Disciple Your Cell Members Into Strong Leaders

Train The benefits and features of the Your Equipping Journey™ resources and TOUCH® Weekend Retreats.

by Randall Neighbour


1 John 2:12-14 describes three levels of maturity for the believer: children, young men, and fathers. The "children" are immature believers. They know the Father but are not far along on the journey. At this first stage, the equipping journey brings new believers into an understanding of what it means to live in the kingdom of God and raises their awareness of Satan's presence and motives on earth.

The second stage on the journey is that of "young men." When believers have overcome the evil one, they will have won the battle over satanic strongholds and possess the Living Word within them. The equipping system takes each believer through a mentor-led learning process and an encounter experience, providing the freedom to walk in Spirit and Truth.

The third stage refers to "fathers." By virtue of the name, spiritual fathers have sired children and have a deep knowledge of God. Your Equipping Journey™ trains believers to reach the lost through relational evangelism and to mentor these new believers through the journey they have already begun.This equipping system will move group members through all three levels of maturity and create a growing number of discipled leadership candidates for your groups.


Your Equipping Journey is like a small but challenging mountain with a hiking path leading to four camps. Each camp supplies hikers with the tools they will need for the next part of their journey.

The Camps

The camps will be manned by staff members and mature volunteer leaders in your church. Any cell member who hikes up the discipleship trail will visit the camp, learn about the path ahead and pick up tools that will make the next part of the journey successful.

The camps are as follows, in order of use:
1) Spiritual Formation Weekend (Children)
2) Encounter God Retreat (Young Men)
3) Touching Hearts Weekend (Fathers)
4) Cell Leader Intern Retreat (Fathers)

The Path

The paths between the camps provide cell group members with daily growth guides and mentoring. Each day, members will spend five to ten minutes reading, answering short questions and praying about various topics: sin, satanic strongholds, God, Christ's love, the importance of community and fellowship, ministering to others and receiving ministry, relational evangelism, taking a leadership role and more.

The hiking tools are as follows:
1) The Journey Guide for New Believers or The Journey Guide for Growing Christians
2) Beginning The Journey - 4 weeks
3) The Arrival Kit - 11 weeks
4a) Touching Hearts Guidebook - 5 weeks
4b) Mentoring Another Believer - Individual time invested in reading
5) Cell Group Leader Training - Participant's Guide - 8 weeks

These printed resources have been written carefully with a form of programmed learning designed to "overlap" important subject matter. As a set they are very powerful because they repeatedly expose key truths that your members will apply to their own lives and go on to use in ministry. The first three resources listed have been designed with daily growth guides. Cell group members will spend time in prayer and in the Word each day, as well as read two or three pages found in the growth guides. Some pages ask questions, while others suggest discussing the content with his or her mentor.

How does mentoring work?

Certain parts of the discipleship path are hard to climb. A mentor who is ahead on the path or has walked the path before can be a great source of support and encouragement. Cell leaders should assign a mentor to every new believer in their groups. The mentor will usually be the person who reached the new believer for Christ or has a strong friendship with the new believer. Mentors and protégés should be of the same sex, however, so if a man leads a woman to Christ, his wife or another woman in the cell should be asked to mentor the new believer. If an incoming member has been a believer for many years, he or she should select an accountability partner from the group with whom to climb the mountain. The cell leader should make certain that this is a good match. Once incoming members have completed their training and reached a friend or family member for Christ, each one of them will become a mentor and focus on discipling their own new believers.

Where does the path begin?

There are only two ways to start the hike: as a new believer or as an incoming cell member who has been a Christian for awhile. Typically, both types of people will become regular parts of a cell group before they begin the journey. If you already have established cell groups, encourage every cell member to go through this equipping system. For some, parts of the training will be very basic, but everyone will learn something as they go through the process. If for no other reason, all of your cell members should participate so that they will be ready to mentor new believers through the process.

