Starting Youth Cells

by Ted Stump

So you'd like to know more about Student-Led Cell Groups? In a nutshell, they're small group settings where students reach out to their friends with the love and truth of Jesus Christ. In a typical small group setting you can expect fun and food, a time to go through some study material covering the Bible and issues that students face, and prayer.

I remember reading a post in the old forum from a student who obviously didn't understand what student-led cell groups were. No, they're not a cult, not some strange club or clique that requires strange initiations to become a part of. They are simply this-students getting together to study cool things in the Bible that are relevant and true, to pray for each other and for their schools, communities or the world around them, and to build solid relationships with others their age.

STUDENT-LED CELL GROUPS - Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Student-Led Cell Group?

A student-led cell group is a group of three to fifteen students from different backgrounds who share a common bond: they meet together for prayer, edification and evangelism.

What is the format of a Student-Led Outreach Cell Group?

Students invite their peers to meet with them in different homes each week or every other week. Cell groups range in size from three to fifteen students. A cell group meeting lasts about 90 minutes. The format of the meeting is similar to that which follows:

  • Food (15 minutes). This allows the students to connect, relax and get some chitchat out of the way.
  • Ice Breaker (10 Minutes). This draws the group together, especially if there are visitors present. It also helps the leader discover the group's emotional condition.
  • Vision Statement (5 minutes). Each week several key points are shared to further the vision of the cell group and inform any newcomers about what they can expect from the group.
  • Cell Topic (45 minutes). Discussion of the meeting topic.
  • Gospel presentation, ministry time & prayer (15 minutes).

How do you develop & train student & adult leaders?

We develop student and adult leaders in the context of a leadership cell. Student leaders and their adult mentors gather weekly in the youth worker's home. The format is different than an outreach cell:

  • Food
  • Ice Breaker. Much more in-depth, vulnerable and revealing. Usually using probing questions. This is the time when people get honest about their walks.
  • Worship (20-30 minutes).
  • Message. A hard-hitting message with a two-fold purpose:
    • To further disciple student leaders;
    • To apply scripture to the student's weekly ministry in the outreach cell.
  • Break
  • Cell equipping/strategizing. Access current ministry, work through any question and concerns. Further training.

The cell-group model has built-in intimacy because the kids there are already acquainted with each other and care about each other. It's student-led, which commands greater commitment among members. And here's the real key. Adults will never have the passion to reach and care for teens that teens themselves already posses. There will never be enough adult leaders or volunteers to reach multitudes of kids. But there are enough students to reach their friends-if they can be trained, equipped, and discipled.

Cell-group youth ministries have been springing up all over the globe. There's a youth ministry in Bogata, Columbia-the cocaine capitol of the world-that has over 10,000 youth in student cell groups. (And there are only two full time youth workers!) I met one of their cell leaders, a 17-year-old girl. Speaking through an interpreter, she said that in four years her cell had multiplied 18 times. While on a recent trip to South Africa, I met a 22-year-old youth worker who has more than 75 youth cells in his ministry.

I envision the day when like-minded youth workers strategically link cities together to organize and mobilize their students to evangelize their peers through student led cell groups. When you see 15 year-old kids do it all-receive training, guide the cell group, make mistakes, labor over their lost friends in prayer, line up transportation to the meetings, and lead their friends to Jesus-you will never be the same.

For more information on student-led cell groups, try Youth Cells and Youth Ministry by Brian Sauder and Sarah Mohler, Face to Face by Ted Stump, and Student-Led Cell Groups by Ted Stump.