When we first began this periodical in 1992, I knew little of the editorial process. Each issue presented a new set of challenges, from finding writers and appropriate topics to insuring the artwork was eye-catching. I stand amazed at what God did through me and the numerous contributors who made this periodical a success. I’d like to say ‘thank you’ to everyone who wrote, edited, created artwork, printed and mailed this publication and you, dear reader. If no one wanted to read it, we would not have been stretched to minister through this medium.
As I write this last editorial, I am not sad. God has given our ministry new ways to communicate the cell vision. The Internet is an excellent, low-cost way to communicate and is rapidly becoming the primary source of new information. In January, we will release a newsletter in PDF format that can be freely downloaded from our website. In it, you’ll find helpful articles, hard-hitting editorials concerning new models, book reviews, and trends from all walks of cell group life.
I can’t help but think some of you have the impression that we have chosen to stop the Journal because of financial concerns here at the ministry. This could not be further from the truth! God continues to care for every need and many of our wants as well.
The core motivation behind this move is to make information accessible to churches who can’t afford to buy a subscription. With this new shift to the web, everyone can enjoy information for free.
As you read through this last issue, let me bring you up to speed on a few important items:
• We will release an annual edition of the Journal in September of 2004.
• You can now read every back issue of the Journal online by clicking on the ‘archives’ link at www.cellgrouppeople.com.
• You can listen to online audio, watch video, and engage in online conversations with other pastors and cell leaders in our new online forum. Links are found on our front page.
Once again, thank you for the opportunity to share through this resource and in your ministry to others. May God richly bless your kingdom-building efforts! (end)
Why cell groups don’t work: Wondering why cells aren’t working at your church? Here’s a few answers…
visiting numerous churches making the shift from programs to cell-based
ministry, I’ve found that though most are going about it the right way, many
are making similar mistakes at critical points of growth. Since many of you
look to this column to learn about important observations concerning the unique
task of doing cell ministry in
There seems to be a lot of confusion in churches as to who should be in the first experimental cell groups and how many a church should launch. In addition, I receive numerous questions about what should be achieved in a prototype group, and when the group can be multiplied into first generation cells.
The idea behind prototyping is to create a highly relational environment with senior leaders and “power people” in your church. The very first prototype group should achieve the following:
• Introduce the decision-making lay leaders and staff to day-to-day biblical community, as opposed to a once-a-week Bible study or task group. Each group member needs an “aha” moment, or a paradigm shift in this area.
• Help each person in the group find a new level of transformation and a vision for member-to-member ministry or edification. When your leaders come to realize—through personal experience—that the Holy Spirit works mightily through mature and immature believers, they will truly understand edification.
• Reach lost friends and family for Christ through the power of relational evangelism. The group members must “net fish” together and win the lost to truly understand why God gave us biblical community . . . to win our world for Him.
While some cell church experts say that evangelism is not crucial to the first prototype group, it is my opinion that a prototype cell must experience everything that is needed in future groups, including reaching the lost. If an important aspect of cell life such as evangelism is not realized in the basic DNA at this first stage, future groups may never become evangelistic.
If you want to prototype properly, sit down with your vision team (elders, deacons, staff, and spouses) and write out what you want to see happening in a healthy cell group of people. Then start doing it successfully before you multiply.
Most churches do not prepare the foundation before starting prototypes, and so, build a house upon sand. There are four key stages that must be started prior to prototyping:
• Discover your church’s unique mission and what it means to be “on mission” versus what you may or may not have been doing in the past.
• Develop a vision team to make hard decisions over the long haul.
• Assess your current situation with clarity, creating a strong sense of urgency.
• Move your leadership into repentance, or a “can’t go back” attitude about their previous, ineffective way of doing church.
All of these things must be done before prototypes are formed if you are to be successful in the long haul.
Many pastors have become starry-eyed over this new model of cell group oversight, without assessing reality concerning the existing lifestyle and time availability of their members.
Before you decide to implement any new structure in your church —especially the high requirements in the G-12 model— assess the currently-held values and attitudes of your core membership and leaders. Are your people willing to faithfully participate in two or more group meetings every week, plus Sunday services and immersion weekends for deliverance and training? Would they be excited to hear that in a year or two, each member of a household may have their own “down-line” string of groups and may be too busy to spend time together? These are just a few of the realities of this model, done in its purest form.
Please understand that I’m not against G-12. I just see too many pastors make a wholesale decision to move their church into G-12-style cell ministry before they’ve taken a good, long hard look at their membership. To me, it’s akin to challenging a two year old to run a full marathon each month. He might have the ability and desire when he grows up and matures, but today, just letting him toddle around the house should be considered a huge success.
A far more productive and predictive approach is to begin with a structure that best fits the lived out values of your leadership. Then, when it’s up and running smoothly, allow it to branch out into hybrid structures that resemble G-12 groups when the members want to start a new group and maintain their identity with their first group.
In October, we held our annual Cell Group Pastor’s Forum. I was surprised to meet so many pastors with 10-15 cell groups and no coaching in place. Their comments were consistent . . . “We’ve got enough groups going now that we must begin coaching or we’ll be in trouble soon.”
