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Staffing in the Cell Church

by Joel Comiskey

Winter 2008

I have the privilege of coaching pastors of churches from various sizes and different places in the cell journey. One church I’m coaching is in the single cell stage, has no celebration, and is preparing to multiply into two cells. Another church has 650, meets weekly in celebration and is transitioning to the cell church strategy.

Another church I’m coaching is right in-between. It started as a cell church, lost focus along the way, and asked me to coach them to retool and refocus. This church of 300 has approximately twenty cell groups and recently asked for counsel about hiring new staff. The pastor asked:

“How important is it to add a full time pastoral staff position to take the load off me, versus adding a part time person?” (one of his administrative team members insisted they hire a fulltime person, while others were open to either option).

I gave my opinion, but I told him that I would seek outside counsel. I asked Steve Cordle what he thought. As the founder of a church that now has 70 cells and 1200 worship attendance on 2 campuses, I knew Steve had loads of advice and experience.

Steve wrote saying, “Part-time people are preferable in my book: they often work well beyond their expected hours, and you can get two part-time for less than the cost of a full-time. Quite often they will produce more. The part-time role allows you to see how a person is doing before moving to a full-time role.”

The pastor of the church of 300 then asked, “Should I get an experienced fulltime pastor from outside who could lift stuff off my shoulders or hire someone from within, who might have less experience but who shares our vision and values.”

Steve Cordle replied, “If you stay focused on cell and celebration you won’t have to chase too many other things as you keep executing the ministry of the church through the cells. Hiring a part-time cell person sounds good, but hiring a part-time cell pastor from within is to be preferred. You know them, they know you, there is little danger of philosophical difference, and it models ministry advancement to the rest of the church. Make sure the person you hire has multiplied a cell and has the ability to influence others. The beauty of hiring from within is that you can see this in your own context before hiring. If there is no one suitable from within to hire and you hire from the outside, only hire someone who has done it already. Many can talk about cell ministry with conviction, fewer do it well. Make sure you set very clear expectations of their role: that the result of their ministry to measured in the number of healthy cells, and the adult discipleship is directly related to the cell ministry.”

I asked Rob Campbell the same question, and we talked over the phone. While Rob was talking, I took notes. Here are my notes that I sent to this pastor of 300:

Rob would recommend part time. One of the key strengths of parttime people is they can keep marketplace jobs and stay connected to people.

Cypress Creek hired four men and they give us 10 hours per week. they help us coach our cell leaders.

Rob believs that part time are just as effective as fulltime, even though they’re only working 20 hours per week (it’s six time cheaper to hire part time and doesn’t require medical).

Rob believes it’s counter-productive to pluck people from the market place to place them in the cocoon of the church.