Cell Coaching

by Joel Comiskey

Cell Life Forum, 1998

I’ll never forget when I first met César Castellanos, pastor of the International Charismatic Mission. We shared a warm greeting, but within minutes he was sharing about the apostolic anointing over his church. Many believe that Castellanos has the spiritual gift of apostleship, and for this reason he generates a contagious vision. This vision, called by many the “Groups of Twelve” model (G-12), takes leadership development and cell multiplication to new levels.

Castellanos’ strategy is to convert everyone who enters his church into a cell leader. He preaches this truth and gives altar calls for new leadership. The church has grown exponentially for the last decade. Recently the church was forced to rent an indoor stadium in Bogota, Colombia, which sits 18,000. With three Sunday morning services, the church continues to grow unabated.

G-12 as a Multiplication Model

There is a lot of confusion floating around about the G-12 model. What exactly is it? I see it as a multiplication model–a call to rapid and continuous multiplication of cell groups. This is exactly how Luis Salas, a pastor at ICM, explained it to me. [1] It’s helpful to compare the traditional method of cell multiplication with the G-12 form of multiplication.

Traditional Method of Multiplication

In the traditional method of cell multiplication, the existing cell group oversees the creation of a daughter cell by providing people, leadership, and a measure of personal care. A group is formed form within the mother cell and sent forth to form a daughter cell. The daughter cell becomes a separate, independent cell group and is not directly supervised by the mother cell (this is the role of supervisors, zone pastors, etc.). This is the most frequently used method of cell multiplication.

G-12 Method of Multiplication

In the G-12 model, each member of the group is asked to start his own cell–either separately or with one or two others that he has brought to the cell. When the cell member converts into a cell leader, he continues to meet with his original cell leader, either in the normal cell group or in a separate discipleship meeting.

Each Cell Leader Seeks Twelve Disciples

In the G-12 model, each cell leader seeks twelve disciples. Where does the leader look to find disciples? In his own cell group. The goal of the cell leader is to convert the cell members into active leaders of cell groups, thus becoming disciples. To accomplish this, the cell member must first attend an Encounter retreat, followed by an intensive three-month cell leadership training (which includes Bible doctrine instruction) and an additional spiritual retreat. Only after this process can the cell member become a cell leader and thus a disciple.

Learn from Those Putting the G-12 Model into Practice

To better understand a model, oftentimes it’s best to step back and see how it works somewhere else, in a different context. Pastor Rakjumar Patta of King’s Temple in Hyderabad, Central India, provides an excellent illustration of the Groups of Twelve model in another setting.


(as summarized by Neville Chamberlain) [2]

Raj began by sharing how his church of 150 or so had been trying cells the “traditional” cell church way for a couple of years, but without success. The 15 groups they had at one stage had dwindled to only two by the middle of this year. No one wanted to become cell leaders. Raj was getting desperate for help.

In the last 3 months since putting this plan into action they have experienced an amazing mini-revival in their church. About 130 people have come to the Lord, with 70 baptized, 28 cell groups formed to date, almost definitely expected to multiply to 49 groups by the end of December! There is a contagious new spirit of excitement and expectancy in the church. This atmosphere is probably as much a key to growth as are the factors described below.

So what are they doing that has made such a difference? Firstly, there is a new focus in the church: everyone is told that they will eventually be leading a group, that everyone will reach this goal at his/her own speed, and that the church is committed to helping them get there. Instead of looking for one Intern in a group to be trained to lead the next group, each cell leader sees all group members as potential leaders. This different mind-set affects the leader’s commitment to his/her cell members.

Secondly, each cell leader is trusting God to eventually have 12 members in his/her group, all leading their own groups. At first, only 2-3 of the group may be ready to lead groups. These 2-3 will be given some of the other members of the group with which to start their own groups, thus creating a vacuum in the original group. This vacuum, created afresh each time members peel off, is constantly being filled through evangelism.

