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rmgoldsby Posted - 04/13/2006 : 14:08:09
Joel and all.

I remember reading about a facility use layout recommended for cell churches. I believe it was in one of Joel's books but can't remember which one. My recollection was that the primary entrance of the facility reflected the cell church commitment by having the various "zone offices" visible and accessible even when people come to the celebration service.

We are beginning a building project and will need to finalize our overall layout with the architect soon. Any suggestions?

Joel, was it you who recommended this in one of your books?


Bob Goldsby
Vancouver, Washington
1   L A T E S T    R E P L I E S    (Newest First)
Joel Comiskey Posted - 04/17/2006 : 18:10:58
Hi Bob, great question! Allow me to refer you to REAP the HARVEST where I’ve written a bit about this. In fact, I’ll include the little I’ve written here:


I’m amazed at the time and care my wife Celyce takes to prepare the atmosphere of our home. I noticed it especially during this last move. She spent days improving the atmosphere of the living room. I had to answer questions such as: “What color clothe should we choose for our new furniture?” “Do you think this flower arrangement would look better on this wall or over by the fire place?” She consumed many hours making flower ornaments for each wall. I realized afresh that decorating the house is a priority for my wife because its an extension of her personality, of her character. My wife desires that visitors will feel warmth and love when they enter our house. Celyce will tell you that physical appearance does matter.

Physical appearance matters in the cell church as well. You will reflect your priorities in the cell church by what people see when they enter your building. You might argue, “We’re a spiritual church, the physical appearance doesn’t matter.” Granted, the life of a cell church is not its physical appearance, its organizational chart, or budget. Throughout this book, I’ve been touting the environment of the home as a key to cell church effectiveness. But remember, this book is not just about the cell groups; it’s about cell church system. My argument is that successful cell churches possess strong cell systems. They’ve learned to dig deep a lay a lasting foundation.

Take ancient Israel, for example. God called them to physically take possession of the land to demonstrate their holy calling as God’s chosen people. God not only promised that they would be His people, he also promised to give them a specific land. The identity of God’s people centered around God Himself, but secondarily it related to the land of Palestine.

In a similar way, cell churches lay claim to who they are by their physical structure. After all, if cell ministry is important, it will be reflected in the office structure, the organizational chart, the publicity in the church, and the budget. Cell churches organize themselves to place cell at the center of their work and ministry. Look at it on a positive note. As a cell church, you have the opportunity to make a continual statement to those entering your building that cell ministry is at the heart of your church.

Office Structure
Your cell offices make a public, ongoing statement to whoever should enter your church that yes indeed, you are a cell church. Without uttering a word, the offices declare “We have made a commitment to follow this path. If you want to join our church and receive pastoral care, you’ll have to become part of our cell church philosophy.” We’ve heard over and over that changes take time. Transitioning to the cell model will takes longer than you think or expect. New paradigms—like the cell church—only gradually dawn on people. This is where physical structures—like cell offices—help. When a person sees the new structural changes, there is a gradual realization concerning the shift of philosophy.

Granted, office space will do little unless the church also reorganizes pastoral staff to supervise cell groups. Dynamic cell churches start by reorganizing their pastoral staff. But don’t stop with the staff. Make a public proclamation in the physical structure of your church that you are indeed a cell church.

You’re staff needs to have adequate facilities to counsel cell members, train new leaders, plan visitation, submit statistics, prepare cell lessons, and make phone calls. Most cell offices that I’ve visited are literally buzzing with excitement.

Learn from Others

I’ve had the privilege of visiting the cell offices of the largest cell churches in the world. In most of these cell churches, when you walk into the church, you’ll notice an office structure that makes it clear that small groups form the base of the church. I learned to love those cell churches that physically structured themselves for the task. These churches also maintained an advantage. There was no question concerning their priorities.

Yoido Full Gospel Church, under the leadership of Pastor David Cho, pioneered the cell church office structure. Huge district offices ring around the main sanctuary. Maps dot each district office, clearly showing the district goals and organization. Desks for each sub-district pastor form a rectangle around the room. The district pastor’s desk appears at the head of the rectangle. On Sunday, I noticed that sub-district pastors sit at their desks--ready to counsel needy members or perhaps encourage cell leaders to reach their goals.

