By Kent E. Fillinger
It all began at the 2007 North American Christian Convention. Church planting was the theme of the gathering in Kansas City, Missouri, that year. And Dave Ferguson, convention vice president and lead pastor of Community Christian Church, Naperville, Illinois, had the idea of using the convention to help launch a new church in Kansas City. Restore Community Church is the result of that vision.
Ferguson shared his vision with Troy McMahon, who had been serving with him as campus pastor for Community’s first multisite location, in Romeoville, Illinois, since 1998.
Interestingly, McMahon had started as a small group apprentice in a group with Ferguson several years earlier, while still working as an engineer for General Mills. McMahon transitioned to full-time ministry in 1996 when Ferguson asked him to become pastor of administration and involvement at Community.
God’s timing was right for the NACC and for McMahon and his family. For three years, McMahon had been asking God if he should transition from Community Christian’s staff to plant a church, and for three years the answer was “no.” Then, in 2006, McMahon’s wife came to him and said, “We need to start a church.”
When Ferguson shared his idea for the NACC to play an instrumental role in planting a church in Kansas City, McMahon took notice. He asked Ferguson, “How about me?” Beyond his desire to plant a church, McMahon had lived in the Kansas City area for 10 years as a child. After that year’s NACC, McMahon and his family relocated to Kansas City on July 21, 2007, to assemble a launch team for the new church.
The McMahons were joined by 20 others who moved from Chicago, Colorado, and South Carolina to be part of the plant. An article in Christian Standard’s annual NACC issue also sparked interest among some Kansas City area residents, who contacted McMahon about being involved in the launch as well. The NACC was extremely valuable to McMahon in creating new relationships.
The Right Name
In June 2007, before everyone relocated to Kansas City, the entire launch team went through the Church Planting Assessment Center. The team of 20 came from various religious backgrounds—Christian church, no faith heritage, and multiple other church tribes. One of the exercises at CPAC was for the team to create a fictional church plant and to name the church. The team came up with the name Restore to define the way Jesus restores people and relationships. It stuck.
The Restore Community Church launch team planned 19 outreach projects to gain community visibility, develop connections, and create conversations. As a result, the core team grew from 20 to 90 people. The church also used direct-mail postcards to announce its inaugural service on March 2, 2008, which saw 423 people in attendance. The church averaged 638 in worship attendance last year, making it the youngest large church on the list.
A primary factor in the church’s growth was the development of eight small groups that began meeting before the first Sunday service. The groups reproduced immediately to 12 groups once the church was launched. The small groups helped Restore retain a significant percentage of people from the first Sunday. The church leveled off at about 300 in attendance before summer.
Restore took a similar route as 2|42 Community Church in Brighton, Michigan (see the April 10/17 issue), launching a second service in the fall of 2008 even when additional space was not needed. The purpose was to create more volunteer opportunities for the church. The result was tremendous, as the church grew from 350 to 500 in one weekend, which surprised even the church’s leaders.
One unique element of Restore is that it was “pregnant” when it launched. Three campus pastor apprentices raised their own support and served with the church during its first year, before spinning off to launch their own churches. In March 2010, Restore launched its second campus 20 miles away, and sent 90 people to seed the new site. Today, more than 200 people worship at the second campus and more than 90 people have refilled the vacancy created by the multisite pioneers.
The Right Strategies
McMahon has focused on leadership development and reproduction from the beginning. Given the high percentage of new believers, McMahon and his team have worked hard to prepare people spiritually to serve and lead others. The church has also focused on growing spiritual depth as well as numbers, and its leaders know growth happens best in relationships.
McMahon uses a monthly leadership community gathering to inspire and instruct the church’s leaders. One challenge he consistently shares with ministry volunteers is for them to practice “one-on-one apprenticeships,” so that they are always recruiting and training apprentice leaders who can take their place. McMahon leads two small groups, and each group has an apprentice. In addition to the time McMahon spends with his apprentice leaders during the small group time, he also invests an extra hour each week outside of the small group to encourage, challenge, and help develop his apprentices one-on-one, so they can lead a group and reproduce leaders as well.
The multisite model increases the complexity of the church, McMahon said; it forces the leader to build up leaders and to release them to serve. McMahon realized in a multisite setting he could not rely on his personality or style, but needed to develop other leaders. Restore eventually intends for its multisites to become stand-alone churches that are networked to serve together. Restore has also planted one church and will plant a second church soon.
Restore also emphasizes generosity. The church gave away its first offering, and during its first year of ministry collected $90,000 for a church in Haiti. To help launch its second campus, the church received a cash offering of $137,000 one Sunday, which was 13 times the size of an average offering. Recently, the church collected $90,000 in gifts to give to a ministry couple who had served on Restore’s staff, but returned to the Chicago area to plant a church.
The three questions McMahon and his team continually ask could be adopted by any church: (1) What is next?; (2) Where is next?; and (3) Who is next?
Kent E. Fillinger is president of 3:STRANDS Consulting and associate director of projects and partnerships with CMF International, Indianapolis, Indiana.