Coaching at Central Assembly

jonby Jon Hamilton

[I, Joel, would like to introduce, Jon Hamilton, our guest blogger and cell champion at Central Assembly in Vero Beach, Florida. I spent several days at Central Assembly a few years ago and was very impressed by the way God used Jon to help design a very effective cell system]

Americans are entrepreneurs.

So when Central Assembly (Vero Beach, FL) began transitioning into a cell model in 2004, we looked for ways to allow leaders to build cell networks that helped them create a spiritual legacy and a pride of ownership. To graduate a disciple from the training track and them remove him from the mentor who raised him up seemed likely to remove a key motivation from cell leaders.

We ultimately found solutions in a model very similar to what Joel Comiskey proposes in his book “From 12 to 3.” To date, our “family trees” have multiplied 150 cells (some are 4 generations deep)  and hundreds of new converts have completed our discipleship track.  We bore fruit in motivating new disciple makers and today Central is fully a cell-based church.

Recently we began to notice that communication of important information was becoming less sure the deeper the generations go. Excellent cell leaders who pastor disciples well and repeatedly multiply cells are not always communicating adequately over time as they coach the daughter cells. However, we do not want to remove the entrepreneurial motivation by simply reassigning their disciples.

To help with this, we are launching a “cluster coaching” strategy. Within each family tree, specialist coaches will meet regularly with small groups of cell leaders and the leaders they have multiplied. We plan to maintain the pastoral oversight/relationship lines while adding specialized coaching meetings to ensure adequate communication at each level.


Jon Hamilton, cell champion

Lead pastor is Buddy Tipton

10 thoughts on “Coaching at Central Assembly

  • Hi Jon,

    Thanks for the insights. I like the way you think. We are a cell-based church in Chesapeake, VA with just under 100 cells. We have also run into the problem of communications getting “out” to the granddaughter cells (and back from them to the central office). We are reviewing our system now.

    I was wondering if it would be a good idea to have administrative people in the system… people who are strictly responsible for ensuring reports are done and communications are carried out. This would free up pastors and coaches to focus on people and cells.

    Any insights?

  • Jim,

    I like the idea of administrative people spread through the mix. In fact, our top-level administrators responsible for cell reports, keeping track of who-is-in-who’s-cell, etc, are NOT staff pastors. They are just very committed to the vision and volunteer a great number of hours a week.

    Having administrators at different levels could be very useful, especially with regard to making sure information is communicated

    At the same time, I don’t want to lean so heavily on administration that we organize the life out of things! I have observed that some personalty styles are very comfortable as rule enforcers, but have a harder time imparting vision. Task oriented people make very good organizers, but usually have to work to develop the ability to get people excited. In the end, the only thing that motivates any of us is vision!

    Right now as I analyze our weaknesses, I think where we (my congregation) fall short is more about failure to motivate and impart vision than failure to maintain reporting. My hope is to improve our encouraging and equipping, and pray that improved information flow will be a by-product of people being gripped with vision and passion.

    Then again, I’m a romantic!


  • Richard,

    It may help to understand how we are organized.

    Our rebirth as a cell church began when Buddy (senior pastor) started a “cell” with just the men on our presbytery. We had all known each other for years and the relationships were already there… but we recognized we were entering into a new season in which God was changing us. Frankly, we knew we were taking a big risk doing so.

    After a season, we started cells. We particularly went after people we saw had high potential as leaders, and released them as our first generation of open cells. Over time, we developed a “road to maturity” (training track), those cells multiplied, and now, each presbyter oversees a his/her “family tree” containing multiple generations of cells.

    Here’s how we plan to augment our coaching with the cluster coaching strategy.

    1. Identify the best encouragers, vision casters, and coaches in each family tree who have strong gifts as coaches.
    2. Establish them as specialists, assigned to serve as an “at-large” coach within that family tree, a portion thereof, or wherever relationships are established and they can be effective.
    3.Have regular sessions with both cell leaders AND their direct overseers in small groups. That way both parent and daughter leaders get the benefit of the session, and everyone is on the same age.

    We will let you know how it works. It’s new, but we hope it allows us to improve our coaching, and still keep the pastoral care relationships intact.

    Did I answer your question?


  • Jon it sounds like things are going well for you. I enjoyed getting to know you at the Joel & Mario event two years ago. Great blog thanks for sharing!

  • Thank you dear brother to take the time to answer. I understand it better now. Let us know how it works out in the future.

  • Jon,

    Thanks for the reply. Our larger problem is that our section and zone leaders sometime feel like they have so papers to process they don’t have time for the people/cells in their area.

    Your additional info directed to Richard’s question helped me too. I’ll be praying for you guys as you grow and develop this coaching strategy. Please agree with us in prayer for the Lord’s wisdom in our process as well.

  • I love this discussion! I have the privilege as a traveling cell guy of discovering churches like CENTRAL ASSEMBLY. They are the real deal and have creatively found a way to make cell ministry work in their unique environment. The senior pastor, Buddy Tipton, loves cell ministry because of the evangelistic emphasis in the cells. Buddy is a friend of sinners and focuses the church to do the same.

  • Joel,

    Thanks for the kind comments about Buddy. It is very true that he has worked very hard to keep our cells focused on evangelism and outreach to the unchurched.

    Funny story… When we first started as “his” cell group, he once gave us all an assignment. We had 48 hours to present the gospel to 3 complete strangers. It was a scream to see how many of us experienced pastor types struggled to make that deadline!

    It did, however, set the course for the DNA we would endeavor to impart to our cells. Buddy has always stressed going for those the world calls “trash.” We poke a little fun at ourselves over this. We say, “If you’re indited, you’re invited.”

    I have actually come to the conclusion that it’s easier to train those with no church experience, than to integrate Christians who come loaded with all the the “answers”.

    I’ll bet you brothers have found the same!

    Michael, so nice to hear from you.


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