Small Groups Snapshot: Restore Community Church

When a passion for small groups and discipleship meets a new church plant

For several years, Janet McMahon helped direct the small-groups ministry of Community Christian Church—a large an innovative multi-site network primarily located in suburban Chicago. But recently she and her husband, Troy, set off to Kansas City to plant Restore Community Church. recently caught up with Janet to get a picture of this new ministry opportunity.

Tell us a little bit about the small-groups ministry at Restore.

Because we were a church plant and new to the community, we didn't have a ton of people with us—not very many people to even start getting them into groups. Fortunately, we decided to get people grouped long before we did weekend services. We began to build a launch team of people—and it ended up being around 80 people before we launched—so we needed to get those people in small groups so they could start doing life together and be in community together.

So my whole role during that time was to build community without a weekend service, and in some ways it was challenging because there wasn't a weekend event where everyone could hang out together. We met together monthly in our launch-team meetings. But in some ways it was really freeing and really fun because I didn't have the pressure of any weekend responsibilities. So it was really all about building community with people.

How did you get the ministry off its feet?

I started with hand picking the people I saw leadership potential in. I was looking for spiritually mature believers who understood the mission of church planting and helping people find their way back to God. So I hand picked about 14 people and then asked them to join me in a small group, with the idea that they would become leaders of groups in the future. And they said yes! All 14. I was so surprised and happy.

So we started a 10-week small group with those people. Part of what we did was study the Bible together, but the other part of was talking about small-group mission, ministry, and vision, and how small groups can be a catalyst for life change.

I wrote some turbo-training material that I led them through, which covered everything from facilitation skills to making the group a healthy and safe place for people to grow spiritually. We also talked about the vision of being a leader and how to have a vision for their small group of people, plus a vision for their own discipleship and personal growth.

So I took them through those ten weeks of materials, and then after that was done they kind of paired up two by two, leader and apprentice, and started groups. We were able to group the other 70 or so people that were part of our launch team, so that by the day we launched the church we had about 8 available small groups for people to join.

How many group leaders are you working with now, and do you still use a leader/apprentice model?

I have about 23 group leaders right now, and maybe half of those leaders have apprentices. I have one other coach, a volunteer, who is working with me to develop those leaders. I have one support/recovery group right now and a couple of interest groups, but the majority of those are sermon-based small groups.

With your sermon-based groups, are they following up what they hear on Sunday morning, or do they study the material before they hear a sermon about it?

We're following up. So they'll hear the weekend message, and that week they're going to talk about what they heard.

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