I bit my tongue. They were already in big trouble, but didn’t know it.
While it’s true that one staff pastor can oversee 10 groups without coaching in place, it leaves no margin for group failure or rapid group growth. Moreover, the typical staff pastor in charge of cell ministry has additional administrative duties, which causes more stress. If a coaching system isn’t in place by the time the third group multiplies, you’ll be working overtime to correct it and stressing your groups while doing it.
When you have two or three groups, you must begin to train up and release a coach to oversee the progress of those groups and to report problems. The coach can continue to lead a group, but if this is done, the number of groups he or she can oversee must be reduced to two or three. Coaches who are not leading groups can oversee five groups, but only if a number of other overarching systems are in place to insure they are not overloaded.
If you have ten or more groups and have no coaching in place, you must begin to correct this or face cell ministry extinction. Look along relational lines and find the healthiest cell leaders who have friendships with other group leaders. Ask them to visit other groups with you and think strategically about how to support these other groups. After a season, allow them to adopt other groups. Set them free to encourage and pray with these other groups and their leaders as often as time permits.
By providing this lay-oversight, it will help group leaders know they are supported, help you discover problems early, and help the groups find leaders more readily with an extra pair of eyes and a heart for growth.
NO DISCIPLESHIP, NO LEADERS, NO CELL GROUP MINISTRY
To keep a cell ministry growing, discipling the members into maturity must be tested within the prototypes and launched with the first cell groups. Learning to stand firm against Satan, reaching friends for Jesus, and becoming strong in the foundations of the Word gives members a desire to go to the next level, which is leading a group of their own.
I visit with numerous pastors who have been doing cells for a year or two and do not have a uniform and comprehensive way to get incoming cell members discipled into confident, equipped leaders. Please understand that I am talking about more than cell leadership training . . . which begins when a new believer is baptized and formally joins a group. Part of the prototype process should involve testing an equipping track.
characteristic of a church whose cell ministry will probably not succeed is the
church that only offers cell leader training once a year. Even if you only have
three people or couples interested, it’s worth it!
The overarching reason cell groups don’t work in the typical transitioning church is due to a lack of authentic relationships. Ask any group of people if they want or have time for more regular meetings, and they’ll look at you like you’re some kind of moron. Ask the same group if they want deeper friendships with those who truly have their best interest at heart, and everyone will participate. At the very core of cell group ministry is Christian community, or relationships with other believers where the Holy Spirit can move powerfully. Jesus invested His life into fishermen and reshaped their values one day at a time. All too often, the church has been in a rush, trying to get the next thing going in a hurry and has left out this important and basic aspect of Christianity.
As you move through your own transition into cell ministry, don’t forget to base it on relationships. Moreover, remember to move into it slowly enough to allow your structure to be shaped by the values you are instilling in your leaders and members. (end)
Randall Neighbour is the senior editor of CellGroup Journal and the President of TOUCH® Outreach, The Cell Group People™.
Your nation’s future is in your hands: Raising your children right will turn your nation back to God.
How do you see the children in your cell group? How would you describe them? Are they wonderful? Challenging? Difficult? I urge you to see what God sees and hear what He is saying all over the earth in relation to their generation. He sees the destiny of your cell’s children and every day of their lives as preparation for both today and the future.
Your nation’s future will one day be in the hands of your children. But for the moment, it is in yours! Judges says, “When this generation had returned to its fathers, a generation grew up who did not know their God.” The children in your group are entrusted to you in order that they will know God and so their generation will rise up into positions of power and authority to turn nations back to Him.
As I travel, I hear the Holy Spirit’s voice echoing across the nations. Our children were born “for such a time as this!” Today’s world is constantly changing, full of uncertainty for our children. We cannot plan their futures, but God can!
Each child in your cell group is part of a universal army being trained right now. There will not be time to train them later. Now is the time to equip and release them to be all they are called to be.
You’ve been given responsibility for training this consecrated generation and setting them apart for the King. Each cell group has a divine biblical mandate to pour themselves into their children.
All over the world, strong men who are visionary “cell group” leaders are pouring themselves into children as young as three and four years old. Mothers, with the same attitude as Samuel’s mother, Hannah, are turning their children over to a vision. These “cell groups” are mobilizing children to change nations, to spread a vision, but for a very different cause. Their vision is terrorism!
Now is the time for Christ’s Body to wake up and for visionary men of God to pour themselves into our precious children and young people. It’s time to instill the Father’s vision for them and their generation. There’s no time to sit back and wait for tomorrow. While many in the Body of Christ urge us to “wait until they’re older,” our children are being taken captive by the media, education, ideology, worldly music, and culture. They are being discipled by the world’s systems and devices of the evil one.
God has great plans for this generation. We have the privilege of training them to be soldiers of the Most High God. He will hold us accountable for the biblical commands that “one generation shall tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of God” (Psalm 78). There is an awakening sweeping across the earth among children and young people.
God’s Spirit wants your cell group to be part of it and to experience His power in and through the next generation.
Our children’s generation will not live by the rules of previous generations. If we raise them to be warriors and treat them as the church of today, they will have a life and vision that cannot be contained. They will be different, with a power and zeal different from that of other generations.