The First Camp - The Spiritual Formation Weekend

When new believers or members join a cell group, their cell leaders should invite them to attend the next Spiritual Formation Weekend. This weekend is held at your church campus on a Friday evening and the following Saturday, concluding in the afternoon. With their mentors by their sides, they will:
• Share their life story through the use of The Journey Guide for New Believers, if they have not already done so. (Existing church members entering your cell group ministry will use The Journey Guide for Growing Christians.)
• Learn about and be scheduled for baptism, if necessary.
• Learn about your church’s history.
• Meet the pastoral staff and spouses.
• Be placed in or confirmed as members of particular cell groups.
• Learn about their future at your church and the equipping journey they will undertake.

At the conclusion of this weekend, each participant is given a copy of the first discipleship tool, Beginning The Journey. When handed, detailed instructions on its use and benefits must also be offered. Also, schedule each participant for the next camp, Encounter God. This way, everyone entering your cell ministry will understand that there is a unified discipleship system in your church and that everyone will be moving through the system together.

[If your church already has a new member process or class, you'd want to set up some sort of time for incoming group members to go through their Journey Guide interview with someone in their group so they can begin the discipleship process below.]

The First Path - Beginning The Journey

Throughout the next five weeks, your cell members will take part in weekly cell group meetings, deepen their relationships with other believers between meetings and work through the daily growth guides in Beginning The Journey.

Each week, your members will meet with their mentors. As they become friends, each pair will pray, talk about what they’re learning and discuss ways to introduce the mentor to the protégé’s lost friends and family. Your members will also discuss what they are learning through the daily growth guides. This includes current habits and lifestyles that do not glorify God, lordship, baptism, listening to God and experiencing freedom in Christ.

Beginning The Journey will bring your cell members into a fresh understanding of kingdom living. When this happens, they will see the need for spiritual warfare and deliverance from satanic strongholds, which they will receive in the next camp.

The Second Camp - The Encounter God Retreat

The Encounter God Retreat is ideally held at a hotel or retreat center within an hour’s drive of your church’s facility. This retreat is designed to take your cell members out of their home environment (away from children and other distractions) to allow them to focus on deep spiritual matters. When your cell members attend this retreat, they should be accompanied by their mentors.

Throughout the retreat, your cell members will learn how satan uses strongholds to keep believers from being effective in ministry. Then, your cell members and mentors will complete a supplied inventory card and confess their sins to one another after some training and testimonies.

At the conclusion of this retreat, present your cell members with the next "hiker's tool" entitled The Arrival Kit. Each member should also sign up for the next equipping event called The Touching Hearts Weekend.

The Second Path - The Arrival Kit

The Arrival Kit will take your cell members through an eleven week hike, examining worldly values with which they may struggle, such as spiritual warfare, a new life of servanthood, an examination of attitudes, the power of prayer and the priesthood of all believers. The wonderful thing about this part of the journey is that when it's completed, your cell members will be victorious over satan and ready to mentor new believers they have reached for Christ!

The Third Camp - The Touching Hearts Weekend

When your cell members arrive at this camp, they will have developed new "spiritual muscles" and will be ready to learn about strategic, relational evangelism. The Touching Hearts Weekend was specifically designed to teach people how to reach the lost through cell group relationships. Your cell members should attend this weekend with a partner with whom they have been in a mentor/protégé or accountability relationship. The more teams from the same cell group that participate in this weekend together, the better!

On Friday night, a church staff member or a coach will give a brief overview of mentoring. Testimonies and practical information will follow. At the conclusion of the evening, your cell members will be given a copy of Mentoring Another Believer for reading on their own, at a later time.

On Saturday, the training for relational evangelism begins. Each of the cell members attending will receive a copy of Touching Hearts Guidebook, which they will use as a workbook throughout the day. After watching video clips in the morning, your cell members will create a list of nonbelievers with whom they frequently come into contact. Co-workers, neighbors, family members and friends will fill these lists. Using this list, each pair will determine who is most ready to hear the Gospel.

On Saturday afternoon, your cell members will learn to share the Gospel message with a unique version of a bridge illustration, called the "John 3:16 diagram." Using their own changed-life as an example, each member will practice sharing the Gospel. Now equipped with the right tools, your cell members will be sent out to reach their world for Jesus!

