over the family’s wholesale produce company as a young man

when he had a religious epiphany (Sargent 2000). Hybels handed over the company credit cards,

along with the keys to the family’s boat, plane and car, and moved to the Chicago area where he

soon began to serve as the youth pastor at a church in suburban Park Ridge. He and a friend

established a quickly growing teen outreach ministry they called Son City, which expanded from

about 100 students in 1973 to one thousand by 1975. Over the next few years he completed his

college degree at Trinity International University, an evangelical university in the north suburbs

of Chicago, where he took classes with Dr. Gilbert Bilezikian, a prominent supporter of women’s

leadership within evangelicalism who Hybels credits with much of his theological development.

At the age of 23, Hybels decided to establish a church based on the kind of “biblically

functioning communities” that he discussed with Bilezikian, where women could participate

alongside men, where new converts felt welcomed into a Christ-focused environment, and

where, in his telling, he could minister to “whole families, not just youth.” (Sargent 2000).

Hybels and others that joined him from Son City were also influenced by Robert Schuller’s

Garden Grove Community Church (later called Crystal Cathedral) in Orange County, California,

and Schuller’s 1975 book Your Church Has Real Possibilities. Schuller
4
argued for a

4
Willow Creek and other evangelical churches would distance themselves from Schuller after his 1982

book Self-Esteem: The New Reformation argued that the core of sin was low self-image.

9

psychologically and organizationally savvy form of evangelicalism, and helped the growing

Willow Creek with fundraising strategies, once it was founded.

In 1975, the 23-year-old Hybels and his colleagues went door to door in the growing

Northwest suburbs asking their neighbors why they weren’t going to church. In particular, they

wanted to know how to attract their neighbors to their own church, a small evangelical Protestant

community that rented space in the out-of-business Willow Creek movie theater in Palatine,

Illinois (Hybels and Hybels 1985). Hybels and his fellows found that their neighbors mostly

believed in God, but found churches off-putting and impractical. Survey respondents told Willow

Creek that churches were difficult to attend with young children, boring for older children, and

generally hostile to women. Men also reported that church felt uncomfortable, calling them to

take orders in public: to sing, sit, kneel, give donations on command (Hybels 1995).

The new church would be oriented to the sociological realities of these respondents,

many of whom had recently moved to the area.
5
The Willow Creek organization was targeting

what some geographers would refer to as the Rolling Meadows-Schaumburg subregion or “edge

city” (Garreau 1991) of highly concentrated business, retail and residential areas existing on the

exurban edges of cities. The population of the Rolling Meadows-Schaumburg area outside of

Chicago grew 919% between 1960 and 2000. Its population significantly more affluent, whiter,

and more likely to be married than the general Chicago area (US Census Bureau: 2000 Profile of

Selected Social Characteristics). Particularly germane to Willow Creek’s marriage ministry was

the growing church’s embrace of secular expertise (in the form of management consulting as

5
According to the 2000 US Census, about a quarter of the population of Cook County’s Schaumburg and

Palatine townships (the administrative unit between the level of town and county in Illinois) nearest Willow Creek
had moved to the county within the previous five years (US Census Bureau: 2000 Profile of Selective Social
Characteristics).

10

well as psychology) and focus on the realities of its families, in which women played important

economic and decision-making roles.

Willow Creek found itself growing rapidly alongside young families, shopping malls,

corporate headquarters, and subdivisions along the offshoots of late 20
th

century Chicagoland.

While the church’s 1975 opening service in the Palatine movi