Religion and structures will not contain them. They are looking for relationship, passion, and purpose. This is what having Jesus as the center of your group is all about! The old wineskin and old wine will not satisfy this prophetic generation. Looking back at “what we used to do” will not equip them for today, and will not satisfy them. Our existing programs will no longer hold them. They are a generation that is coming to intercede and cry out for the harvest, to fulfill the Great Commission, and shout to the nations to prepare the way for the King!
Through the new wineskin of your cell and the fresh wine of the Holy Spirit, you can bring children right into the presence of Jesus as revealed through His Body. You can prepare them to take Jesus everywhere they go, into places of influence. Many children and young people are ready now and can be equipped as disciple makers of the rich and poor alike.
When you consider the challenge of discipling children and young people, remember that it’s done in much the same way that you disciple adults.
Teach that “church” is both celebration (the Body gathered) and cell (the small group gathered). Whenever and wherever Christians gather around the presence, power, and purpose of Christ, they are unified as His Body. While your group is part of a larger spiritual organism, help group members of all ages see that when your cell group gathers, you are the church!
are the building blocks of the church and cell-based churches are only as
strong as their individual cell groups. This is why healthy churches give
crucial training and
All cell group members are in full-time ministry . . . and each one, regardless of age, is a team member whom God wants to use to bless others. All are called and empowered to serve. All members, regardless of age, are being discipled and are growing in their capacity to be receivers and givers, hearers and doers.
Cell members, regardless of age, are accepted and loved within their group. With Christ as the center, cell groups are communities of trust and honesty where sacrificial love is demonstrated. Children and young people, like adults, are seen as committed and valued full participants. They are encouraged and empowered to live with a sense of destiny and purpose as members of God’s Kingdom.
Within cell groups, there is a sense of mutual accountability to obey Christ’s commands to love God, love one another, and love the lost. Each cell member, regardless of age, takes responsibility to develop a network of unchurched friends they are seeking to evangelize. Every member is called and equipped to win others and make disciples.
The core value is Jesus as the center. He is the center of each child’s life. He is the center of each family and cell group. As each cell group member is given the opportunity to live out that value, he or she can begin to make disciples as Jesus commanded.
Psalm 45:17 states, “I will declare Your name to all generations, therefore the generations will praise You.” The promise is that in passing on Jesus’ name and making disciples (Matthew 28:18) of our children and young people, the nations will praise Him. His name will echo down the generations and across the nations!
Can you “see” your children shaking the nations and taking God’s glory to the ends of the earth? Is it any wonder why the enemy has tried to destroy them? The evil one sees the end time army, willing to die for what they believe, counting the cost of discipleship, yet ready and willing to lay down their lives.
Previous generations have stood through hard times, often seeing little in return. They stood firm, paying a price that this current generation can inherit. What a privilege! What a responsibility! What a joy! What an impact! Now, go back and “see” the children and young people in your cell as God sees them and “train them up in the way they should go.” (end)
Developing Your Members into Leaders: Employing the Four Steps of Leadership Development
I just read an e-mail from my friend Kent, who leads a small group at our daughter church. In less than a year his group has already successfully multiplied. In the e-mail he said that his “small” group wasn’t small anymore, because they had thirty on hand the night before. Then he said, “I guess it’s time to multiply again!”
Wow! What an exciting challenge it is to lead a healthy, growing group. But the real challenge is to be sure to have developed the potential leaders of new groups in order to prepare to multiply. Successful multiplication will never happen without developing potential leaders.
When I was the director of discipleship at a Christian university, I read everything I could about discipleship. I thought it was interesting that many writings focused on why and how to make a disciple, but never made it clear as to how and when to release them. As a cell leader, your goal is to develop new group leaders who’ll in turn develop other new group leaders. The goal is not to merely build a group. It’s to build up “multiplying” cell group leaders.
In many cell groups, members are reticent to take on the role of cell leadership. They think they don’t have what it takes to be a leader. This is easily overcome by giving them experience before you extend the invitation to become a future cell leader. With confidence in ministering inside and outside of cell meetings, they’ll be comfortable with the role. Far more of your members will agree to formally become a “leader in training” when they realize the invitation is just another hill, and they’re now an experienced climber.
As you read this article, keep this in mind. It may be that you use the information found here initially with members who do not realize they are being trained as a future leader. The information found here is also excellent for training and releasing interns or apprentices who have answered the call to leadership and need skills training to be successful in their own group.
There are four steps that a multiplying leader takes his or her cell members through to produce solid, experienced leaders. To give your members enough confidence to start their own group, you should follow these steps carefully and take no shortcuts.
The multiplying leader (that’s you) does the activity and your target member(s)-whom I will refer to as “potential leaders” from this point on-watches you do a part of the cell meeting. Beforehand, ask them to keep an eye and ear on you while you facilitate, making mental notes to discuss later.
This could cover any or all of the activities needed to lead an effective group. These include leading the group icebreaker or prayer time, making phone calls to group members, planning and running a group social event, visiting a member in the hospital, or preparing the lesson.
