Cell/Church Growth-Pt.4


The Training of New Leaders  

            Dale Galloway says it well, “The most important job of the pastor and the pastoral staff is leadership development, training lay leaders who will build small groups. Leadership development is essential, and it must be top priority. It cannot be left to chance” (1995:118).  George adds, ASince the whole system depends on trained leaders being available, the number of groups cannot grow if you are not multiplying the number of Xs”[cell leader] (1994: 61)..

My interest in leadership development and cell groups is intimately linked with my passion for church growth. How does a cell church effectively, as well as  rapidly,  train leadership to meet the burgeoning needs of a growing church? However, it does behoove us to examine the various small group models of leadership training before we can analyze which model will help us become more effective in the multiplication process.  

The Covenant Model

            My focus in this chapter is cell group multiplication.  I am aware that the  covenant model does not emphasize this aspect of cell group ministry. For that reason, I will only briefly describe their system of   training new leadership. The training of new leadership in this model is  academic oriented. The training takes place over a two semester period. During the first semester the small group director teaches the course. However, during the second semester each student is expected to lead the group under the watchful eye of the small group director. In the Covenant Model, the leaders are not given any further training  the two semester course is completed  (Coleman 1993: 5:19).

The Serendipity Model

            The Serendipity Model of leadership training requires six sessions of up-front training with periodic on-going training. This on-going training consists of monthly leadership meetings that the group leader must attend. This model also takes into account the various types of groups in the church. For example,  support groups might receive more training than other groups (Coleman 1993: 5:19).

            Serendipity has established itself as being a first class producer of small group material for both cell leaders and cell group members. I have also found that Lyman Coleman’s  knowledge of small dynamics is the foremost in the field. He truly is an expert on small groups.

However, I have noticed one  difficulty with regard to leadership training.   Serendipity promotes that churches initiate a variety of small groups in the church (e.g., sports groups, choir groups, care groups, etc.). Dr. Coleman says,  “It is not easy to categorize small groups. Often, they have several different goals which cross the lines of categorization”  (1993: 11). Because the groups are so diverse, it’s extremely difficult  to offer unified training that will meet the needs of each leader. For example, the  leader of a sports team or a choir group will not need to learn about  lesson preparation or how to lead worship in the group. Those issues are simply not relevant to them. Therefore, I have discovered that the  requirement for  small groups leaders to attend a monthly training session is  hard to enforce under this system.  

The Meta Model  

            According to Lyman Coleman, the  Meta model requires less up-front training than the Serendipity approach. Coleman goes on to say, “The up-front training of the Meta model is called an apprenticeship, and it is basically the associate, assistant, or co-leader who is ‘mentored’ while they are in the group” (1993:5:19). At the same time, the Meta Model requires that the cell leaders spend more time  on the job training. Every other week, they are required to meet in a general leadership training event called the VHS.  

            In his   book, Prepare Your Church for the Future,  George strongly emphasizes the bimonthly leadership gatherings which  he calls VHS (Vision, Huddle, and Skill Training) gatherings. He dedicates some thirty pages to describe these events in detail and how the Jethro system of care (D’s, L’s, X’s, etc.) tie into these bimonthly leadership training meetings  (1992:121-148). In that book, George is very dogmatic about the necessity of having those bimonthly meetings. On the other hand,  there was very little said about the apprentice system of training leaders.

However, in George’s most recent book, The Coming Church Revolution, he reverses gears.  Very little is said about the VHS . He even implies that an  official  VHS gathering is not even necessary if you are providing the same type of training in another manner (1994:128). He recommends that a church does not launch the VHS right away as a program , but rather  tries  to identify the VHS functions already present in the church (1994:203). On the other hand, lots of space is dedicated to raising up leadership from among the lay leaders in the church. One example will suffice, A“…the limiting resource for most churches’ part of the harvest is usually the lack of trained leaders. The model we increasingly find in healthy, growing churches is one of apprentice that leads to leadership (1994:61).

The Cho Model

            According to Lyman Coleman, the Cho model requires no up-front training. Coleman then proceeds to talk about what Dale  Galloway does, who is supposedly the major advocate of the Cho model in the U.S. [1]   It is true that Galloway offers a Superbowl event three times a year in which any cell member is welcome to attend. From the superbowl future leaders emerge who face the challenge of raising up their own group  Once the group is formed, the leaders are required to attend a weekly training event where they are given the notes to the pastors and discussion questions for Bible application (Coleman 1993: 5:19).

