More and Better Disciples through Small Group Multiplication

By Joel Comiskey, free teaching videos on leading small groups, summer 2021    

When I first started studying small group ministry, I thought that the group’s main goal was fellowship, having a great time together.

But then I started studying small group-based churches around the world and noticed that their small groups evangelized and multiplied. I realized that multiplication was an essential factor in dynamic small groups and small group-based churches.

I wrote the book Home Cell Group Explosion and Leadership Explosion to describe what I witnessed. 

Yet, I also noticed a danger. It was possible to multiply too rapidly and lose the quality. Some churches and leaders were so focused on the goal of multiplication that the group gave birth before it was truly ready. Sometimes the pressure to reproduce drove leaders to multiply weak cells.

Admittedly, I have done this on various occasions. I was overly interested in fulfilling the goal of multiplication to the detriment of producing quality disciples to lead the new groups.

I now believe that making disciples who make disciples needs to be the primary motivation of small group ministry, including multiplication. Making disciples is the primary focus in my definition of a small group:

Groups of 3-15 people who meet weekly outside the church building for the purpose of evangelism, community, and spiritual growth with the goal of making disciples who make disciples that results in multiplication.

Notice the goal of this definition is to make disciples who make disciples. The goal is not to multiply the group. I heard one famous cell church pastor say, “Healthy cells multiply.” So what makes a healthy small group? Those groups that are producing disciples. But how does this happen?

In my book Making Disciples in the 21st Century Church, I describe how cell-based churches make disciples, both from the standpoint of the small group and the small group system.  

On the group level, disciples develop through:

  •  Community
  • Participation
  • Evangelism
  • Multiplication

On the small group system level, disciples mature through:

Jesus desires new healthy cell groups, which translates into more and better disciples. As group members exercise their spiritual muscles and develop new disciples, Christ’s church will flourish and multiply.