These ministry activities may come easy for you, but they’re intimidating to a potential leader who has never facilitated in a small group. De-mystify the activities for the potential leader by modeling them.
Remember, never do ministry alone. Take your potential leaders with you. Let them see you doing it. Show them how it’s done.
The multiplying leader shows the potential leader how to do the activity and lets the potential leader do it as the leader watches. Afterward, the multiplying leader gives the potential leader needed encouragement and helpful feedback.
This could involve practice sessions or role-playing. Let them practice leading the icebreaker on you first. Let them practice leading the Bible discussion with you first. Let them role-play a phone call to a group member who was absent.
Then let them do it “live.” I generally start potential leaders off leading the prayer time. I have the potential leader ask the person to the left to share one current need, and then the potential leader should pray for that need immediately. Then have the next person share a need and the previous person pray for it immediately, continuing until everyone in the group has shared and prayed for each other.
The multiplying leader steps away, allowing the potential leader to lead. This could range from being out of the room to being out of town.
I have several potential leaders for my high school group. They’re currently leading the prayer times for our group every week. After the lesson, I send them off with a bit of instruction and they each go to separate parts of the house with several students. They lead the prayer time, while I walk around and observe from a distance. I may give them some feedback and encouragement, usually later that week during our training session. But a quality prayer time is up to them.
The potential leader consistently leads without the direct supervision of the multiplying leader. This could begin with making phone calls and leading the elements of the group meeting.
Eventually, the potential leader is challenged to take the title of “intern” or “apprentice” and move through the leadership training process in your church. When they complete leadership training, they’ll lead their own group and train their own potential leaders in the same way.
Here’s an example of how this process might occur. Betty, a cell leader, asks Debbie, a cell member to assist in future cell meetings. Each week, they’ll get together the night before the meeting to pray for the group and prepare.
Model it. Month one, Betty does all the preparing and leading and Debbie watches. Betty is careful to explain what, why, and how she’s doing things as she goes.
Mentor it. Month two, Debbie prepares the icebreaker. She practices it in front of Betty, who makes some encouraging and helpful comments. Then Debbie leads the icebreaker in the group. Betty gives her more encouragement and helpful feedback when they get together in their weekly meeting.
Motivate it. Month three, Debbie does the icebreaker all by herself. Each week, Betty gives Debbie more encouragement and occasionally, offers helpful feedback. Betty’s smart . . . she encourages far more than she corrects.
Multiply it. Month four, Debbie does the icebreaker like a professional and is ready for more. If Betty’s smart, she’ll do basically the same thing with each of the pieces of group leadership until Debbie can do each element confidently by herself. Then, she’ll begin to help Debbie minister to members outside the meeting, giving Debbie the opportunity to take ownership through servanthood.
It’s helpful to realize that the development process is aided when the mentoring leader is able to play more than one role in developing potential disciples. This isn’t a formal type of thing, but rather a casual adaptation of style and approach in order to help give the potential leader what they may need. The role played by the multiplying leader changes to fit the experience, maturity and personality of the potential leader. These roles may include:
Discipler - The role of discipler is simply helping potential leaders grow in Christ. It centers on showing them the why and how of important holy habits like prayer, Bible reading, Bible study, journaling, fasting, and evangelism. The discipler is to be an example of spiritual disciplines, helping potential leaders grow in their spiritual life and holding them accountable for maintaining the disciplines of spiritual growth.
The primary way I play this role with the high school students who are my apprentices is by taking time every few weeks to ask them such questions as:
“What have you been reading in the Bible?”
“When do you do your Bible reading?”
“How has your prayer life been going lately?”
“Who have you invited to group in the last two weeks?”
“When was the last time you shared your faith at school and how did it go?”
Coach - The role of coach is to teach and provide skill training, such as how to lead an effective icebreaker or to set up a successful activity. The coach role is one of empowerment through training, working through the Steps of Leader Development (see previous page) as described earlier in the article.
Here’s a personal example. Chris is helping me lead our high school group in the role of an apprentice. As our group is getting close to the date for multiplying, he’s taking a larger and larger role in leading the group. The other week he led the Bible discussion and did a great job. After the group meeting, I took about ten minutes to share with him the three or four things I thought he did especially well. Then I shared the two things he probably could have done a bit better. Being a teachable emerging leader, he appreciated the feedback.
Counselor - By counselor, I don’t mean something formal and long-term. The idea is that the multiplying leader is willing to give advice as needed to aid potential leaders through “snags” in the fabric of their lives. It’s sharing what has worked for you. It’s giving them instruction, warning, advice, and accountability when appropriate. The counselor role is one of exhortation.
There are times when cell leaders need to refer the person to a pastor or professional counselor. Perhaps you’re not making any progress or the person is taking up too much of your time. Referral is especially important if the person is demonstrating serious behavioral problems, such as: depression; extreme mood swings; violent outbursts of anger that harm others either physically or verbally; loss of contact with reality; serious, irrational fears; drug or alcohol abuse; child abuse or neglect; or a desire to hurt others.
Teacher - The teacher role involves explaining needed information and leading to appropriate application. Topics included may be Bible doctrine or spiritual growth principles. The teaching role is one of explanation and illustration. Again this isn’t a formal role. It may be as simple as taking a minute to clarify something that was said in the group. Or, investing a few minutes in your training time to demonstrate how you use a Bible commentary to aid your study.
