by Joel Comiskey
A pastor recently asked me about what he could do to connect the growing number of Sunday visitors to cell groups. I first told him a few things I would not do. For example, I told himnot to change the definition of a cell to accommodate new people. Some churches, especially in North America, have tried to get new people into cells by broadening their definition of a cell group to include Sunday School, worship team, ushers, prison ministry, and so forth. I told him that doing this would lessen the cell quality and discipleship process.
Positively, I told this pastor that he had to exemplify cell involvement and passion. His involvement would help newcomers to witness the importance of cells through the sermons, announcements, and so forth. This particular pastor was leading a a cell group, and I knew he was a great example, so I encouraged him to continue to do what he was doing.
Then I suggested a few strategies to get people involved, such as starting new cells for newcomers, advertising those new cells on Sunday morning, and linking his initial welcome time for newcomers with cell ministry. I encouraged him to have some cell leaders present in the welcome time for newcomers who could give testimony and even invite the new ones to their cells. I also reminded him of the “tried and true” strategy of asking cell leaders to aggressively invite newcomers to their cell groups. In fact, I often say to churches, “Wouldn’t it be great if three cell leaders approached the same guest, inviting them to their cell groups?” Such invitations not only make guests feel welcomed, but it also demonstrates to the rest of the church that cells are very important. I also told him to encourage his cell groups to do special outreach events for newcomers, such as barbecues, picnics and so forth.
But what about those who attend a cell and not the larger gathering? Elim has twice as many in cells than in their weekend celebration services? What can cells do to get people to the larger gatherings? First, I always clarify that cell groups are for church members or unchurched people. I strongly exhort cells leaders to avoid inviting believers who are faithful members at other evangelical churches. This is unethical.
So what can be done to move people in the cell to the larger gathering? Some cell churches have Sunday events specifically designed to attract cell attendees to attend. I remember one church in Ecuador who was very successful in having a monthly Friend’s Day.