Open vs. closed groups


by Steve Cordle

Recently a new member to our church responded to our open, outreach-oriented group philosophy by asking “Didn’t Jesus have a closed group?” Our new friend had been part of a thriving church in another state that had used the closed small group approach. The thinking there is that authentic community will be hard to acheive if new people are always joining the group.

It’s a great question! My answer is that, yes, Jesus had a closed group of 12. However, we would say that Jesus’ closed group equated to the coaching group, not the open cell.

Like most cell churches, we use both open cell and coaching group (or G-12, or 5×5 meeting in other churches). The coaching group is made up of a leader who has birthed groups and is now working with those leaders. It is a training and discipling environment, rather like the one Jesus had with his 12. The open cell is the basic expression of the church, and as such it must be open. It is where the purposes of the church are lived out. To close it is to close off the church and shut down the evangelistic culture of the church.

Additionally, I recently heard Jim Egli share that his research shows that open groups actually experience a higher level of community than do closed groups. It seems counter-intuitive, but that’s what he found (watch for the info to appear in a book this Fall)

So we need not fear that by using open groups we are deviating from Jesus’ model. If we are coaching leaders in a group format we are using his model! And we need not fear that we are “watering down” the sense of community people can experience, we are actually increasing it while accomplishing the purposes of God for His people.

Circle Up (Part Two)

by Rob Campbell

In my post last week, I wrote about a circular versus a linear equipping track for a cell church.  A few in this blog community wanted me to comment more on this idea.  So, here we go.

Last week, I wrote:  “When you provide to your (potential) leaders a circular training experience, then you are joining them in their real life journey.  You are coming alongside them in a practical, reasonable and workable manner.  You are acknowledging that they have a life that may not always mesh with the calendar of the church.”

A circular equipping track is not step by step (or linear).  For example, one key ingredient in my church family’s equipping track is the Encounter weekend.  Currently, we offer this retreat once a year (maybe twice a year).  For illustrative purposes, let’s say the next Encounter retreat is in October.  Yet, in August (two months prior to the Encounter retreat) we want to equip our potential leaders in “Developing a Heart for the Harvest.”  Back in the day, we required our potential leaders to attend Encounter and then enroll in “Developing a Heart for the Harvest.”  This was a mistake.  The pastoral team helped me see:  “While we desire to equip our people, life is happening.”  We needed to shift from a linear training mindset to a circular mindset.    In simplest terms, precise order– step 1, step 2, step 3 must be relinquished; therefore, a potential leader can attend any equipping event that is currently being offered.  It’s CIRCULAR!

I’ll be the first to confess that it’s not always tidy and may even seem illogical.  Yet, this circular equipping track is pliable, flexible and fluid.

Further, the tools that you use to equip potential leaders are important, but not the main thing in equipping.  Forging and deepening relationship through the equipping tools that you utilize is the main thing. 




The Cell Driven Strategy

JOELI coined the term “the cell-driven strategy” to conceptualize the need to make cell ministry the driving force of church life, rather than an extrapriorities ministry or program. I noticed so many pastors consumed with Sunday celebration services to the point that they lost their concentration on cell ministry. Take Pastor Mark, for example. As I coached him over the months, I found that he naturally spent more time trying to attract people to the Sunday celebration service. He focused on sermon preparation, visiting, and dreaming of a crowd on Sunday. Cell ministry received leftover attention. When I challenged him on this, he acknowledged that he got a high from the Sunday crowd and didn’t get that same excitement from cell ministry.

This problem is not only on a pastoral level. I recently talked to someone who confessed to me that she loved the idea of cell ministry but simply didn’t have the time for it. She volunteered for children’s ministry in her church and had to make a concerted effort to go to a worship service to receive teaching. She just didn’t have time to attend one of her church’s home groups. Most church people follow a similar paradigm–involvement in a cell group is “extra.”

I”m asking this question because here at Wellspring we’ve been talking about moving to weekly celebration services. This has alwasy been our goal but as the cells grew stronger and more people were gathered. Currently we meet weekly in cell groups and prayer meetings but all the cells celebrate together once per month on Sunday and once per month during the Saturday half-night prayer meeting. Our current schedule assures that the cells drive all we do as a church.

