Team Ministry in the Cell Church

Church Leadership

By Joel Comiskey

Spring 2010

If you are thinking of adding staff to your church, do so on the basis of past success in cell multiplication. You might require a person to have developed a network of 5-10 cell groups to be considered as a potential staff member. Just make sure that the person has demonstrated past success in cell multiplication.

All of the largest cell churches in the world operate this way. They will not elevate anyone into a higher position unless the person has demonstrated success at the lower levels. Calling and personal qualities are essential, but the ultimate test is past success as a cell leader, cell supervisor, etc. For the most part, seminary training was not a major factor in elevation to top leadership.

It is usually best to raise up staff members from within the church. This was the pattern in the leading cell churches worldwide. These churches did not have to look beyond themselves to fill their top leadership positions. All leadership had to go through the normal channels of ministerial experience, ministerial success, and leadership training within the church before being lifted up to higher positions.

The Main Task of the Leadership Team: Leadership Development

Carl George says, “The role of the church staff is to effectively manage the leadership development structures.” The main role of the pastors is not to manage church programs but to develop, manage, and care for cell group leaders.

I consulted one church whose staff focused week after week on the Sunday service. The goal of the staff meeting was to prepare for Sunday morning. It was a clear case of a pastoral staff existing for the Sunday event.

I spent the weekend with the staff, encouraging each one of them to oversee a network of cell groups (at that time they were not even meeting as a leadership team). I counseled them to start the pastoral meeting by examining each network of cells and only afterwards to focus on the celebration service. The senior pastor and pastoral team were willing to adjust and prioritize cell group leadership development and care as the main task of the church. The senior pastor later wrote to me,

. . . our staff is totally on board and committed to the [cell church] philosophy and a large part is because they are seeing the results in people’s lives. They also like the fact that they have a very specific ministry approach to follow and directions on how to make it happen: i.e. get people through the training, work with leaders, get apprentices, etc. It is less nebulous than a generic “get people to come to your events” – or “build a ministry” – it is training lay people for a very specific role and directions – and they have a plan on how to do it.

The reason for having pastors on staff in the cell church is to produce new leaders to reap the harvest. Paul tells us in Ephesians 4:11-12, “It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.” Make sure that full-time staff is doing what these passages clearly prescribe: preparing the saints for works of service.

Each Pastor over a Ministry

As stated, each staff person should primarily oversee a network of cells. It’s a good idea, however, for each staff person to also be responsible for a particular ministry.

As the church grows, you’ll find that there is more to cell church than cells. Take the Sunday celebration. Someone must lead worship, reach out to those who receive Jesus, train the children, count the offerings, and serve as ushers. Who will be in charge of these various ministries? I believe it is best to place a staff person over each one of these ministries (recent church plants or churches without a staff, could place key cell leaders over these ministries). I don’t believe the cell church should hire pastors whose principal jobs are: Worship, Christian Education, Visitation, or any other common ministry. The pastor’s primary responsibility should be to care for a network of cell groups. Above and beyond the cell network responsibility, each staff pastor should have at least one ministry responsibility.

One of the pastors at the cell church I co-founded leads a network of homogeneous cell groups among families and young professionals. He’s also in charge of follow-up with those who receive Jesus during the celebration services. Another pastor is responsible for the ministry of ushers although he heavily delegates the major functions to others.

After we talk about the health of each cell network in the leadership team gathering, this pastor might say, “I’m going to have a meeting for new ushers. I need the names of faithful cell leaders (or those who are in the process of becoming cell leaders) who would be interested in serving in this ministry.” Then, as a pastoral team, we offer him names of potential ushers.

Because we want to maintain cell ministry as the base of our church, we won’t allow people in the congregation to participate in ministries unless they are faithfully attending a cell group. We would even like them to be in the training track to eventually become cell group leaders, since this should be the goal of every member. The main point is not to allow those ministries to become programs that compete with cell groups for time and resources.

Cell church ministry cannot be viewed solely from the top. Although the senior pastor must envision, implement, model, and disciple, we must consider the crucial role of lay supervisors.