Worldwide Cell Churches
Children and Youth in Cell Groups
by Joel Comiskey
Many intergenerational/family small groups allow children to stay in the small group during worship, but they then leave during the Word time for their own small-group lesson. Children often bless the small group with simplicity and clarity and remind adults that worship is not complicated. In my opinion, children super-charge the small-group atmosphere during times of praise and worship.
Some people think that children are a distraction, but I’ve found that just the opposite is true. Children reflect Christ’s nature and often draw others into His presence. And the side benefit is that children grow through watching their parents worship in a small, loving environment. At times, I like to stop and ask the children to pray or remind them of the words of the song.
My children lead worship in my family cell on Sunday evening–Nicole plays guitar and Chelsea plays drums. They not only bless the adults through their worship but they also grow in their musical talents. Children are a great blessing to cell ministry!
One pastor I’m coaching recently wrote, ”We have no idea what to do with the children in the adult cell groups. Do you have any advice? The following is the gist of the answer that I gave him:
If you’re referring to children in the cell, I think it’s great for young adolescents to lead children’s cells. This gives them something to do and prepares them to be disciples. My oldest daughter, Sarah (16), has led cells for years. My second born, Nicole (13), is leading a cell right now. My youngest, Chelsea (11), is the associate of Nicole’s cell. The cells that my daughters lead are connected with normal cell groups that have children present. Ideally, the parents can help prepare adolescent cell leaders with the cell lessons, thus, making discipleship a home-grown process.
I recommend that the children/adolescents stay with the adults for the ice-breaker and the worship time, and then they leave to do their own cell lesson. Normally, the kids will come back and share what they learned. Last night, for example, the children’s cell presented a paper chain they created with different names of sins they had confessed to each other during the cell group. The idea was to then to break the chain, signifying Christ breaking our bondage and freeing us from sin (they will get together today to actually break the paper chain).
The second part of the pastor’s question referred to youth cells. I told him, “I have quite a complete article on youth cells at http://www.joelcomiskeygroup.com/articles/churchLeaders/YouthCells.htm.”
Brian Kannel, associate pastor at York Alliance said, " we have seen GREAT results by moving teens to inter-generational groups without their parents, and then treating them as a “normal” member of the cell. We typically group them in 3’s or 4’s so they aren’t the only teen in the group. Obviously, transportation can be a challenge, but the group usually comes around them to make them work. There are several good things within this:
* Teens are more willing to open up without their parents, typically, so it keeps them connected to the group.
* Other adults build relationships with them, which gives them additional (and usually very complimentary) perspectives from their parents.
* It makes a natural care structure for them when they transition into college and back home after college, as well as helping the transition to the church as a whole.
* It doesn’t force them into a “children’s ministry” role in the church, but allows them to exercise their natural and spiritual giftings. We have teens as young as 12 or 13 who lead facilitation, lead worship, lead Oikos prayer, and of course, lead Kidslot. They become a natural part of the life of the group.
* Finally, and maybe most importantly, it gives them a foundation for their own faith. We tend to think of it in terms of the Hebrew “Bar-Mitzvah” age (which we’ve also begun to do for many students within the church - that’s another story for another time) - at about 12 or 13, they leave the confines of their parent’s group and begin their own faith journey. As they begin to put words to their faith, done in the midst of the community of course, they begin to work out what they really believe and why. We see huge struggles during this time that likely wouldn’t have emerged until college or well after, mainly because they are able to freely test their faith and the words that support it. There’s a ton more to say about this, but we’ve found it to be an incredible blessing. Of course, we only do this when the teen and the parents are OK with it. Some stay in their parent’s group longer than others. But we’ve found it to be a GREAT alternative to teen cells.