            If by calling this training system  the ‘Cho model’,  Coleman is referring to the what Paul Yonggi Cho actually does in Korea, he is mistaken. Contrary to what this model implies, Cho does offer up-front training. Potential cell leaders must attend an eight-week leadership training course that is taught on Sunday afternoon in one of  Yoida Full Gospel Churches’  small auditoriums (Hurtson 1995:75). Topics covered in this eight-week course include: cell leader responsibilities, home cell-group growth, Bible lesson preparation, etc. (Hurtson 1995:215).  Neither does Cho offer a weekly training session to his cell leaders at the church (since 1988 this has been discontinued due to the rapid growth). Rather,  printed supplemental materials are available before and after the Wednesday night services (Hurtson 1995:214).

            The ongoing training now consists of semiannual cell leader conferences in which pastor Cho personally addresses the cell leaders. Due to their large number, half of the cell leaders attend  the conference one day, while the other half attend the next day.  Practical tips and vision casting seem to be the main agenda for these conferences (Hurtson 1995: 75). However, the main ongoing training takes place as section leaders spend time with group leaders both during ministry visits and during the actual group meetings (Hurtson 1995:75).  

The Church Growth Model

After describing the four training models, Lyman Coleman refers to the fifth model, that is, the model that best describes your own personal situation. So allow me to describe my own personal model which I have coined with the phrase ‘Church Growth Model’. When my wife and I  began the  cell system in Ecuador, I followed a small manual that we received from a fellow missionary who was the head pastor of a C&MA church in Colombia. As I look back on it, this manual promoted a very similar approach to the VHS model that is  now promoted by Carl George. [2] Apart from many helpful hints in the manual, the core principle was holding bimonthly  training  session with all cell leadership.  We followed the general tenor of that model throughout our time in Ecuador. 

Before leaving Ecuador, a  key co-worker  (a fellow missionary with whom I had worked side by side in the cell ministry)  and I reflected back on 3 ½ years of cell ministry. Both of us agreed that the bimonthly training sessions were the backbone of our  cell ministry. In my own cell manual, I call this bimonthly meeting,  the motor of the cell group ministry.

Our other ongoing system of training took place through the Jethro model. This idea was unashamedly  stolen  from Carl George through his book, Prepare Your Church for the Future. Following  George’s teaching,  we  appointed  D’s (myself),  L’s (at one point we had eleven),  X’s (at one time 50 ), and Xa’s (at one time 50).  This system offered mixed results. It really depended on the commitment of the L (overseer of five cell groups), as to whether or not the cell leaders received proper care.

Our pre-training developed in  two stages. In the initial stages of the cell ministry, I taught a taught a Sunday School course at the mother church, El Batán entitled “How To Lead A Cell Group.” That was my first attempt to put  together my cell manual. Later, when the manual was more fully developed, I offered a one day seminar for new leaders. Eventually, I was asked to teach seminars around the country using that manual. [3]

In my future tutorial entitled, Issues of Leadership in Cell-Based Ministry, I will explore these training models more in-depth. I especially want to analyze the leadership training model that Dr. Ralph Neighbour has developed. [4] From my understanding, his model  significantly differs from the above mentioned models, in that much of the planned training takes place between cell leader and cell intern.

The pressing question that must be asked when examining training models is, ‘Which model best serves  the multiplication process?’  This would immediately lead me to examine Cho’s model first, due to the rapid multiplication of his cell groups and the growth in his church. However, Cho, contrary to what Coleman says, has always offered pre-training, much like the first two models. His system of apprentice care (the Jethro model) is also  implemented in both the Meta Model and  in Galloway’s church. [5]

In conclusion, I believe that it’s safe to say that a training model for growing, multiplying cell churches should include:

1.     Some kind of pre-training for the cell leaders

2.     A Jethro system in which every leader is pastored. [6]

3.     Some type of on-going training.

This training might be weekly, bimonthly, or monthly. Actually, I have found that every three weeks is probably the best option.

4.     Some kind of intentional way for emerging leaders to be spotted, encouraged, and integrated into the leadership structure.  