The Third Path - Touching Hearts Guidebook

The next five weeks will be very powerful indeed. Your cell members will discover the power of Christian community to reach the lost and come to understand God's purpose in their lives. During this time, your cell groups will grow with new converts; the cell members who have been mentored (or who have been paired up for accountability) will be set apart to mentor the new children in Christ. The five weeks of daily growth guides within Touching Hearts Guidebook will review the need to work as a team, the "John 3:16 diagram", helping others find freedom from sin and allowing the Holy Spirit to speak through them as they share the Good News.

In the last daily guides, your cell members will be challenged to examine their motives and to follow examples offered from the lives of Jesus and Paul. This will give your cell members an in-depth understanding of the call on their lives and change them forever!

The Fourth Camp - The Cell Leader Kick-off Retreat from Cell Group Leader Training

As your cell members reach the lost and begin to mentor them through the journey we’ve described here, you’ll see mature, soul-winning leaders emerge.

You — along with your cell leaders — will determine which mentors are ready for the challenge of leadership. Through personal visits, cell meeting visits and your pastor-member friendships, you’ll know whom to ask.

When you have determined who is ready for the leadership challenge, extend a personal invitation. Each couple should receive a personal phone call with follow-up card or letter to go on an all-expenses paid retreat to a nice hotel or out-of-town facility. Arrange off-site childcare for the Friday to Saturday evening time through their cell group leader and fellow members. If presented properly, your potential cell leaders will feel very special!

The Cell Leader Kick-off Retreat is designed to bring information and inspiration surrounding cell leadership. The Cell Group Leader Training Trainer's Guide contains a weekend overview, scheduling information and eight weeks of training with PowerPoint Presentations. This retreat should be described as a peaceful break from the hectic pace of life, where there will be time to fellowship and have fun on a Saturday. The main point of this weekend is to thank your dedicated cell members for their hard work in the cells and to share the vision for their next step of ministry as an intern.

On Friday evening, pastoral staff members will cast the vision of the church and share the role of the cell leader. Testimonies by key cell leaders will help each person understand that leadership is not a superhero role but one of simple servanthood. Before the evening concludes, each couple will sign up to visit privately with a staff pastor on Saturday.

Saturday morning, after a late breakfast, your cell members will gather for more information about cell leadership. After lunch, the afternoon is free, with the exception of the individual, half hour appointments with the staff pastors. These private interviews are the place where your cell members will see their pastoral support and make a commitment to cell leadership. The concluding session challenges couples to come forward if they sense God's call to move into leadership immediately. The entire group should gather around these people and share prayers of thanksgiving! Those who accept the challenge should be given a Cell Group Leader Training Participant's Guide and receive information on where and when the training will follow.

On the Sunday following this retreat, present all the members and spouses who have agreed to become leaders to your church during your services. They will be brought to the front of the church and set apart for leadership, receiving the blessing of the congregation.

The Fourth Path - Cell Group Leader Training

The top of the mountain is in view! Now that you have a new group of budding leaders (interns), they’ll need special pastoral attention, guidance, and lots of on-the-job training. This hike can take a few months or half a year, depending on your church’s leadership requirements. TOUCH recommends these basic requirements:
• A life free from habitual sin.
• A fully-developed prayer life (alone, with spouse and family, and with cell members).
• The earned respect of cell members (from lots of servanthood).
• Faithful involvement in leadership training and ongoing events.
• A strong desire to share Christ’s love with anyone who will listen.
• A dogged determination to help fellow cell members reach their friends for Christ.

If these basic values and disciplines are present, then the person will make a solid cell leader. When they are ready, your cell leaders should complete the Journey Guide for Cell Group Leaders to ensure that they are ready.

