How to launch cells successfully


While this isn't the only thing you should read before you start your first group, it may be the most important information about cell ministry you will find. This advice comes from watching pastors do it wrong and mess it up. Success doesn't teach much, but failure teaches all the lessons we remember for life, right? We want you to succeed, so here's what we've learned from the failure of others as well as the successful churches...

Think organism, not organization
Pastors who launch highly successful cell groups in their churches do not view cell ministry as just another program that runs along side all the other programs in their church. It's a completely new way of life that must be entered into slowly. Moreover, it must grow slowly and take on a life of its own for it to become a permanent new way of life for the members of the group and your church. For this reason, one must abandon any plans to launch groups that are characterized by:

• Gathering interested couples who are interestd in leading a group when you should be gathering people who would make good cell members.

• Training leaders and planning a church-wide "roll out" date for group formation. A far better way of guaranteeing success is to form one group, achieve what you want future groups to achieve, and then expand that group into two or three at the most to keep the DNA of group life strong and the group healthy.

Launching a bunch of groups at once does not create critical mass for a transition to cell groups. It creates a critical mess! If you don't want to launch a sickle cell ministry, do not programmically launch cell groups in the way you have done in the past with other intiatives or new programs.

Success begins with YOU, the lead pastor
Love your church members enough to be the first leader of the first experimental group. Prioritize relationships with the other members of the group, ask them to serve you, selflessly serve them, get to know their unchurched friends in social settings (vs. inviting them to a church service to meet you), and lead the first group the way you want every leader to lead a group.

If you don't have the time, energy, or inclination to lead your first group, we do not believe you are ready for cell ministry. Your church may desperately need cell groups, but if you are not willing to show them how to do it with your time and energy, you are not where you need to be. [Over and over, pastors tell us that they failed with cell groups because they delegated this to a staff pastor and didn't own the vision by leading the church into it themselves.]

Begin with a prototype group and make it work before you attempt to replicate it.
If you launch one group that you lead, and you work at it until you get it right, you will have one healthy pattern group to replicate. The key is not to be in a hurry. Remember the story of the tortoise and the hare? Be content to be the tortoise, who wins the race every time!

Relationships take time, and relationships with lost people that result in conversions takes even longer for some Christians. Do not set a multiplication date, but do set a multiplcation mile marker as a group. One example might be:

"When we have been irreversably transformed by living in biblical community and we have won three people to Christ who have joined this group and are pursuing God with all their heart, we can launch a second group."

This statement should be created by all the members of your first group... not you alone. Feel free to create your own personal goals for that first group, but ask the members to share what they are willing to commit to doing vs. telling them what you want them to do.

Become a voracious reader and visit churches doing cells the right way.
Read everything you can get your hands on. Begin with foundational books about the relational nature of God, the centrality of Christ in a cell group, and the practical aspects of biblical community. Then, read books about how to make successful transition from programs and church building-centered ministry to cell-based ministry. Next, read up on how to be a good cell leader and then a cell group coach. You'll also need to develop a discipleship path to maturity for the first converts who come to Christ as a result of your relational evangelism efforts.

As you are reading, visit churches that are doing cells well, which is different from churches who say they have cell groups or have a high percentage of their people in small groups... you want to visit churches who have cell groups that are storming the gates of Hell and setting captives free, and doing it regularly and successfully! Should you need help finding these churches, visit the networking area of our web site and look up churches in your denomination or geographical area or contact our offices at 800-735-5865 and ask for Randall. He'll be happy to help you find a great church to visit that is doing cells well.

Our ministry is here to help you succeed with cell groups!
We've designed our free telephone support, our on-site consulting, our on-site training for leaders and groups, our resources, and this web site to ensure your success. So, enjoy the hundreds of free articles in the archives area, listen to free audio and watch video in the A/V section, or pick up the phone and call us if you need something you can't find. We are here to serve you and we're anxious to do it!

One last tip for success with cells...
Consider launching a cell ministry as if you were planting a new church inside your existing congregation. The way the members of the church plant will build the church and be the church may be completely different from the way the existing church does church.

May God richly bless you as you enter into biblical community and harness it to reach your world for Christ!

— Randall Neighbour, President, TOUCH Outreach Ministries, Inc.