What would you recommend to help us prioritize cell ministry? For you who have both weekly cell and celebration, what do you do to prioritize cell life and to keep it from simply becoming one of the many options?
Joel Comiskey

Training for Cell Ministry

marioby Mario Vega

At the beginning of our work with cells, training new leaders was fast. Our training course was only four sessions long. Every four weeks we had a new leader’s graduation.

One of the advantages of having such a short course was that it allowed the fast formation of new leaders at a time when the expansion of the trainwork required new leaders on a permanent basis.

But there were also disadvantages; such a short course could not give much information to the new leaders who began their work without having a vision of the whole cell model philosophy. Even us that were at the forefront didn’t know all the details. This would produce difficulties, mainly the “mini- service” syndrome.

At present, our training course lasts twelve weeks. I think that it’s still brief, but enough to provide the essential foundations of the cell work.

In our model we need to fill a void having a training route that could take a person from his conversion up to becoming a cell leader. We have reviewed other training courses models (Neighbour, Comiskey, Weitzs, Lay), but we feel that we need to design something that is more coupling to the Latin American reality, and specifically Salvadorian. The components must be: simplicity, practicality and dynamism.

The training course is essential for the work with small groups because it is the way for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry.

What has been your experience in this field?




Curso de capacitación.
Al inicio de nuestro trabajo con células la capacitación de los nuevos lderes se realizaba de manera rápida. Nuestro curso de entrenamiento solamente constaba de cuatro sesiones. Cada cuatro semanas tenamos una nueva promoción de lderes.
Una de las ventajas de un curso tan corto era que permita la formación de nuevos lderes de manera rápida en un momento cuando la expansión del trabajo requera de nuevos lderes de manera permanente.
Pero también haba desventajas, un curso tan corto no poda dar mucha información a los nuevos lderes que iniciaban su trabajo sin tener una visión de toda la filosofa del modelo celular. Ni siquiera los que estábamos al frente conocamos todos los detalles. Esto producira dificultades principalmente la del sndrome del ‘mini-culto’.
En la actualidad, nuestro curso de capacitación dura doce semanas. Creo que todava es breve pero lo suficiente como para brindar los fundamentos esenciales del trabajo celular.
En nuestro modelo tenemos un vaco que llenar y es el tener una ruta de capacitación que pueda llevar a una persona desde su conversión hasta hacer de ella un lder de célula. Hemos revisado otros modelos de cursos de entrenamiento (Neighbour, Comiskey, Weitzs, Lay) pero sentimos que debemos diseñar algo que se acople más a la realidad latinoamericana y, especficamente, salvadoreña. Los componentes deben ser: sencillez, dinamismo y practicidad.
El curso de capacitación es fundamental para el trabajo con grupos pequeños porque es el camino que perfecciona a los santos para la obra del ministerio. ¿Cuál ha sido su experiencia en este campo?



Don’t look for leaders


by Steve Cordle


“I can’t find anyone in my group who will become a new leader.”

It’s not an uncommon sentiment to hear: I can’t find leaders. So give up trying to find leaders. Instead, start to develop new leaders.

It might be tempting to wait for a new leader to emerge: to hope a mature believer starts coming to the group, or a volunteer suddenly steps up. But if we take that approach we might end up with the wrong person in leadership. Like Samuel choosing Saul, we might choose someone who looks good, who seems to be a leader in other contexts, but in the end, they might not lead the work of the group very well.

But as Joel says, cells can be “leader breeders”. That’s because they give us the opportunity and context to develop them.

How? First, pick the person in your group (of your gender) you think is most open to growing spirtually. Do some individual discipling with that person a set period of time. There are many ways to do 1-2 discipling. One simple way is to use Neil Cole’s Life Transformation Group approach, which features reading large portions of the scripture then answering several application/accountability qusteions each week, while praying for lost people. It is simple, requires no teaching ability, and get people into the Word.

 Then, as that person grows, start giving him/her small,specific tasks in the group ministry. Lead a prayer or ice breaker, make some calls, plan something. Just give bite-size chunks of ministry and be sure to debried them later.

As the person grows spiritually, and gets a taste of ministry, then you are in a position to formally challenge him/her to become an apprentice and do the church’s equipping track. Your percentage of “yes” responses will be much higher when asking a developed person than an undeveloped person.


Can you share some ways you develop people spiritually and practically?