Practical Suggestions  

            It’s easier to talk about cell multiplication that to actually do it. It looks good on paper and sounds great during a training session. Yet, as the date for the new cell birth draws nearer, the problems  and resistance  multiplies. In this section, I would like to be as realistic and practical as possible knowing that consistent cell multiplication is very difficult to implement.  

Vision Casting

Multiplication does not just naturally happen. Just the opposite. The actual tendency is for cell groups to look inward. Close relationships have developed; fun times have been shared. Why even think about forming a new group?  It’s precisely at this point that without a vision the people perish (Proverbs 28:19). It is here that the vision for cell multiplication is absolutely necessary.   This vision can only come from one place: Leadership.  I’m referring to top leadership, section leaders (L’s), cell leaders, and intern leaders.

Cells will not multiply in the church unless the top leadership (pastoral team) intentionally motivate the cells leaders to make cell multiplication  the chief priority. This primarily takes place in the ongoing training times, but it also should  be heard in the announcements, the sermon, and the award ceremonies (in honor of  cell groups that have given birth)  Again, the goal of the top leadership is to instill this vision for cell multiplication into the thinking of the cell leaders. Ultimately, the cell leaders are the ground troops who make it happen.

How do the cell leaders actually make it happen? I’m sure there are many factors. My field research will largely be dedicated to isolating some of those variables. However, I suspect that much of it has to do with expectation. The cell leader must expect that his group will multiply, and then  constantly communication this expectation with the members of the cell.  It’s not enough to dream and pray. The dreaming and praying must lead to expectation  that results in practical step by step planning  (Cho 1982:166). In commenting on the miracle of Paul Cho’s church and how it grew from twenty small groups to fifty thousand small groups, Hadaway says, “…the numbers continued to grow because a growth strategy was built into each cell group” (1987:19).

It is this type of ‘built in strategy’ or  ‘ genetic code’   that be part of the cell system.  Admittedly, this is easier said than done. Perhaps an illustration will help.  Karen Hurtson talks about one cell leader named Pablo, who shares with the group his vision for multiplication  before every meeting. The people in Pablo’s group have a very positive idea about cell group multiplication. They see the multiplication of their group as a sign of success (Hurtson 1995:12).  Karen Hurtson writes about another group in Shreveport, Louisiana, that baked a cake and had a party before giving birth to a daughter cell. Hurtson comments, “…they understood that multiplying was a sign that their group had been effective, an event worth celebrating” (Hurtson 1995:12).  

Promotion Before the Congregation

            Cell leaders and interns who have been successful in multiplying their cell groups should be highly esteemed before the congregation. [7]   Galloway talks about the importance of motivating your cell leaders by giving them attention, appreciation, and affirmation (1995:126). This is especially true of those who have given birth to a daughter cell. At the El Batan Church in Quito, Ecuador, I would honor those cell leaders (and their wives!) before the congregation. [8] However, I made sure that the senior pastor was intimately involved with the process. If I were to  lead a cell ministry again, I would make a greater effort to promote and honor those leader who had multiplied their cell group. 

Proper Terminology

            The word ‘division’ must be forever erased from the cell ministry’s  vocabulary. As we have mentioned earlier, there is already a natural tendency to become ingrown instead of outreach oriented. The last thing that cell members (who are already having second thoughts about starting a new group) need to hear about is their  upcoming ‘division.’ [9] Speaking of this negative terminology, Ric Lehman,  says, “You ‘divide’ people with barriers like the Berlin Wall or the Iron Curtain. Because of the…negative connotations, we exchanged these words for more life-giving words or phrases like releasing a new leader, multiplication, and birthing (1994:8).

            Ric Lehman’s article, “Don’t Believe THE LIE!” is intended to expose the fallacy, ‘When small groups divide, relationships are severed.’ However, the truth that has remained with me from that article is that I need to change my cell vocabulary. For example, the term assistant cell leader can subtly give the  connotation that a change of leadership is unnecessary—the assistant might never become the leader. Ric recommends the title ‘intern’. This word implies that there is something more coming, like starting a new group (1994:11). 

