by Joel Comiskey
Recently I talked to a pastor who wondered if he should close down all his cells during the summer months because of vacations and other activities. He was a U.S. pastor and summer in the U.S. and the Northern Hemisphere is from June 21 to September 21 (I understand that your summer months might be totally different).
This pastor had heard about another well-known church that stopped their groups each summer and during other parts of the year as well. He was discouraged by the many people going on vacation and the low cell attendance figures. He thought that closing all his groups would give people a break, relieve some ministerial tension, and generally make things easier. He asked for my opinion.
I understand this pastor’s dilemma. He was very busy and knew that many people in his church needed a break. He also wondered if closing the groups was normal since other churches were doing this. He wanted to do what was best for his church.
I challenged him to think beyond what other churches were doing, the busyness of his people, or even his own active schedule. Did he believe the cell was the church, on the same importance level as the larger Sunday gathering? Was he ready to shut down the local house churches during the Summer? What about those who were in the process of growing as disciples? Would they have to wait until the Fall? What about evangelism and outreach? And by asking all groups to close down during the summer, wasn’t this turning small group ministry into a seasonal program? So my first point of reference was biblical. In the New Testament house to house ministry was the base and life of church life.
I also let him know about my research on cell churches around the world. I noticed in these churches that there were certain periods of the year, like summer, when fewer cells would meet because of vacations and so forth. But cell churches, unlike churches with cells, didn’t give a church-wide decree that all groups would shut down during certain periods. In other words, the cells themselves would make those decisions since cell ministry is not a program. The cells themselves would pray and plan, while always consulting the coaches for direction and guidance.
Treating cells like the Sunday school program by starting and stopping cheapens the cell quality, in my opinion. On the other hand, if a particular cell can’t meet at certain times during the summer, I don’t think we need to legalistic. Rather, the principle is that if cells are the life of the church, I think it’s unwise to close down that life.
Cells can also be creative in the summer, reaching out in new ways. What about gathering for a barbecue or picnic with the goal of inviting friends and neighbors? Cell beach trips? Some might even go camping together. God is a creative God and loves to give fresh ideas to those who ask. So what do you think?