Four Paths and Four Camps

Wow! The view is spectacular from up here, don't you think? Just take a moment to imagine what it looks likeŠthrough the use of our equipping system, you have moved your church members out of the pews and into ministry! They've found freedom from strongholds, discovered their purpose in life and are mentoring others. Today, your groups are multiplying with new believers and an ever-increasing number of cell leaders. Now that's a mountain top scene a pastor can look at all day without getting bored!


Frequently Asked Questions


The power of Dr. Neighbour’s system is that the vision for a unified, cell-based discipleship track is mandated and carried out by church leadership via the retreats and weekend events. Everyone is hiking up the same mountain with the same tools.

When you adopt a uniform, church-wide system of cell-based discipleship, its results can be monitored and easily analyzed. When adaptation is required, changes are uniform, increasing the success of your system.

Adopting a church-wide system also removes pressure from your cell leaders, most of who do not have the time and/or the giftings to personally disciple 12 to 15 persons into strong leaders. A system like the one described above will provide your cell leaders with the freedom they need to serve the sheep in your flock and facilitate evangelistic events for their groups.

And finally, it works well because of the personal assessment tools (The Journey Guides). These booklets help the "new hiker" learn about the journey ahead, what will be challenging, and that your church will love them and support them the entire time.


The printed workbooks found in the Your Equipping Journey™ line of resources can be used without the retreats or weekends described here. The workbooks can also be integrated with other materials. The weekends and retreats can also be used separately.

The only exception is The Touching Hearts Weekend and Touching Hearts Workbook. These two resources should be used together because of the weekend information printed in the front of the guidebook.


In the interest of your church’s success with cell-based discipleship, we’d like to share our findings concerning discipleship in those churches that struggle with cell groups:

1) Churches who leave the discipleship process up to the individual, the mentor or the cell leader, generated far fewer qualified cell leaders than those church leaders who took a systematic, corporate approach to discipleship.

2) Churches who promoted multiple or optional discipleship tracks or for cell members had widely differing success rates in producing leaders. This created numerous problems with failing groups and damaged a blossoming cell ministry.

As you prayerfully plan an equipping system for your local church, consider the benefits of using an integrated set of “immersion” experiences, followed by carefully designed discipleship resources that work well together.

You will be far more productive in your journey if you begin rolling toward your destination with a tested vehicle than if you attempt to design a set of wheels from scratch before you experience the road ahead.


From our findings, members are usually happy to pay for the weekends/retreats upon arrival at the event; payment helps them take ownership of the material and gives them a vested interest in applying the teaching to their lives. With the small cost of the printed resources added to the overhead of each weekend, you will find that the expenses of an integrated equipping system as described here is not taxing on your church budget.

The Cell Leader Intern Weekend must be seen as an investment into your church’s future. As you begin a cell ministry, the cost will not be great because only experienced cell members will be invited to this weekend. As you grow, your cell-based financial resources will also grow. Recent statistics show that cell members tithe their time and finances far more faithfully than the typical traditional church member!


The Spiritual Formation Weekend is a custom-designed event that you must personally create and revise as needed. The basic components and outcomes have been posted on our web site and are available to view online. Take these guidelines and use them to create your own, unique weekend event. To access it now, click here.


Our office in Houston carries the resources we’ve introduced in this guide. You may order them through our toll free order line (1-800-735-5865), or check out the Backpack Bundle of Equipping Resources to buy one copy of the workbooks mentioned here at a discounted price.

We also have independent TOUCH offices and distributors around the world who have translated our resources into many languages. Just check this page for links to resource centers in Brazil, Hong Kong, South Africa, England, Australia, South Korea, Russia and India.


We’re here for you! Just call our pastor’s consultation hotline at 713-884-8893. One of our knowledgeable ministry representatives will be happy to answer any of your questions and direct you to the proper training and resources available for relational discipleship and cell group leader training.

For further background for equipping cell members for ministry, we'd like to recommendation that you read chapter four of The Naked Truth about Small Group Ministry by Randall Neighbour. This chapter will help lay a foundation for understanding mentoring relationships and will explain the principles of an effective equipping system. It clearly illustrates how various churches around the world have developed equipping and leadership training systems that work.