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How long should people stay for refreshments after the cell ends?

Spring, 2007

by Joel Comiskey

We lead a cell group in our own home. We’ve done it for years. Even though our cell does rotate from house to house once in a while, the bulk of the time we have the cell in our own house. Our cell starts at 6 p.m. and ends at 7:30 p.m. We then have great food and fellowship for an additional 1-1.5 hours. Yet, after that additional refreshment time, I’m ready to call it quits. Lots of clean-up awaits me. Kids have to get ready and go to bed. I have work to do.

Most of us have had the experience in church when the lights flick on and off. It’s an indicator that it’s time to get going. The janitor wants to go home. That’s not so easy in your own house!

I’ve found that some people just don’t get the hint when the host is ready to close the door after the refreshment time. Some cell members are just overjoyed with the rich fellowship. They can’t get enough of it. Community is sweet. For some, the cell is their family. Others are naturally very chatty and relational and become sooooo comfortable they don’t want to leave. A while ago, one of our cell families would just start warming up about 9 p.m.And this family had six kids! And if you’re a host that wants to draw some boundaries, it’s easy to feel guilty. “Aren’t true cell people the type that hang out until midnight?” you might tell yourself.

Most of us would be in agreement that the actual cell should last for approx. 1.5 hours. Yet, the length of the refreshment time AFTER the normal cell varies widely. You’ll have to live within your own comfort level. My inward boundary is between 1-1.5 hours of refreshment time after the cell ends. At that time, I’m ready to shut down, clean up, and prepare for the next day.

How do you subtely let people know you’ve reached your boundary? Here are a few suggestions to let others know it’s time to close shop:

  1. Just tell them plainly at the beginning or end of the cell what you’re boundaries are.
  2. Give your own family a private 5-10 minute warning, so they can start saying the good-byes.
  3. Start emptying the trash and cleaning the kitchen as a sign that you’re ready to close down shop.

To be honest, this is more of an internal struggle for me. That is, my wife and kids would love for everyone to stay as LONG as possible.

A little background: We have a normal family cell on Sunday night at 6 p.m. My daugher, Nicole (12 years old) is present with other kids during the Word and Worship time, but then she leads the kid’s in a separate cell for the Word and Witness time. My youngest daughter, Chelsea, is part of that, as are various friends of the church (we look at Nicole as a cell leader because she’s been trained and been coached like all the rest of the cell leaders, and thus we call it a children’s cell).

Because her friends hang out with the adults after the cell, she wants them to stay as long as possible! The other reality is that my wife, Celyce, gets high when people are around. She genuinely loves hanging out. Thus, as far as my family is concerned, I’m the ONLY one favoring strict GOOD-BYE boundaries. Poor Joel Comiskey! I guess I’ll have to reassert my male authoirty in the home, aye? Granted, the vast majority of the time, everyone is gone from our cell 1.5 hours after the cell ends, but I personally would prefer if everyone was gone one hour after the normal cell ended.

This issue is a very real one for me, and I have appreciated all your advice and comments. Jim Egli mentioned the ideal of having a different host home, and I do love it when we host the cell in other homes because then I can leave when I want–which is normally one hour after the normal cell ends.