The cells offices at the Elim Church in San Salvador form a ring around the main sanctuary. The first thing you see when you enter the church are the cell offices. Does someone need counseling at Elim? They simply go to their particular geographical district office. These district offices are open around the clock on Sunday and throughout the week. Cell leaders carry their reports to the district offices on Sunday, and actually wait in line because of the multitude of cell leaders turning in their reports.

The cell offices at Faith Community Baptist reminded me of a Fortune 500 company. When you enter these offices, you get the feel that you’ve entered a highly organized enterprise that is buzzing with activity and excitement. Everything has its place. Every wall hanging says something. Graphs, charts, and goals explode from every cubicle. The cell offices at FCBC are active continually. Suffice it to say, I was impressed. So was Larry Stockstill. When he first visited the FCBC cell offices, he described them as “a military strategy room in the Pentagon.” He wondered “Why have I never seen a ‘District Office’ in America? Could this serve as a spiritual ‘Command Post’ where the invisible cell structure could become visible and cell leaders could find their ‘address’ in the church[i]

Now you can see a “district office” in America. God worked through Larry Stockstill to establish a command post in North America. When I visited the district offices (Touch Center) at Bethany World Prayer Center, I felt the distinct impression that I was in the strategic hub, the nerve center of the church. All vital cell planning, counseling, mapping, and general preparation takes place in those offices—even a mailbox for every cell leader! The beauty of the cell offices at BWPC is that the “invisible cell structure has become visible.” It doesn’t take long to comprehend the priority of cell ministry.

Where to Start

“We’re just starting our transition?” you might say. “We’re not ready to build huge offices.” Maybe the above examples made you feel inadequate. My advice is to start by using what you have. Maybe you only have one extra office designated for youth ministries. Start by making it a cell office. Hang a sign outside the door that indicates your new cell focus:

Youth Cells

Director John Smith

At the Republic Church, we’ve been transitioning from a church with cells to a cell church since August 1997. On of the first changes was to hire a full-time secretary of cell ministry. We then redesigned the existing offices with new signs indicating our cell focus. We hung large maps on each office wall pinpointing the cells under each homogenous area. We posted pictures of our cell leaders, as well as the time and place of their cell meetings. Again, the physical changes planted a flag in the church. It said, “We are a cell church. Get used to it.”

When you’re transitioning to the cell church, pay attention to details. Little items often determine success or failure. The small details help position your cell church philosophy before the church members and community-at-large.

“Don’t keep on talking about cell ministry,” one pastor told me. “The people will get tired of it.” Have you heard common arguments like these? Don’t listen to these arguments. Don’t allow such negativism to influence your commitment to proclaim, publicize, and market your cell church philosophy.

Those who understand the place of vision in the church will tell you that you can’t proclaim your vision enough. No way. It needs to be repeated at every opportunity. I agree with George Barna when he says in his book The Power of Vision: “Those leaders who have been most successful contend that you must take advantage of all opportunities, at all times, to share the vision.”[ii] Our vision statement at the the Republic Church is: Quito al Encuentro con Dios a través de una Iglesia Celular” (that Quito would have an encounter with God through a cell church). We proclaim this truth at every opportunity.

The Bulletin

In the normal church bulletin, there is a place for everything. Jody’s bake sale receives prime time attention. Then you have the men’s special outing brightly pasted on the inside cover. Is there a theme? Probably not. It boils down to a hodgepodge of activity scattered throughout the bulletin. Who decides what announcement receives top priority? Probably the church secretary or perhaps the senior pastor plays an important role.

In my former church, the weekly bulletin presented the cell ministry as one program among many. I wrestled hard to assure that something about cells appeared each week, but a plethora of programs always appeared alongside. The congregation realized that attending a cell group was one option—but certainly not the most important. One Sunday, the latest Evangelism program is given full attention; the next Sunday, the women’s ministry vies for a central place.

