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Transitioning to Cell Minsitry
For three weeks in May I traveled to eleven states in Brazil with the Foursquare Church and spoke to 19,000 pastors and leaders. The top leadership is encouraging the entire denomination of 20,000 churches to transition to the cell church model. Their goal is 300,000 cell groups by 2021. It's very exciting to witness what God is doing!
The reality, however, is that most churches are either in the pre-transitioning stage or are just starting their transition. One of my main teachings to these Foursquare pastors was how to transition to the cell church strategy. I highlighted the biblical foundations for cell ministry and how cell church is a group disciple-making strategy. I wanted to make sure these pastors and churches captured the values and the Biblical base for cell ministry, rather than viewing it as a "church growth" method.
Those who view cell church as a technique or program for church growth rarely successfully make the transition. In fact, most of us know churches who began well but didn't stick with cell ministry for the long-term. One of the key reasons for not continuing is because the pastor didn't view cell church as a biblical way of life that would continue until Jesus comes again.
Many of these Foursquare pastors already knew the exciting stories of growing cell churches, and the temptation would be to give cell church a "test run," to see if this new method would bring quick growth, while always keeping their options open for another, more productive method. To make a successful transition, however, they needed to count the cost before transitioning in order to give themselves enough time to actually make it work--knowing it often takes five years to make the cell church transition.
It takes time to change attitudes and values. Nor is it easy for pastors and congregations to prepare lay people to do the work of the ministry and then to coach them to make sure those lay people fulfill their pastoral ministry. Cell church demands more training and coaching than traditional ministry. Future leaders do better when they are trained and coached.
During the month of June on the JCG blog, we will be talking about how to successfully transition to the cell church strategy. If you'd like to receive these blogs in your inbox each day, please click here. We will cover:
- Week 1 (June 5-11); How churches have transitioned. By far the most effective and common way is the model cell approach. The lead pastor chooses key leaders and starts a pilot group. This group might last for six months. After the group multiplies (best to have a team of at least two), the lead pastor becomes the coach of the new leaders. It's good for the lead pastor to continue to lead a group. However, some have started more than one cells at once, like in the case of Elim under Sergio Solorzano. Others have prepared the church extensively in the pre-transition and then started several groups at once (Phil Potter describes this approach in The Challenge of the Cell Church.
- Week 2 (June 12-18); Role of Leadership Team in the transition, as well as common errors in making the transition. It's unlikely to make the transition unless the lead pastor and key leaders are 100% committed. Plus, the lead pastor has to be willing to stay for a while. It's best not to do even start the transition unless the lead pastor is passionate about cell ministry and is willing to lead the church (the vision can't be delegated to someone else). It's not enough to have a vision; the vision must have you. Another common error is not giving the transition enough time. In traditional churches, a transition will probably take about five years! Share your experience here with churches you've coached in transitioning situations.
- Week 3 (June 19-25). Change dynamics and the importance of giving enough time. The book Diffusion of Innovations (Rogers) and Leading Change (Kotter) are great books on change within organizations. Robert Clinton said something like, "Change takes longer than you think even when you think it will take longer." Change dynamics really come to play in transitioning a cell church. There is the pre-transition stage, a transition period, and then the post-transition phase. All are important.
- Week 4 (June 26-July 02); Churches do successfully transition. You will go through some rocky moments or are still going through them. But with God's help, you will make it. During this week, we'll hear counsel from pastors who have made the transition. Steve Cordle's book The Church in Many Houses helps pastors understand key principles behind a successful transition.
Have you successfully transitioned to the cell strategy? Share your experiences here.
Major 2017 JCG Event
- We will have our annual JCG event in the Elim Reseda Church, on February 25, 2017. Mario Vega and Joel Comiskey will be ministering in Spanish and simultaneous English translation will be available. Sign up now for $39.00 ($59.00 at door).
- Do you need help with your cell ministry? Perhaps you are making a transition to cell ministry and would like a coach to help you in the process. Or maybe you're planing a new cell church. For more information on receiving coaching, please email us or call 1-888-511-9995.
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Joel Comiskey's new book, Children in Cell Ministry, can now be purchased here.
27 videos on cell church from Joel Comiskey
- There are 27 videos on all aspects of cell church (with downloadable resources) on Ministry Grid. Check it out.
Free Ebook byJoel Comiskey and small group health assessment
- Free Ebook from Joel Comiskey (Making Disciples in the 21st Century Church). Joel's book is available at the end of the Thriving Small Groups Assessment. There is no catch to this. We are not asking for your contact information or trying to up-sell anything. At the end of the assessment, you will also discover the health of your small groups. I think you'll find both of this free resources extremely helpful.
Joel Comiskey's new book: 2000 Years of Small Groups
- Ebook: 2000 Years of Small Groups
Bill Beckham's new books
Audio books (Click here)