by Joel Comiskey
I was only 19 when I led my first cell group in my parent’s house in 1975. Our group was connected to the Calvary Chapel movement in Costa Mesa, California (Jesus movement). We in the youth cell grew together, experienced trials, debated theology, discerned false teaching, and most of all developed deep friendships. We practiced the one-anothers, reached out to our friends, and allowed God’s Spirit to speak through each of us. God used that initial small group to disciple me, change me, and even launch me into ministry. And this is exactly why youth need small groups today. Here are some reasons why:
Spirituality: Youth in all cultures and in every generation need Jesus. Even youth who have come to Christ and experienced a measure of healing still need to deal with issues that show up later on. Youth cells transform lives as youth are able to be transparent among their peers.
Relationships: Youth, like all humanity, are relational beings and need community. The Trinity has made them for community. And this need is especially acute in an impersonal, dysfunctional society. Even youth who have come relatively stable backgrounds need relationships. Without them, youth shrivel up. Isolationism is a trap from the enemy.
Involvement: Effective youth cells follow principles of New Testament house churches in which each believer was expected to minister. Youth cell ministry stands against the idea that only the youth pastor does all the work while the rest of the youth sit and listen—and perhaps engage in a few programs. Participation is at the core of the youth cell. No one sits in the back seat. As youth share their stories, ask for prayer, and minister to one another, they are transformed in the process. They become the ministers and grow as Christ’s disciples.
Outreach: Youth reaching youth through cell ministry has the potential of discipling a new generation for Jesus. Youth know the needs of their own generation and are best able to evangelize those in their own age group. Youth are effective at reaching out, and when they are multiplying new groups and ministering worldwide, many lost souls will be saved and discipled.
Jimmy Seibert saw wonderful fruit with student-led cells in Waco, Texas on the Baylor campus in the 1990s. God created a youth cell movement on campus at that time of some 600 students in 60 youth cells that eventually formed into Antioch Community Church in 1999 and now is a cell church movement. My two daughters (20 and 22 years old) are members at one of the many Antioch Church plants in La Mirada, California and are actively involved in Life groups, just like most in the church.
God is using youth life groups to make disciples who make disciples, whether those groups are in Africa, America, Latin America, Brazil or anywhere in the world.