Cell Coaching

by Joel Comiskey

Cell Church magazine, 1999

The home schooling movement is growing and expanding year after year. In the light of the Columbine massacre, many more are now considering it. One key advantage of home schooling is the vested interest that parents have in their children. Home schooling parents, are motivated to educate their children, simply because they belong to them. The idea of “vested interest” is the driving force behind a new form of coaching taking place in the cell church today.

This new concept of coaching opens the door for every cell leader to be a coach. Since cell leaders have a vested interest in the daughter cell leaders they’ve developed, cell leaders provide natural coaching and supervision. Parent cell leaders do what it takes to assure the success of their own daughter cell (s) due to personal investment and interest.

As pastors, we know that cell leaders need ministry if they’re going to continue to minister. All effective cell churches provide a middle-management system to care for those cell leaders on the front lines of ministry. Yet, if you’re like most pastors, you’ve probably struggled to find middle management coaches that excel in caring and supervising cell leaders.

An excellent “grass-roots” way to provide middle management care is to ask each parent cell leader to “coach” their own daughter cell leaders. The cell leader has personally cared for the cell member throughout the life of the cell. When that cell member launches his or her own group, the parent cell leader is emotionally involved and cares most for the success of the new group.

I didn’t have to tell Rene Naranjo, for example, to visit the Wednesday cell group in the home of Santiago and Mabis. René felt like a parent who was personally obligated to see his daughter cell leader succeed. Santiago and Mabis were long-time members of René’s cell group, so when they started their own cell group on Wednesday night, the natural relationship between parent and child continued. We on the pastoral staff simply confirmed the relationship and made sure that the supervision took place.

We’ve discovered that this new style of coaching works because of:

  1. The vested interest that the parent cell leader has in the daughter cell leader and in the daughter cell
  2. The already established relationship that has been formed between parent cell leader and daughter cell leader.

We now say to our cell leaders: “Each of you is a potential coach.” “All you have to do is multiply your group, and you will supervise (coach) the new group under your care.”

Vinicio, my old, trusted supervisors from the previous system was suddenly on the same playing field as every other cell leader. He had to give birth to those who he coached. Vinicio is still a coach under my care. But now, Vinicio coaches those groups that he has started, rather those groups that he was appointed over. Now Vinicio serves with new vigor, because he took part in giving birth to those new cells. Those under him now feel more of an obligation to their coach, since he took part in their leadership from the beginning. He guided them through the equipping track.

You as the pastor must continue to supervise, guide, and train your “cell leader coaches” in the management structure. More than anything, you must help your current cell leaders make this paradigm shift. And as remember that change takes time.

Cell leaders continue to lead their own cell group while coaching others. At our church we encourage everyone to lead an open cell group—from the senior pastor down. I lead an open cell group on Thursday night. There is a great danger in losing touch with the life of the cell in the hierarchical care structure.

You need to decide when a “cell leader coach” can cease to lead an open cell group. Some churches say that when a coach has raised-up twelve leaders, he or she can cease to lead a cell group. You might place that number at five. If at all possible, however, my advice is that coaches lead an open cell group. There’s an added authority with saying to those under your care, “This has helped me in my cell group. I think it will help you.”

At our church, we do not allow one coach to care for more than twelve cell leaders. You might decide that five is more suitable to your needs. Whether that number is twelve, seven, or five, a specific number helps each leader to envision multiplying his or her cell more than once. From a pragmatic perspective, a specific number gives each cell leader a goal to pursue. With such a goal, the leader won’t rest content with only one or two. Twelve is a useful number from the perspective of group dynamics but you might decide to reduce the number to five or ten.


Celyce and I will probably home school our children someday. The idea appeals to us because we know that we have a vested interest in our own children. Our three daughters mean everything to us. Parent cell leaders also have a vested interest in their daughter cell leaders. Consider allowing those natural relationships to grow and continue as you convert your current cell leaders into active coaches.

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