Most of us will find that we gravitate toward one role more than the others. Realize that all may be needed at one time or another. If you’re not comfortable playing each role for the potential leader, someone needs to do so. Ask your coach or pastor to help if needed.
Have a weekly or twice-a-month meeting time with your apprentice(s). I meet with apprentices an hour before church on Sunday evenings. We do things like discuss a chapter of a book, check up on personal growth plans, and debrief the previous week’s group meeting. We may also plan an activity, discuss multiplication dates, or talk through possible future apprentices.
We may train in one of the skills needed to lead a group meeting, such as leading the prayer time. We go over the calendar of what we’re studying and who’s leading which aspect of the group the next few weeks. We may plan an upcoming activity. And we always pray for each other and the group.
This meeting need not last long, but it is essential. The more often you meet with and intentionally train your leaders, the more rapidly they’ll be ready to lead an effective, growing multiplying group.
Use every possible resource (on-the-job training, personal meetings, classroom experiences, group training seminars, unstructured time together, books, tapes, and magazines.)
Try to see that apprentices get at least one resource each week. Consider the resources to be like vitamins. The more they get, the healthier they’ll be, and the faster they’ll develop.
Claude and Ginny, the leaders of our singles small groups, are great at including their leaders in everything the church offers. They bring them to seminars, sign them up for classes, and get together for planning powwows. As a result, their ministry has grown from one other person to nine or ten groups in just a few years.
Try to do at least one step of training development with your potential leaders every time you meet.
Always be training in something. If it’s not how to invite new people, then show them how to set up a personal growth plan. Pray with them for their future apprentices. Show them how to set up an effective activity. If you meet weekly and give them at least one new thing every week, it will amaze you what they can learn in a year. This doesn’t have to be long. Five or ten minutes together is often sufficient.
If you don’t feel competent to train in an area, bring in your small group pastor or coach to help. Learn together by reading a book together.
Ask potential leaders what role they most want or need you to play for them at a given time. I tend to think I know best, which is often not the case. I think they need a good dose of training, while they feel they need some counsel about a situation at work with their boss. People learn best when they’re motivated to learn. The best way to help potential leaders grow is to cooperate with their current motivations.
I’ve learned to ask the people I mentor a question that’s extremely helpful. I may phrase it differently, but the idea is the same:
“What is it that I can do to help you reach your goal?”
“With what area in leadership would you most like me to help you?”
“What do you most need from me right now?”
Ask yourself every week, “What can I do to help my potential leader be better prepared to lead a healthy, growing, multiplying group?” This may only take a few minutes, but it will be very helpful. If you do this, you’ll stay focused on development and be much more effective. As you ask this question and listen to God, He will give you some great insights and ideas.
I lead a ministry staff of twelve people. We meet weekly for training. I’d like to have a set curriculum for training in order to save preparation time, but it never works out that way for very long. When I ask myself and God, “What can I do to help my staff be more effective?” He gives me fresh ideas and insights. The set curriculum meetings are pretty good. But often when I ask the above question, I end up going off the plan and share something I sense God is telling me they need. They tell me those times are the most effective times we have.
Train them the way you wish someone else had trained you or did train you.
Maybe no one trained you to be a small group leader or to train leaders and you’re learning as you go. Make mental notes of several elements you wish someone had taught you. These may include: Skills you had to learn the hard way; what works best for you; what you regret doing.
Development is the process of cooperating with God by using every available resource to help another person become a multiplying small group leader. It’s the essence of multiplying potential leaders. It is hard work. And it is worth it. When you know the people you’ve developed are leading healthy, growing, multiplying groups, you’ll be glad you paid the price and so will they. (end)
On-the-Job Training - The best and most basic way of developing a potential leader into an effective leader is on-the-job training. This works best when the leader delegates areas of responsibility to the potential leader and supervises how he or she does each of them. For example, the potential leader leads the prayer session for the group as the leader observes and later does an evaluation with the potential leader. The latter learns by doing ministry in a supervised setting.
Personal Mentoring and Coaching - This is a one-on-one meeting between the multiplying leader and the potential leader. Anything and everything could serve as the basis of discussion. But, the focus is most frequently on the elements of the on-the-job training process. For example, the multiplying leader tells the potential leader how to lead the prayer time. Then, after the potential leader has tried it, the multiplying leader provides feedback.
Classroom Training - This is a structured class that is most often taught by someone other than the multiplying leader. At our church, the small groups pastor teaches a four-hour class, which is required for all potential leaders before they lead a recognized group. There are also several classes they can take after they begin leading a group.
Group Leadership Training - If the multiplying leader has several potential leaders, they might meet regularly as a group for some type of training. The nature of this training could be decided by the multiplying leader and is based upon the need of their potential leaders. This may include reading a book together or practicing specific skills. All the potential leaders for my high school group meet together weekly. The first few weeks, we read and discuss a book about small group leadership. After that, we discuss how to share a three-minute testimony and take turns sharing them each week in the training session, before sharing them later in the week at the group session. The book Turning Members Into Leaders serves as one of our discussion resources.