Should the bulletin in the cell church be different? I’m convinced that the bulletin holds a central place in freezing the cell church changes. At the Republic Church, for example, we dedicate the entire inside part of the bulletin to cell ministry. We highlight one zone each week and every eighth week, we show the entire organizational chart to give people the big picture and to show the new cells. All cell announcements are placed within the inside cover as well. We place all other church announcements on the back of the bulletin. We feel that even the bulletin should reflect our commitment to make cells the heart of our church. It doesn’t take long for those visiting to capture the heartbeat of our church.

The Announcements

Most churches make time for announcements. You might attach them to the end of the service or before the preaching. Does it make a difference which announcements receive priority? I believe so. In the cell church, all activity is organized around cell ministry.

At the Republic Church, with 100+ cells and nearly 1000 people attending, cell ministry is our primary activity. Why shouldn’t it be our primary announcement? We ask one of the seven directors to present their area each week (in rotation). Perhaps a member received healing within the cell group. Why not share it with the entire church? Perhaps three new groups will open the next week. Why not present them before the entire church? Again, the cell ministry presence is constantly highlighted. What does this accomplish? The entire congregation begins to perceive that all pastoring, counseling, training, discipleship comes through cell ministry.

Those attending the Sunday celebration need to realize that the primary services of the church are offered through the cell system. If they want to tap into those resources they must start attending a cell group. In the cell church, attendance in a cell group and the celebration service go hand-in-hand—no exceptions.

Banners and Wall Hangings

When you walk into the sanctuary of the International Charismatic Mission, the first thing you’ll notice is the huge banner hang on the wall behind he pulpit. These gigantic banner declare how many new cells ICM plans to launch by the end of the year. The goal isn’t church membership, baptism, or even attendance. The goal is how many cell groups! An even larger banner hangs down from the wall at the Living Water Church. This banner says, "Cell Ministry: Our Method of Reaching Perú with the Gospel.” The Christian Center in Guayaquil Ecuador makes similar statements.

In these churches, it doesn’t take long before you discern the church’s philosophy of ministry. If you’re a visitor and opposed to cell ministry, you’ll know immediately that you need to keep searching. The banner, wall hangings, bulletin boards, declare the cell philosophy to newcomers and remind the faithful of the primary focus.

What about your bulletin boards? Can you paste the pictures of the latest cell retreat, the latest statistics and graphs of the cell group growth, or your leadership training system.

Do the same with your cell maps. We constructed a large map at the entryway of the church indicating all of the cells throughout the city. When we enlarged our sanctuary, we decided to place that map in the front, so the entire congregation would see it throughout the service. Some objected, “It’s not practical there because people won’t naturally approach it in front.” On one hand, they were right. But they missed the larger point. This huge cell map listing all the cell groups throughout the city declared throughout the service: “We are a cell church.” To the newcomer it declared: “Join a cell group.”

The cell church is a growing, expanding church. The new people as well as the traditionalists need to grow in the understanding that cell ministry is central in the church. Call it marketing if you like. Really, it’s just common sense. Remember that it’s not easy to transition your church from the traditional model to the cell model. People are accustomed to their old ways and habits. They must be reminded of your cell church focus by what they see.

Organizational Chart
An organization chart says a lot about a church’s priorities. As you transition to the cell church philosophy, be careful as you form your organizational chart. Is your cell ministry at the center of your ministry? Can everyone see it by the organizational chart?

One of the most innovative cell churches that I studied had an organizational chart that betrayed its clear focus—cell ministry. Cells were truly the base of this church. No one could join another ministry nor be a member without active involvement in a cell. The multiplication, the commitment, the pastoring, etc impressed me. But when I looked at the organizational chart of this church, I was troubled. Cells, the heart of this church, were sidelined to one ministry among many according to the organizational chart. Five or six additional categories appeared on the same level as cell ministry.

Were these other ministries not important? No. But instead of feeding the cell ministry they were considered separate programs within the church. Yes, they were important but certainly not central. This organizational chart placed the head pastor at the top, the two co-pastors underneath, and the various directors of counseling, worship, children’s ministry, and cell director on the same level underneath the pastors.


Their organizational chart confused me because cell ministry was truly the base of this church. All other ministries served the cell ministry. I felt their organizational chart should have manifested this reality.

