A House That Faith Built

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Eric Lee
Executive Director
Restoration House Ministries

New England is known for its picturesque towns, fall foliage, historical significance, and educational excellence. Yet it’s also a region where around only 5% of the 15 million people living there are followers of Jesus. Restoration House Ministries was born out of the desire to go into this field ripe for harvest and plant churches in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont.

RHM goes beyond the act of planting churches to offer continuous support and leadership development for church sustainability.

Founded in 1996, RHM has launched 18 churches and has developed a residency program for college graduates to get hands-on ministry experience before seeking full-time positions. RHM goes beyond the act of planting churches to offer continuous support and leadership development for church sustainability—through leader gatherings, mentoring opportunities, fundraising support, and in-person visits.

“Some of the hardest work of planting is sending a team into an area that doesn’t have very many churches, that has a 200-year history of being post-religious, and saying, ‘Hey, start a church,’” noted Eric Lee, Executive Director of RHM. “It’s certainly not ‘build it and they will come.’”

Therefore RHM provides a network of encouragement, fellowship, and learning among New England church leaders so that they may sharpen one another and build one another up for long-term ministry.

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Restoration House Ministries

Developing New Leaders

As RHM has focused on planting churches for 24 years now, they have observed in recent years the decline in the amount of ministry candidates they meet for position openings. So they created their own residency program for ministry development.

The first residents arrived in 2018, and after 11 months in the program, from Memorial Day to Easter, 4 of the 5 were placed in New England ministry. In 2019 a group of 6 from around the country began the program. They live in the RHM house full-time, and Manchester Christian Church is their learning lab. Residents have a supervisor and execute events and ongoing ministry in their chosen area of focus. These areas include: preaching, worship, communications, groups, students, and children.

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Restoration House Ministries

“These young adults have an inquiry and interest in an area like New England that is kind of irreligious, or what some would call post-Christian,” said Eric. “But coming from around the country, it’s hard for them to get a full-time job immediately in one of those churches. They know nothing about the culture or climate here. So it’s a great situation. Then, God willing and as their desire and opportunities align, we have young people who are getting connected with one of our many existing churches or may become a launch team member of one of our future plants.”

Eric previously served on staff at Manchester when this idea came about, and as he moved into the Executive Director role at RHM, he was able to facilitate putting the residency program into action. Residents receive a stipend and are provided free housing and utilities for the duration. Aaron Rathbone serves part-time at RHM as Director of the Residency Program (and part-time with RHM plant Movement Christian Church), selecting the candidates and helping them develop as he lives on site.

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Restoration House Ministries

Housing Kingdom Workers

The facility where the ministry residents now live almost year-round is a fabulous resource that RHM has utilized since they first began as an organization. People donated resources and volunteered labor over two decades ago to build a 12-bedroom, 8-bathroom, 3-story house on the property of Manchester Christian Church’s Wellington Road campus. RHM has been able to use it for a variety of ministry purposes. (Though some of their annual hosting has shifted because of the COVID-19 pandemic.)

One use of the house is for groups visiting the area. For example, RHM housed a group of students from Lincoln Christian University last October during the college’s week of evangelism. Other teams who are partnering with New England church plants travel to the region to be hands-on and can stay for free at RHM during their visit. If teams are helping local churches with outreach events, RHM also has a trailer available with bounce houses and a portable mini-golf course—these have been used in every state for things like VBS, back-to-school kickoffs, spring break programs, and more.

“Church staffs also avail themselves of our facility to do retreats, where they stay a night dreaming, planning, laughing, and getting out of their own zip code.”—Eric Lee

“The house is never a dull moment,” Eric said with a laugh. “I have a desk in one of the bedrooms, which also has a trundle bed in it. We have air mattresses too, so we can have 5-6 students sleeping in that room. I have a home desk when that happens! Nothing is sacred—visitors can stay anywhere.”

Though last fall when a group of 42 wanted to visit, they could not all fit at RHM. So the RHM staff got creative. Rockingham Christian Church, an RHM plant in Salem, New Hampshire, has a facility that includes 4 bathrooms with showers, and they happily hosted part of the group.
“Church staffs also avail themselves of our facility to do retreats, where they stay a night dreaming, planning, laughing, and getting out of their own zip code,” Eric said.

The RHM doors have been open as well to church plant leaders and their families who would like a bit of vacation time.

“The great thing is, RHM is centrally located,” noted Eric. “In 3 hours, you can be almost anywhere in New England—plus it’s just 5 hours to New York City or Canada.”

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Restoration House Ministries

Solidifying RHM Vision

While RHM has spent years pouring into churches and church leaders, the time came this year when they realized their own team could use people pouring into them. So Eric called upon CDF Leadership Capital. Sean Morgan, Vice President of Leadership Capital, and Dusty Rubeck, President of CDF Capital, conducted a StratOp retreat for the RHM staff and board to help them examine their organizational structure and plan.

“We’re working on 8 major areas we identified on that 2-day retreat, forming and narrowing and refining our mission and vision,” Eric said.

“We’re working on 8 major areas we identified on that 2-day retreat, forming and narrowing and refining our mission and vision.”—Eric Lee

Eric reported that they did not just come up with a to-do list but also a don’t-do list as they seek to solidify their dreams and objectives for the future.

“We’re very excited about ongoing coaching and the work following our vision retreat,” said Eric. “We hope to begin executing that vision with Dusty and Sean’s continued follow-up.”

As RHM watches the ways God continues to move in New England, they pray to have the resources and ministry workers ready to send out.

“I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest” (John 4:35).

Read more from The Cornerstone Summer/Fall 2020

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