Events - Our small groups pastor schedules a one-day training event for group
leaders every year. Touch Outreach Ministries in
Time Together - My friend, Jay Firebaugh, is an outstanding pastor of a strong
cell church in
Books, Tapes, and Magazines - By using books, tapes, and magazines, your potential leaders can receive training from experts when you aren’t around. There’s a plethora of great resources available. Let me encourage you to take advantage of TOUCH’s website www.cellgrouppeople.com for access to many great books and resources. Also, many leaders are finding the value of reading and discussing a chapter a week of a helpful small group “how to” book.
Editorial – By
The end of the beginning: A brief review of the life of CellGroup Journal and what’s ahead
this final issue of the Journal goes to press, I have taken time to reflect
over the vision that began it in 1992. With a $10,000 gift from a precious friend
who believed in what we were trying to do, Cell Church Magazine was produced in
was living in
As the publication of CellGroup Journal is discontinued, for me it marks a turn in the direction of the global cell church movement. In any movement, as has been pointed out by the secular philosopher Eric Hoffer, the first generation burns with a zeal and fire that compels the ignition of a movement. In the early days of the magazine, it was avidly read by those who were unaware of the theology of the cell church. In fact, the first article I wrote for it was entitled “Theology Breeds Methodology.” The readership was general, but primarily the audience was trail blazing pastors who had no fear.
As the movement grew, cell churches began to secure it in bulk for distribution to their cell leaders. At that time, the title changed and the editorial team adjusted the content for that new community.
There is nothing sadder in the Kingdom than structures that become frozen and solid, rooted in habit and tradition. Thus, it is time for this journal’s very significant contribution to the cell church world to be changed.
What will replace it? Exactly what the current generation requires—and TOUCH Outreach Ministries will seek to provide that with its new direction in keeping in touch with cell leadership through published books and online content.
indicated that while the first generation is built upon zeal and passion, the
second generation seeks to preserve the vision while at the same time
strengthening its development. The generation of many books related to the
movement has taken place in these recent years, and names like
seem to be moving now into the third generation. One of the evidences of this
is the current focus on training centers emerging all over the world.
Keep in touch with ‘The Cell Group People’ as this growing ministry continues to respond to the needs of each generation as the global cell movement matures. And be sure to visit the new networks that are on the Internet! (end)
The Righteous Take Risks: Risk-taking is necessary for a cell group to effectively reach the lost
If you could give me two weeks of your time, and money was no object, do you know what I would like to do? Take you and your cell group friends on an airplane trip around the world. I’d introduce you to risk-taking group leaders and cell groups in different states and countries who have effectively reached the lost for faith in our Jesus.
Since we might not be able to do that in reality, please join me on an imaginary plane trip. But first, fasten your seat belt. We’re about to take off....
we cross an ocean, our first stop might be
might next fly to
Unknown to the leader, the couple’s marital problems had grown so impossible that they had decided to go to a lawyer the next morning to start divorce proceedings. That night, just before the cell meeting, the leader decided to take one more risk and knocked on their door to invite them. They thought, “Why not? It can’t hurt.”
When that couple attended, each member of that cell welcomed them to the meeting. To their surprise they found they enjoyed the warmth of their new friends in the cell. They also made the most important decision of their lives: they repented of their sins, received forgiveness, let go of hurts, and received Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. Today they have a strong marriage and are leaders themselves.
with me now to
time now to fly over the
we fly to our next destination, let’s spend a minute to reflect: are there any
similarities between the cell groups in
soon land in
Niels then felt the confidence to risk talking to Reto about his lifestyle, his drug usage, and his sexuality. As a result, one day Reto prayed, “God, if you exist, take away my craving for drugs.” Reto immediately lost his craving, and no longer smoked marijuana. He also started visiting his brother’s cell group.
That cell group welcomed and accepted Reto. He received birthday cards, and he could freely ask many questions, ranging from the truth about evolution to how one was to live his life. All the other members of that group were his age and did a lot of things together in their leisure time, like camping and going on joint vacations. Not long afterwards, Reto publicly gave his life to Jesus Christ in a Sunday worship service, and with the help of his group, grew rapidly in his faith.
After three years of being a faithful and loyal member of that group, he took all the necessary training at his church, and was asked to lead the same group that prayed for his salvation in the first place. As we leave for our next destination, Reto continues to talk about the amazing influence that cell group had in his life.
