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T O P I C    R E V I E W
nagibson Posted - 03/01/2005 : 10:51:26
Hi Joel,
I'm new to this arena of forming a cell ministry at my church. I have participated in cell groups at another church and God has blessed my husband and I to help our current Pastor incorporate cell groups to the church.

I have read many of your books and others regarding cell groups. However, I have not seen anything around the legal implications of cell groups activities or I guess a better question is how do I bring any legal implications to the leaders awareness? We are developing training materials for the leaders and we would like to cover any legal aspects with them during their training.

Are there any resources you can recommend for this area and if not, what are some things you could suggest that we can incorporate into our training materials?

Thank you for your time!
4   L A T E S T    R E P L I E S    (Newest First)
Joel Comiskey Posted - 04/04/2005 : 13:11:22
I said I was going to ask for advice about the legal implications. Two people responded to my request. Allow me to include here their response about this important topic:

RICK D., A CELL CHURCH PASTOR IN THE U.S. WRITES:

Hello Bro. Joel,

Prior to the recent launching of a new cell-church in the area which my wife and I recently moved to for this purpose, we learned we now reside in a county in Texas with one of the least enforced laws of registration for sexual criminals. And, as if not having ready access to a list of registered offenders isn't enough cause for concern, within the past two weeks in two adjacent counties which pride themselves on enforcing this law, two Protestant pastors were indicted for such crimes against members of their congregations!

For reasons such as these we (our leadership team) require at least two adults to be present when funtioning in any leadership role with children; especially when leading the children's portion of the Word study during cell meetings. BTW, the children in our cells participate in the other three -- Welcome, Worship & Works of cell meetings.

And while on the subject of sexual misconduct, and in response to a question recently posed of a situation where three men and one woman are the only ones present on cell-meeting... do you cancel the meeting? No, we didn't/don't cancel the meeting. Now, if a man and a woman (unless husband & wife) are the only two present on cell night, then yes, the meeting is canceled.

I have a ONCE good friend... we went to seminary together... he was raised a preacher's kid... all of his life he "knew" he was called to be a Christian counselor... went to seminary... got the education... received the degree... passed the state licensing requirements... and a year later... while employed with the Menrith-Meier Group... was indicted for sexual misconduct... confessed his guilt only after a lengthy and very costly legal battle and now sells used cars. And, I can still remember a time when his wife just couldn't understand why I would not agree to permit him to lead a cell-group! I don't know, could it have been because of the way he continually eyed women seminary students? And by the way, this man continued to teach an adult Sunday School class in a mainline denominational church for almost a year after he was indicted! Hmmm, imagine the intimacy and vulnerability (two sides of the same coin required for the existence of genuine community) present in that chu

Just a thought! ;-)




KEITH BATES, A CELL CHURCH PASTOR IN AUSTRALIA WRITES:

Hi Joel,

The legal implications obviously vary from country to country, state to state, and I think, in the US from what I've read, some city councils have regulations which limit the sorts of meetings that people can hold in their homes.

What we have done (and I'm writing from NSW in Australia) is the
following:

1. we have incorporated as a non-profit organisation.
2. we have public liability insurance
3. our church's constitution explicitly describes us as a cell church and makes participation in cells and Sunday worship a condition for membership.
4. our leadership team which is the legally designated managment committee or board of the incorprated body approves the existence and activity of cell groups and cell leaders are required to report activities to me as the pastor.
5. Specific activities which may involve higher levels of risk are approved as official activities of the church by the leadership team.
6. State legislation in NSW and other Australian states requires that people who may have unsupervised access to children should have a "Working with Children" check. We require our cell leaders to sign the required declarations. Obviously this s a big issue for churches and legislation varies across jurisdictions so it's important to find out what applies where you are.
7. We also have a safety policy manual which applies to our church building, but we also try to build into our leaders a safety and "due care" consciousness in all our leaders.

Rather than having a "training programme" we try to develop an awareness of issues and make sure that that awareness is carried into every part of church life.

I'm not a lawyer and we've neverhad a claim against us, so I can't say whether we are bullet-proof or not. But we try to follow all necessary legal requirements plus the recommendations of our insurance company.

BTW I'm told that NSW is now the most litigious state in the world, evn out-stripping California! Our insurance company tols us a few years back that one church in seven is sued in any year in Australia and that churches are seen by litigants and lawyers as "soft targets."



Joel Comiskey
www.comiskey.org
Joel Comiskey Posted - 03/18/2005 : 20:25:48
Randall, thanks for your solid, common sense advice here. It reminded me to think twice about who leads children and where they lead (I'm a strong proponent of younger kids leading cells). And yes, the cell is not a counseling time. Those are two important areas. DOES ANYONE ELSE OUT THERE HAVE legal insight with regard to the cell? Perhaps I've been na´ve NOT to give this much attention.

ON THE OTHER HAND, why should we set a LEGAL boundary around it? If a non-Christian invites people over for a party, is that person legally responsible for all that goes on in his or her house? To what extent is a church responsible for all gatherings that take place outside the four walls (going to a yankee game as a church group, etc.).

I would think that a pure house church might have more legal worry, but again, I just don't know and this question is a GREAT ONE. Comments?

Joel Comiskey
www.comiskey.org
touchadmin Posted - 03/17/2005 : 16:55:04
I'll throw my two bits in here on this thread...

It must be made plain to new folks that the cell group is a non-counseling type of group that offers prayer support for individuals needing ministry, and where the group's main goal is to build the kingdom of God.

Another legal issue is that of caring for children in a cell group environment... I never allow young boys (10-12 years) to watch small kids alone as this is the primary age where they are inquisitive about sexuality. For that matter, we don't allow anyone to work with the children alone, just to keep it safe for the children and the adults, who could possibly be accused of something they did not do.

Hope this helps!

Randall Neighbour
Forum Administrator
Joel Comiskey Posted - 03/15/2005 : 22:58:23
Hi there,

You've hit on an important topic--LEGAL IMPLICATIONS. When I train cell leaders I tell them that if they are in a meeting and someone asks them a question beyond their capacity to answer, the best thing to do is simply say I DON'T KNOW. Well, I find myself right now in a similar situation. I DON'T KNOW. With regard to the LEGAL IMPLICATIONS of leading a cell group, I'm not really sure what to tell you. Thus, I would invite ANYONE READING THIS POST TO PLEASE TRY TO ANSWER THIS QUESTION ABOUT LEGAL IMPLICATIONS AND LEADING A CELL GROUP. And I'll try to talk with someone who I think might know the answer. When I find out more, I'll post it here. Bless you,

Joel

Joel Comiskey
www.comiskey.org

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