by 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).â€ 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 .