I've read and heard some jaw-dropping statements about how and why a cell group multiplies. Some pastors have used these statements as weapons of mass destruction in their churches when launching cell groups or attempting a transition to cells. Opponents of the model have hand-selected these dogmatic statements and used them to discount the model and the movement, characterizing it as controlling or inflexible and focused on the cell structure instead of the reason for the structure, all of which is quite far from the truth. Yet when one knows the operational realities within cell churches around the world, the following inaccurate or partially true statement simply hold no water:
"Cell groups must multiply in six months or less"
Some cell groups in some churches may have multiplied in six months or less, but you will probably not find this to be the norm in successful cell-based churches. Push the pastor and he'll admit, "We do have groups that have been together longer than one year." Rational expectations for sending out people from one group to plant a new group is 9-18 months. When groups multiply, it's because the sending and leaving members of the group are highly missional individuals who feel an urgency to do so, even though it may cause some temporary relational discomfort. In other words, they're compelled to start new groups by the Spirit of God, not a pastor or coach mandating, "your group dynamics are suffering—you people (pointing to half the group) must meet elsewhere in X weeks as a new group."
"Cell groups multiply by half the group leaving to form a new group"
Once again, some pastors may write or say this is what their groups do on a routine basis, but you will not find this to be the norm if you were to study their church by interviewing group leaders and members. The truth is far less like a mandated divorce and far more like growing up and moving out of the house. Three or four people from a group who have reached friends for Christ are ready to start a new group and frankly, it would be less time consuming to be on their own... so they do it with the blessing of the leadership of the church. This is far less painful than splitting the group in two or forcing the members of a group to choose whether to stay or go because the group has grown too large or been together for too long of a period.
"It's the cell leader's job to raise up someone and train them to lead a new group"
This is a half-truth that would put far too much pressure on the group leader and is simply not true at face value. The coach over the group befriends potential leaders from within his or her groups and encourages them to lead out. The coach also works with the group leader, helping them back off to give the potential leaders room to grow by serving and facilitating meetings. The pastors on staff train the future leaders. The existing leader does his or her part to impart vision for future leadership by giving responsibility to members of the group and encourages them to learn by doing. However, he or she is not solely responsible for finding, developing, training, and releasing a new leader so the group can multiply. Cell group leadership development is a team-based activity. In other words, it takes a village to raise a cell leader.
If you want to learn more about how healthy group multiply, when they multiply, and why they multiply, I highly recommend this book. It also contains other illuminating discussions about other myths surrounding a decentralized strategy for church life organized around holistic small groups or cell groups.
I'm wondering how long a period is “normal” ( more or less) for a Christian who transitions from a traditional church to a Small Group assembly, before they become mentored into a cell? What is the integration process in such a case, would it be about the same for “new Converts” ?
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