After we again board our plane, we discuss one thing we learned from Reto’s story: how the cell group first started by praying for his salvation. After the group prayed persistently for Reto, his brother could then feel confident to risk talking to him and invite him. As we reflect back, we realize that most stories of effective evangelism in cells start with persistent prayer for specific target people.
plane stops next in
we’d stop to talk with Sam, a sectional leader who has birthed three men’s
group from his group. He explains how each designated spiritual parent goes
through 13 weeks of training to learn how to focus on two to three unbelievers
in his circle of influence, and to pray, develop relationship, invite and
include them in his group. Sam then excitedly tells how three men in his groups
were recently born again through that process. As we board the plane to fly to
we land in
Mr. Lee would tell you about a small group of Christian businessmen who had a weekly men’s group that met in a neighborhood home in his community. They noticed Mr. Lee, who was also a businessman in that area. He had grown up in a Buddhist home, but felt there was no reality in Buddhism or in any religion, so he had privately promised himself that he would never darken the door of a temple, church or synagogue. But when the group of men took the risk to invite him, he noticed that they had a joy in their lives that he knew he was missing. Mr. Lee reasoned to himself, “It’s not in a temple, church, or synagogue, it’s in a home, so I can go.” Mr. Lee went to that men’s group faithfully every week for nearly two years before he decided to give his life to Jesus Christ. Soon after, he started going to church as well, and even later became a deacon.
our last stop, let’s jet to
As we fly back home to your city, let’s spend some time to think, talk, and pray. Consider Abraham, David, and Jesus Himself. It seems that God never intended us to be satisfied in our comfort zones. The more “righteous” a person was, the more God expected him to take risks of obedience.
What about you and your cell group? How can you help group members move out of their comfort zones and take the risk to pray for specific lost people, be “newcomer friendly” and develop workable strategies? What would God have your cell group do to reflect His heart for the lost? What story could we one day tell from your risk-taking cell group if we took a plane flight to meet you? After all, the righteous take risks. (end)
Dr. Karen Hurston is an author and consultant to the world-wide cell movement. She specializes in helping cell-based churches reach the lost through cell-based relationships. Visit her website at:
Effective Coaching: How to keep cell leaders encouraged for the task at hand
Patty and her husband were ready to quit. Her discouragement was obvious in her voice. “This is just not working! We started strong with ten people coming regularly. We’ve prayed. We’ve invited people and contacted those who’ve come. But for the last three weeks, we’ve sat looking at each other wondering where our cell has gone.” She continued, “Joel, we just must not be the right leaders!”
I countered, “You’re excellent leaders! God has called you. I believe in you and your ministry. Satan wants to discourage you, but Jesus wants you to persevere.”
Several weeks later, attendance picked up and a sense of community formed. Over the years, people have been saved, new leaders have been developed, and the group has multiplied several times.
That conversation was pivotal in Patty’s cell ministry. Satan wanted Patty and her husband to give up at that early point, rendering them useless and ineffective for God’s kingdom.
Cell leadership can be a wearisome journey. Members often don’t show up, evangelistic efforts fail, and bosses require extra hours. Leadership involves phone calls, intern development, evangelism strategies, and administration. In the face of such tasks, how can you keep cell leaders alive, well, and ready to follow God?
The answer is encouragement. An encouraging coach can make the difference between success and failure, between the leader continuing—and eventually multiplying the cell—and throwing in the towel. Encouragement takes on additional importance because it has the potential to have long-term, widespread impact on many people, not just on an individual leader.
UCLA basketball coach John Wooden told players who scored to smile, wink, or nod to the player who passed them the ball. “What if he’s not looking?” asked a team member. Wooden replied, “I guarantee he’ll look.” Everyone values encouragement and looks for it.
Although every coach wants to win the game, a good coach knows that refreshed and energized players do a much better job. Hebrews 11:25 says, “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Discouragement comes naturally. Introspection haunts people. They compare themselves to others and feel like they don’t measure up. A word of encouragement can often make a huge difference.
in the business world sometimes think that the lack of encouragement will
motivate people to work harder. An executive at a consumer foods company
noticed the great work of one of his regional directors. When asked if he had
told her that he was pleased, the executive responded, “No, she’s just rounding
first base at this point. I wouldn’t want her to think she was almost home.”
The director was craving
cell group coach should be the head cheerleader for his or her group leaders.
Cell leaders who are
The quarterback was playing a miserable game. He made it even worse by throwing an interception. At halftime, the coach came up to him and the quarterback thought, “That’s it. He’s taking me out.” Instead, the coach said, “Don’t worry son, you’re still going to be the hero of this game.” With renewed energy, the quarterback played a brilliant second half and threw the winning touchdown. During the post-game interview, the quarterback shared this story, giving all the credit to the coach’s encouragement.
Start one-on-one sessions and group huddles with encouragement. Leaders are much more likely to share honestly if they know they are on the right track. Begin with something positive you heard about a leader. Share how you see people changing.
Leaders tend to magnify one or two weaknesses way out of proportion, until they feel condemned and depressed. Martin Luther was subject to such fits of darkness and despair that he would closet himself for days. C. H. Spurgeon, one of the world’s greatest preachers, told his congregation, “I am the subject of depression of spirit so fearful that I hope none of you ever gets to such extremes of wretchedness as I go.” If great heroes of the faith have felt this way, how much more will cell group leaders?
Satan seeks to accuse leaders and deplete their energy through lies that discourage. He whispers things like, “No one respects your leadership. You don’t know the Bible well enough.” Satan knows that if he can discourage the leader, he can discourage the entire group.
