Why Coaching is so Critical in Cell Ministry

joelby Joel Comiskey

We’ve all heard the old saying that you have to fail at least three times in cell ministry to get it right. One of my failures was in a church plant in downtown Long Beach from 1983-1989. We started in a home and launched various cell groups in 1984. The cells eventually fizzled because I believed they would run on their own without a lot of help from me. Another early failure happened in Ecuador in the first church I served. We launched five groups and left them to fend for themselves. Most of them quickly died but at least one lasted so long that it eventually became cancerous because of dissencion and gossip.

One of the critical elements missing in both cases was coaching. I’ve learned from experience the truth of David Cho words, “The most important role in cell ministry is that of the section leader (coach).” Jim Egli’s Ph.D. research confirmed Cho’s words. He discovered that the key factor behind healthy, fruitful cell churches was excellent coaching.

Here are a few reasons why every cell leader needs a coach:

Discouragement: Satan comes loaded with his quiver to shoot darts of discouragement and doubt into the hearts of cell leaders. The role of the coach is to actively listen and then encourage cell leaders to keep pressing on .

Nutrient Deficiency: Some cell leaders simply need to be reminded of key leadership skills such as listening, preparing questions, arranging the chairs in the house, quieting the over-talkative person, praying for others, etc. Again, the role of the coach is critical in helping the leader work through these issues.

Personal Problems: A lot of cell problems have nothing to do with the cell. Rather, the leader is struggling in his or her personal life (e.g., family, finanices, healthy, etc.). A coach is called to pastor leaders and minister to their needs.

Hidden Sin: At times a coach might notice that something is wrong with the leader but can’t put his finger on it. There’s a dullness. An avoidance. I remember I coached one leader who stopped sharing deeply, keeping our relationship on a superficial level. Later, I discovered he was having an affair, and he was asked to step down from his leadership position. The only way to know this is if the coach has spent time with the leader.

Absalom Spirit: Absolam was King David’s errant son who succeeded in winning the hearts of Israel over to himself (2 Samuel 15). Some pastors reject cell ministry altogether because they fear an Absolam might develop.
An Absolam spirit can be prevented when every leader is under the watchful eye of another coach. A good coach catches the symptoms of rebellion and points them out before they negatively affect others. In this sense, the coach fulfills the role of a shepherd, watching out for those under his or her care.

Troubling Ministry Needs of Cell Group Members: Cell leaders will often encounter ministry needs in a cell group that are very sensitive and troubling. Cell leaders need a coach to share these needs with and pray for with the person.

Coaching keeps cell ministry healthy, like a well-tended garden. Without it, weeds will surely take over and drain the needed nutrients. No matter where you are in your cell journey, consistent coaching is essential for long term health and fruitfulness .


Joel Comiskey

9 thoughts on “Why Coaching is so Critical in Cell Ministry

  • Joel,
    Thanks for that post (for me, it may have been your best ever). I don’t know if I’ve been moving in the wrong circles but, candidly, I don’t remember ever hearing the old saying you indicate we’ve all heard many times. But it rings annoyingly true in my life. And it gives me hope that maybe now I’m ‘qualified’ to get cells right.

    I love the specific benefits of coaching you list–I’m thinking you’re exactly right. I can see reflections of those in my experience both as someone being coached (or not) and trying to coach others.

    I often think of the ‘qualifications’ for being effectively used by God: being coached/mentored, being ‘base’, ‘worthless’, ‘broken’, among the ‘things that are not’. Makes me think I’m more and more qualified.

    Michael Beavers

  • Hey, Michael, great to hear from you, and yes, the saying is true, we learn from our failures. God does have His hand on you and I appreciate your humble attitude in this post. Keep pressing on in cell ministry, brother! He’s going to use you.

  • Pastor Hector Aguirre fro Templo Betel Asamblea says:
    Awesome Tip for this week! You hit it in the nail Bro. Comiskey, You’re words are so helpful on a weekly basis and I love the input from other pastors.
    I worked for an AG church full time straight out of high school for 7 years as a cell group leader, Supervisor, then went on to oversee 27 cell groups. When I left the church in Dallas to pastor a new church plant in Arizona, I brought with me everything that I had learned. We started 2 years ago with 2 cells and now we have 6 (about to open 2 more). I’ve read your books, Jane Christiansen’s, went to Guatemala (Lluvias de Gracia), Colombia (Neiva) and have seen first hand the vision of cell mimistry. Keep it up!
    In Christ,
    Pastor Hector Aguirre

  • Hey Joel
    I am still believe that in order for us servants to be able to give an Account before the throne of Grace , all will be determined by how successful we handle Cell Multiplication Ministry.Please here in Kenya and more so Africa we need experienced Men more so from your ministry that could come here in Kenya under our Invitation to do coaching for Servants of God here.
    God bless JCG and its VISION for the World.

  • Joel

    I could not agree more with the message of your article. Stand-alone pastors/leaders are destined for seasons of unnecessary doom and gloom. Coaching is critical to the success of cell groups. I’ve been on both sides of the fence in my experience. Coaching that is approached with the right heart is a most wonderful devotion (not duty) where both coach and the person being coached are winners.

    I believe a coach must be in place before any person is authorised to pastor a group – for the sake of the leader and the group.

    Bill 🙂

  • Hi Joel, we met in Granby, Quebec Canada, I am from Victoriaville, Quebec. Thanks for the great ”reminder” . I feel like ”strike one” at this time with our cell development in our church. We are growing cells out of a traditional church setting. I now fully realise that the church as a whole must live the core values of cell church (evangelism, commitment, discipleship, leadership development, life empowered by prayer and word of God) before setting out cells, or it becomes a new structure in wich to ”do ” church. Coaching is essential and I need it badly… Most of all I feel Pastors should be coached closely and coach the church servants as a priority. I pray that we get to that.
    Keep feeding us with these great reminder.



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