By Joel Comiskey, free teaching videos on leading small groups, May 2021
Cell members and leaders grow to become like Jesus as they step out and exercise their faith. Without doing so, the person will not grow to his or her full potential. Trying and failing is how we learn and grow and become mature. The fear of error has caused many churches to smother the work of the laity through endless requirements and layers of organization. Churches and mission agencies have done this for years.
What does this mean practically? It means mobilizing each cell member to participate—without forcing people against their will. One member might lead the prayer time, another lead worship, another guide the ice-breaker, while someone else leads the outreach time. The best cells have leadership teams who don’t depend on one leader to always facilitate the lesson. I was in one cell church which viewed cell leaders as coaches of those who led the lesson time. In other words, the cell leader was always present in the cell but different members rotated in actually leading the cell lesson. The cell leader would offer feedback and encouragement. The cell groups in this particular church also rotated hosts, so that everyone had the opportunity of opening their home to the group. I could feel the health because I sensed that disciples were being formed as each person participated.
Effective cells and cell leaders make disciples in the same way Jesus made them. They encourage everyone to participate, knowing that discipleship happens when everyone is practicing the priesthood of all believers. The cell is small enough to mobilize each person. Participation in a group larger than fifteen can cause fear and resistance. But when the group is small and intimate, people still feel the face-to-face involvement of each person.
Some cell churches also encourage their leaders to perform pastoral duties in the larger gatherings. The cell leaders might baptize the new converts, for example. Other churches ask lay leaders to serve communion or rotate in the Sunday preaching. Cell members might help with ushering, outreaches, or mission events. Participation grows disciples. Sitting in a pew and hearing doctrine is important, but it doesn’t mold active disciples like Jesus commanded.