By Joel Comiskey, check out Comiskey’s equipping
Most churches pass through multiple revisions of their equipping before finding the right fit. Initial failure often happens because a church tries to copy another church’s equipping model in its entirety. Most often the church realizes eventually that the equipping model doesn’t fit its context and unique identity.
To help you avoid this landmine, I’ve extracted six principles from some of the best cell church equipping models. These principles should undergird your equipping system, although the form of your equipping will be distinct. Here is a summary of the key principles:
The best discipleship equipping is clear and simple. Most cell churches cover the following areas in their equipping:
- Basic doctrine
- Freedom from bondage
- Spiritual Disciplines
- Personal evangelism
People learn best when they apply what they learn. Make sure that your equipping is practical, and that you have an action step for each part of your equipping.
- First step: Basic Doctrine; action step of baptism in water
- Second step: Freedom from Bondage; action step of confession of sin
- Third Step: Spiritual Disciplines; action step of having a regular devotional time
- Fourth Step: Evangelism; action step of relational evangelism and inviting a non-Christian to the group
- Fifth Step: Cell Dynamics and Multiplication; action step of forming part of a cell team
Most cell churches continue to train those who have graduated from the first level and are part of a new discipleship team. To do this, they divide their equipping into at least two levels. The first level is the more basic level, which includes the five basic areas or steps mentioned above (each area is normally embodied in a manual).
The second level should include additional doctrinal courses, a spiritual warfare course, teaching on spiritual gifts, and so forth. There is a lot of room for creativity, and many excellent courses and materials are available. One cell church decided to use their denomination’s theological education by extension equipping for this second level.
Those who have formed part of a cell team deserve special treatment because of their important, foundational role in the church. Offer them all the help and equipping that they need in order to be effective.
Some cell churches even offer a third and fourth level of equipping, all the way to pastoral ministry. Faith Community Baptist Church in Singapore features an extensive equipping program to prepare higher-level leaders. Bethany World Prayer Center hosts a three-year Bible school on its property. Neither church requires higher education for all cell leadership—it’s simply provided for those who feel called to full-time ministry.
I counsel churches to have only one discipleship equipping path—although that one path can be adapted to age specific groups. After deciding on a church-wide discipleship equipping path (ideally both first and second levels), a church should ask everyone to pass through the same equipping.
Principle #5: There Is No One Methodology for Implementing Your Equipping
Some people believe that the only way to equip new believers is one-on-one. Others disagree and prepare new believers in a group setting. Don’t confuse the equipping methodology (where or how you equip people) with the material.
I’ve noticed a great variety of methodologies for implementing the equipping, such as one-on-one, one-on-two or -three, equipping after the cell group meeting, during Sunday school hour, seminars, retreats, or a combination of all of them. I suggest teaching the equipping path during the Sunday school hour, which is often connected to the worship service. Then I propose that those who can’t attend during that time slot be given the freedom to take the same equipping before the cell starts, after the cell finishes, during a day-long equipping in a home, and any additional options to complete the equipping.
You should be fine-tuning your equipping system continually. One cell church I studied had been working on their equipping for seven years; another had been in a process of development for ten, as they had been creating and recreating the tools. You will also need to adapt, adjust, and improve your equipping as you receive feedback from your members.