Before making the organizational chart, ask yourself the question: Are small groups just one of the many ministries? Do staff members have their own individual departmental ministries apart from cells? Does the senior pastor lead the cell ministry truly lead the cell ministry? What is the connection of additional ministries to the cell structure? (children’s ministry, counseling, etc.) The important question is: How does it relate to cell ministry?

When you draw up your organizational chart, make sure that your cell categories (geographical or homogenous areas) appear directly under the senior pastor. Make sure that your organizational chart clearly demonstrates that nothing else competes with your cell-based structure. This organizational chart at the Republic Church appears in our bulletin every two months:


To be honest, I’m not satisfied with the word “zone.” We’re organized homogeneously as opposed to geographically. Geography only helped us initially to decide under which director we’d place the existing cells. But the above organizational chart does clarify the centrality of cell ministry.

Budgeting for the Cell Church

“Put your money where your mouth is.” This well-used saying applies to your cell church. If you’re a cell church or transitioning to become one, your budget should reflect this reality. What kind of things will you need to budget money for? It might be helpful to include the budget that I proposed for my zone in 1998:



1. Books to for the cell library: $500.00

2. Cell accessories: $550.00

Bulletin Boards
Presents to recognize successful cell leaders
3. Copies of cell lessons and other cell materials for cell leaders -$100.00


1. Trips to the cell conference Guayaquil (The Christian Center)

Leaders:: Scholarship for these conferences: $100.00
Leaders: Trips to other cell conferences for special training: $100.00
2. Two trips to the International Charismatic Mission: $450.00

One trip with the senior pastor
One trip with the pastor of cells for young people
3. Retreats

For new cell leaders (two before November, 1998)
For new members (three before November, 1998
Cost: $50.00


1. Cell leader dinner in December

2. Retreat for the entire church

I don’t include the above budget because it’s so well done. Surely, you could make a more professional one. I simply include it to give you an idea of cell priorities. A budget reflects one’s priorities.

We spent money on what’s important to us. If your board, for example, balks at spending money on cell ministry, it reflects their true priority. This happened during the early days at the Republic Church. I was hard pressed to obtain money for some of our most basic cell considerations. I had to talk directly to our administrator and certain board members. “If we’re a cell church, there shouldn’t be any hesitancy to spend the money on these items. Where we spend our money should reflect our priorities, ” I told them. Our administrator is now one of those most convinced of the cell church philosophy.

Offerings Taken in the Cell Meeting
The general theme of this chapter is fine-tuning for growth. Many cell churches take offerings in each cell. In fact six out of the eight cell churches in this study took offering every cell meeting.[iii] The offerings benefited the church and in some cases the cells themselves were allowed to spend some of the money.

For these six cell churches, taking offerings helped give the cell a sense of responsibility. Treasurers were appointed in each cell to take the money to the church. These treasurers faithfully brought the money to church on Sunday morning. At Elim Church, I stood amazed at the orderliness and first-class organization of this church. Each leader brings the offering taken in the cell meeting and drops it in the slot. Trained staff counts the thousands of envelopes throughout the day. I experienced a complete paradigm.

Not once did I sense a pleading for money during the cell offerings. Rather, it worked as a vehicle to connect the cell focus with the celebration focus. These cells weren’t simply isolated units—or house churches. Week after week people, rather, the cell members also attended the celebration service and the offering to the mother church reflected that commitment.

I’ve discovered that at least 60% in most cell churches attend both cell and celebration—at least 60%. This works both ways. Some who attend the cell have not yet committed to the celebration and some who attend the celebration still do not attend the cell. Many cell churches feel that those 40% who have yet to attend the church should be given the opportunity to contribute to the needs of the church. After all, they’re benefiting directly from the cell group. To those who are still in the process, the cell group is their church.

Not every cell church will take offerings within the cell. Bethany Prayer Center forbids all financial dealings in the cells (apart from an occasional love offering).[iv] Since seeing the positive impact of offerings in six of the eight cell churches, I’m more than open to the idea. Each church needs to decide according to your own needs and context.


Remember that as you transition into the cell church, details matter. Fine-tuning your church for growth means paying attention to the physical structure of your church. Powerful cell systems feed healthy cells. Not the other way around. If you want to start well and have an ample chance of success, think seriously about how you present your cell ministry to the rest of the church.


Joel Comiskey

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