President and CEO Elect
Santiago "Jimmy" Mellado has served as President of the Willow Creek Association (WCA) for approximately twenty years. The WCA is a not-for-profit ministry completely dedicated to helping local churches thrive. During his tenure leading the WCA, worldwide ministry income grew from $2 million to more than $20 million, membership grew from 860 churches to over 7,000 churches, and annual conference attendance from approximately 10,000 to more than 180,000. His present leadership team of seven has an average tenure of more than a decade.
In 1995, Jimmy teamed up with Bill Hybels to launch and host The Global Leadership Summit (TGLS). TGLS is an annual not-for-profit event created to address the dire need for excellent leadership training in local churches and other people-centered organizations around the world. One of TGLS’s highest values has been an insatiable desire to learn from many of the world’s top leaders and most gifted communicators—gaining leadership insights from a variety of voices and disciplines: from corporate CEOs, heads of state, leaders in academia, leaders within the church, and leaders from the not-for-profit sector.
Jimmy’s service with WCA stems from a deep love and passion for the beauty and potential of local churches fulfilling their Jesus given mandate to redeem and restore this world for His name’s sake. Born in El Salvador and raised in seven different countries (including the Compassion countries of Nicaragua, Bolivia, El Salvador, Colombia and the Philippines), Jimmy experienced the powerful impact thriving local churches can have on their communities.
In 1991, Jimmy graduated from the Harvard Business School. In 1985, he graduated cum laude with a Mechanical Engineering degree from Southern Methodist University (SMU) in Dallas, Texas.
In college, Jimmy was a member of the 1983 NCAA Division I Indoor & Outdoor National Championship team at SMU where he competed in the decathlon and held the school record.
After college, Jimmy went on to place 26th in the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games and 4th at the 1987 Pan American Games, competing for the country of his birth, El Salvador. After 24 years, he still retains two national records for his performances. He continues to stay engaged with the sport he loves by serving as a volunteer track and field coach at the local public high school.
He was married to Leanne in 1986 and has three children named Ester, Elisabeth and David who are 24, 22 and 18 years old, respectively. Jimmy and Leanne’s daughter Elisabeth (Bizzy) and her sponsored child from Guatemala were featured in last year's Compassion Sunday video. Bizzy’s willingness to tell her sponsorship story helped get nearly 15,000 Compassion children sponsored!