The leaders of each of these new groups continue to attend the first group, while repeating the same process with their own groups. Eventually, so the theory goes, the group will consist only of leaders, a process which may take 2-3 years. During this time 40-50 people may have passed through the original group, as it multiplies not once but 12 times. The ultimate aim for each person is to eventually have 144 leaders under his/her care: 12 groups of 12.

Raj and the church in India dared to view every member of the congregation as a potential leader. Bethany World Prayer Center has also capitalized on this idea. BWPC learned these facts in a new way from ICM in Bogota that:

  • Every new person is a potential leader.
  • Start your leadership discipleship track from day one.
  • Be willing to equip potential leaders immediately. Paul didn’t take long period of time to equip leadership.

Grasping the Big Picture

While studying the G-12 model, it helped me to compare it with the traditional cell structure:

CELL LEADER CARE Cell Leaders are cared for by district pastors, zone pastors, and supervisors. Leaders are cared for by leaders of twelve-from the lower levels all the way up to the twelve disciples of Pastor Castellanos.
DIVISION OF CELL NETWORKS Cell groups are divided into geographical areas under district pastors, zone leaders, and section leaders. Cell groups are primarily divided by ministerial departments under which each leader has his or her twelve disciples.
JETHRO SYSTEM Top leadership is raised up to pastor cell leaders under them. There are normally cell leaders, section leaders, zone pastors, and district pastors. Every leader has twelve under his or her care—from the head pastor to individual cell leaders. The leader meets weekly with his or her twelve.
EVANGELISM Evangelism is more of a group activity. Evangelism is more individual. The leader seeks to gather his own group.
MULTIPLICATION Mother-daughter cell multiplication is the norm. The cell gives birth to a daughter cell which is cared for by the higher level leadership Each member seeks to establish (plant) his or her own cell while maintaining relationships with the original cell leader
LEADERSHIP TRAINING Potential leaders are trained within the cell and through seminars before beginning cell leadership. Potential leaders are trained in ongoing training classes that take place within the various homogenous minis­terial departments.
CENTRAL PLANNING Cell group planning takes place on a centralized level in district offices. Cell group planning is primarily handled through the different departments.

Applying G-12 Principles

As you read about Bogota and the G-12 model, you’ll do well to remember the church growth axiom: “Don’t follow methods; extract the underlying principles from the methods and apply them to your situation.” What are some key principles behind this model. I’ve identified five:

  1. Every person is a potential leader.
  2. Multiplication of cell groups is the goal of cell ministry.
  3. Leadership development (discipleship) must be given chief priority.
  4. Every leader should aspire to become a supervisor (discipler) and meet with the new leaders (disciples) that have started new groups on a regular basis.
  5. Leadership training should be streamlined and accelerated. [3]

At the Republic Church in Quito, Ecuador, we haven’t fully adopted the G-12 structure. We do, however, use many of the principles. Take, for example, the role of supervisor. For years we appointed supervisors over cell groups. After all, most cell churches did the same thing. Not anymore. Now we give every cell leader the “green light” to become a supervisor. “Each of you is a supervisor,” we tell them. “All you have to do is multiply your group, and you will supervise the new group under your care.” One of my old, trusted supervisors from the previous system was suddenly on the same playing field as every other cell leader. This made him work harder. He now had to prove his giftedness on an ongoing basis.

My advice is to thoroughly study the G-12 Model and then apply those principles that work for you.

Further reading on this topic: Comiskey’s book Groups of Twelve expounds on the G12 principles. The book From Twelve to Three also explains G12 principles that should be adapted rather than adopted. Comiskey’s book How to be a Great Cell Group Coach highlights what it takes to effectively care for small group leaders. Buy HERE or call 1-888-344-CELL.


[1] Luis Salas is a pastor at ICM who multiplied 250 cells in 16 months using the G-12 approach.

[2] Neville Chamberlain, “Cell Church Missions Network Roundup #14.” November 21, 1997. E-mail received from Ralph Neighbour on November 22, 1997.

[3] G-12 leadership as exemplified at ICM and BWPC (Bethany World Prayer Center) uses retreats departmental (zone) training.