500+ cells at CityLife Church. What Can We Learn?

daljitI, Joel Comiskey, want to take this opportunity to introduce an incredible cell champion. His name is Daljit Gill (left photo).  Daljit is part of the senior leadership team at CityLife church in Melbourne, Australia. He’s also a very good friend (we had a lot of fun together in 2000 when I visited the church).Mark Conner, the lead pastor, is the chief visionary for cell ministry, but Mark depends heavily on Daljit to make it work. And it certainly works. CityLife now has over 500 cells!

I asked Daljit to share some key principles behind their cell success. Please take diligent notes because Daljit touches on key principles:

How many cells does CityLife Church have?

503 Life Groups at this very present moment.

When you first came, how many were there?

At that time there were 42 groups.

What has been your position at CityLife Church?

I am the small groups champion (we call them Life Groups), but my official title is Associate Minister – Pastoral.

Does your church consider itself a cell church?

Yes, we embrace the majority of values of a cell-based church. In other words, nothing competes with cells (life groups). We are a two winged church, consisting of cells & celebration.

How does the top leadership (lead pastor Mark) promote/stay in touch  with the cell vision?

Mark is always in the ‘know’ and takes a personal interest in small groups and is totally convinced that life groups is the very heart of the church. He has never for once deviated from this and has always been totally supportive to any suggestions I have to make. He is the driver from  the platform and the vision caster –though I am the one that make things happen. His support to me is 110%!!!

Share some secrets/principles of how your church has grown so many cell groups?

1) Ensuring that cell remains a priority and not an option.

2) Constantly reminding people of the cell vision, values and purpose.

3) Making sure cell (life) groups are given precious air time during the celebration meetings.

4). Setting clear numerical and qualitative goals for the year and regularly monitoring the success.

5). Guard the nights and church calendar in the sense that we want to ensure that people attend 1 celebration service (not 2) and 1 life group meeting and that people are not pulled in all different directions.

6) Emphasis on life groups and their value in our Equipping Track.

7). Highly effective visitors & new Christian’s pastoral follow-up and to connect them to a Life group immediately (I monitor this very closely and ensure the highest level of assimilation)

8). Regular leaders summits where we affirm all our leaders, build a team spirit, vision cast, challenge, inspire and equip them.

9). Monitor the health of all our leaders.

10). Provide resources to all our leaders.

11). We even set goals on the number of leaders that each Network Pastor should raise in a year because we believe the notion  that everyone is a “potential” leader.

12). Eldership holds us accountable on the growth and progress of our life groups.

13) Celebrate BIG WINS and major milestones  in celebration meetings (eg. when we hit 400 groups I got my head shaved).

14) Keep pushing the bar upwards on Life group involvement (i.e., % of people involved in life group ).

15) To be a partner of the church you will need to be in a life group.

16). Our Team Spirit as a church and that the heroes of CityLife are our volunteers!!

What are some struggles that you face with your cell system?

1. Raising leaders & co-leaders

2. Getting those not in group to join one – there are some in this category who  feel that their world is already too busy.

3. Keeping the LG leaders fresh and motivated and keeping a low turnover of leaders year in  year out.

4. Getting more groups to be evangelistic (though we are gaining some good ground here now).

What are some things you’ve done really well at CityLife that the rest of the cell church world can benefit from?

1. I can honestly say that I am proud of our  statistics, our one-page reports, report keeping, vital signs, and accuracy of our database. Our Life groups reports are ‘smart’.

2. We focus on our ministry goals and regularly review and fine-tune them

3. Our leaders are well cared for.

4. My outstanding team of Network Pastors are all very focused.

5. Thorough  and prompt assimilation of new people.


13 thoughts on “500+ cells at CityLife Church. What Can We Learn?

  • Joel,

    We take principles both from the house church movement and the cell church movement when it comes to our small groups and I have to say that this information was rich. Very helpful. Thank you!

  • That was an excellent blog. I was quite inspired.

    I liked 13) Celebrate BIG WINS and major milestones in celebration meetings (eg. when we hit 400 groups I got my head shaved).

    Now there is real commitment!

  • According to one extensive research project, Australia is the most individualistic nation of the world (non-group oriented). Knowing this, I’m even more amazed that CityLife has more than 500 Life Groups. Way to go!

  • I know first hand that Daljit and the pastoral team at CityLife really look after their leaders and volunteers. My husband and I are very blessed to be a part of it all and feel quite spoilt as Life Group leaders.

    We hope our Life Group members feel as much loved and cared for.

    Enthusiasm for God and his work is contagious, and Daljit is definitely a carrier!

  • Hey Joel – RE According to one extensive research project, Australia is the most individualistic nation of the world

    I would be interested if Daljit’s has any comments on the demographic profile of CityLife church and how that reflects on their cell life. I remember looking at one of Mark Connor’s blog entries and seeing a really diverse looking bunch in the photos.. (see http://markconner.typepad.com/catch_the_wind/2008/03/citylife-church.html)

    I know a christian Singaporean couple who emigrated to Melbourne and they integrated into cell life at CityLife really well, but it was mainly people like them in their group! (asian immigrants, which is not a bad thing by the way, made it easy to become part of what was going on). I wonder if Daljit has seen any challenges along the way working with the more individualistic ‘locals’ or if it is just something that the church has worked on over the years and got good at?

    (Go Daljit, he’s a legend).

  • Hi Joel,
    My husband Tony and I are truly bless to be part of City Life and I run a ladies group. After being away for 6years in Johor Bahru and returning back to City Life which has tremendously grown, the one thing we both felt was being back home and never felt we were away. Attending a cell group and leading one just put us back as one in a FAMILY. I do take my hats out to Daljit and Gurmit who is always there to look out and their humble spirit is truly shown by Ps Mark Conner humility in raising a big church.Thank the Lord for His Faithfulness and looking forward to greater multiplication. Many Blessings Mallini

  • Hey, Daljit, would you please respond to Iain’s request about the make-up of your church. If I remember correctly, NINE years ago the make-up of those attending Life Groups was about 50-50, that is, 50% were Asian and 50% were Aussie. But that was a long, long time ago. Daljit, please update us. . . . Joel

  • Responding to Iain’s and Joel’s question:
    CityLife has been a highly multi-cultural church that has grown significantly over the years. We now have people from about 107 different nationalities …
    With regards to the Asian: Caucasian ratio it’s presently around 40:60 .

    Over the years we have worked very hard towards assimilating people into life groups, especially new people. As such, I am confident to say that we have created a culture in Citylife whereby it’s a ‘norm’ to be in a life group. Everyone who comes in to CityLife sees it as the ‘natural thing’ because that’s what church is about (celebration and cells). In fact, just last weekend our Senior Minister, Mark Conner, mentioned briefly in his message about what his life group did as an end of year break-up. Statistically, we have about as many people attending Life Groups as Celebration meetings each weekend.

    In reference to the specific question regarding whether the significant Life Group involvement is a reflection of the high Asian presence in CityLife, I’d say in all honesty that this is a factor, but not a deciding one. Rather, creating a culture of Life group involvement as an entire community is the deciding factor along with all the principles mentioned in my interview with Joel..

  • Hi Daljit, great answer! It seems that the ASIAN presence has stimulated your cell ministry in an important way. But I, like you, believe that cell attendance is now part of the culture of the church and in some ways the NORM of church life in general. Great job!

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