Discouragement comes from the world in which leaders live every day. For the most part, North Americans are under the constant barrage of guilt from not feeling like they’ve done enough. The French writer and researcher, Alexis de Tocqueville, said:
“In America I have seen the best educated of men in circumstances the happiest to be found in the world; yet it seemed to me that a cloud habitually hung on their brow, and they seemed serious and almost sad even in their pleasures because they never stop thinking of the good things they have not got . . . so the efforts and enjoyments of Americans are livelier than in traditional societies, but the disappointments of their hopes and desires are keener, and their minds are more anxious and on edge.”
The NASB translates 1 Thessalonians 5:12, “. . . appreciate those who diligently labor among you . . .” The word “appreciate” in Greek literally means “to perceive” or “to know.” Recognition means acknowledging the diligent labors of your cell leaders, giving credit where credit is due. Honor and affirm leaders’ ministries. It’s akin to a “payment” for well-rendered service.
Listening opens the door for encouragement. Tune your ears for reasons to give praise. If there’s even a hint of excellence, spot it and acknowledge it. When a leader starts talking about their lack of fruit, discouragement, or difficulties, listen first. Sympathize and remind him what God has already done. Remind him of his own personal growth.
Find the little things and highlight them. You might pinpoint a leader’s honesty, transparency, or hard work. Point out whatever you see that is positive and honors God. Turn little things into huge victories. Give leaders a file folder labeled “Encouragement.” Suggest they start collecting card and notes that lift their spirits and can be read when they feel discouraged.
The Greek word spoude (diligence) is used numerous times in the Bible (2 Tim. , 2 Peter 3:12-14, Heb. 4: 10-11, etc.). Urge cell leaders to focus not on those areas beyond their control (e.g., talent, giftedness, education, or personality) but on hard work, which anyone can do. Remind leaders that persistence and diligence will eventually bring results. Strategies backfire and teams lose. Not every game is a smashing success. The best cell leaders keep on inviting, and making contacts. They keep on sowing, and then they eventually reap. When coaches encourage leaders to practice diligence and persistence, the doors will open.
A strong leader knows how to pick himself up and press on—in spite of obstacles. A good coach reminds leaders that it’s a marathon race. George Mueller prayed throughout his lifetime for five friends to know Jesus Christ. The first one came to Christ after five years. Within ten years, two more of them received Christ. Mueller prayed constantly for over twenty-five years, and the fourth man was finally saved. For his fifth friend, he prayed until the time of his death, and this friend, too, came to Christ a few months after Mueller died. For this last friend, Mueller had prayed for almost fifty-two years!
The best cell leaders don’t give up—even when the odds are against them and success looks slim. They find a way, even when they have to build their own roads. A coach’s encouragement can keep them pressing forward.
apostles gave the name Barnabas (which means Son of Encouragement) to Joseph, a
Follow Barnabas’ example and become a child of encouragement. Don’t fear over-encouraging, thinking that you might puff up your leaders too much. Encourage, encourage, encourage . . . and the leaders under your care will blossom. (end)
Check your Gauges! We must live within God’s parameters for our lives
Some years back, my daughter and I had the dubious experience of destroying the engines in our two cars on the same day. I had become so busy “building the kingdom,” I forgot to check the oil in the vehicles. Both our cars’ engines overheated and were ruined beyond repair. Since that time, I learned the extreme importance of keeping a close watch on the critical gauges on the dashboards of our cars!
I believe that, like the gauges in our cars, God has given three specific spiritual gauges to help us live passionately for Jesus while maintaining a proper life balance so we do not burn out in the process. These gauges include our spirit gauge, our soul gauge, and our body gauge. When these gauges are all healthy, we can run the race of life for Christ to its entirety, not dropping out prematurely. “May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians ).
few months ago, a group of church leaders in an underground church in
The enemy knows that if he can wound our soul, he can minimize the effect the Holy Spirit will have in us and through us. Our soul—our mind, will, and emotions needs to be cleansed and revitalized regularly. Is there anyone you have bitterness against? Keep short accounts. Forgive them because you have been forgiven (Matthew ) and ask the Lord to bless them. It doesn’t mean what they did was right, it probably wasn’t. But it sets us free and keeps our soul healthy. Then read a good book. Take a walk. Do something you enjoy. Keep your soul healthy. We must keep our eyes on our soul gauge.
Jesus understood that His spirit lived in a physical body and that His body and soul needed care. He knew when to withdraw from the crowds to rest and rejuvenate His body and soul, even with the crowds crying out for ministry. A healthy body gives us more stamina for spiritual warfare. And eating properly and exercising can go a long way in keeping our bodies healthy. Paul the apostle tells us: “...I beat [discipline] my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize” (1 Corinthians ). This should place the fear of the Lord in us! Let’s evaluate our lives and check our body gauge.
Cell leaders need to be quick to check their gauges. Sometimes I need a reminder from others to help me be sure I am watching my spiritual gauges. Several years ago, the men the Lord had placed around me strongly encouraged me to take a three-month sabbatical. They noticed my spirit, soul, and body gauges were in the red danger zone. I was on the verge of physical, emotional, and spiritual depletion from “serving in the kingdom.” I submitted to their counsel and came back several months later refreshed and encouraged for the next leg in the journey of our ministry. I felt like a new man.
maintenance is needed in order to stay spiritually healthy to live out our
destiny in the
End of issue.