Goal Setting

            One thing that I really appreciate about Paul Cho is his emphasis on goal setting. [10] I have learned a lot from him in this area. Cho says, “The number-one requirement for having real growth—unlimited church growth—is to set goals” (1982:162).  Not only does Cho believe in this principle, but he also requires that his cell leaders practice it as well. Referring to the cell leaders in Cho’s church, Karen Hurtson writes, “Each cell leader is to pray that God will give him a specific number he and his group are to win to Jesus Christ that year” (1995:101).

An obvious corollary to establishing a goal of converts is setting a goal for cell multiplication. Mallison recommends that  goal setting can be aided by the group claiming  the verse, ‘Unless the grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit’ (John 12:24). He writes,

Let the goal be to grow to 10 or 12 members by the end of the first year….This becomes the group’s motivation for their life together—to grow to the point where they lose their original identity by dividing at the end of twelve months, to become the basis for two more groups with the same goal. AS this process is repeated, so the redemptive fellowship of the original small group is multiplied(1989:22).  

The  principle of goal setting is essential  in those churches where the cells continue indefinitely. If the church  leadership has already established a time limit for multiplication (e.g., one year), in one sense, the goal has already been set.

Knowledge of the Multiplication Process

            The more knowledge cell leaders have about the birth process, the more confidence they will have in actually given birth. I’ll never forget the first time my wife gave birth. Not only did we have the natural anxiety that comes with the first pregnancy, but we were also in  a foreign land (Quito, Ecuador). God provided a mid-wife from the American embassy who patiently taught us everything we needed to know about the birth process. Through her knowledge, we felt ready when the big day arrived.  This illustration needs little explanation. The more knowledge that our cell leaders receive, the more confident they will be when the cell birthday  finally arrives ( there will be far fewer abortions).

Ways to Give Birth

            There are many  small group books which talk about  the various ways to multiple. Although variations exists among  the different authors, these variations are slight. The list that  Carl George  provides (1992: 145-149)  is a good one:

1.     The intern  takes part of the original group and begins a new  one in a  different place.

2.     The leader of the group forms a new group in a different place, leaving the original group with the intern.

3.     A new leader  forms a new group, made up of new people from the church.

            I have overseen the birth process using all three methodologies, and I can say that all three methodologies work well.  Whether or not the intern stays in the original group or launches out to start a new group really depends on the  maturity and leadership of the intern. However, there are a few principles that will help the process.   

Special Considerations of the Birth Process

When determining which members will go with the new group and which ones will stay, it’s important to remember at least two things. First, the natural ‘clicks’  within the group will help determine who will stay and who will go. Perhaps, the reflection of a district pastor in Cho’s church will be helpful,

As much as possible, we divide groups based on natural networks. For example, if the assistant in that group brought two other cell members to the Lord, then that individual will split off with those members to start a new group. If there are no natural networks, then we divide the groups based on geography” (Hurtson 1994:93).  

Bob Logan adds, 

A group ripped asunder without regard for the naturally occurring segments or affinity clusters within the group will make a big mess. If you split a group by arbitrarily counting of, or in this culture, even by using geographical boundaries or some means other than affinity clusters, you may end up with many injured group members. However, if you identify naturally occurring affinity or relational clusters within your group, plant a leader for each (or watch to see what leader naturally emerges to the top of each), and then divide the group by these clusters, the result will be much more beneficial. To encourage the formation of these clusters, start early in the group’s life to experiment with different cluster compositions. Perhaps allow your members to divide by their own devices into groups or three, four, or five members. Note who gravitated to whom, and who took leadership. Try this for three or four weeks to see if any specific clusters are gelling (Logan 1989:138).  

The wise cell leader will be continually analyzing those natural friendship links. When the time comes to give birth, the leader’s discernment will prove to be very helpful.

            Second,  if natural links can’t be established, it’s usually  wise that  the more  mature Christian believers accompany the intern and that the newcomers or less mature stay  with the original cell leader. [11]



As much as possible, I have tried to stick to the theme embodied in the title of this tutorial: Cell Group Design and Evangelism/Church Growth. I have sought to define and analyze the various church based small group models that are in the marketplace today. I have attempted to critique these models by the last two words of my tutorial—evangelism and church growth. Were these models structured to produce rapid church growth? Did their track record testify to a history of rapid church growth? I even made a feeble attempt to set forth the initial principles of my own cell group model.

Since the philosophy of church growth serves as an anchor for this tutorial and my own cell-based philosophy, one entire chapter  was dedicated to examining the major tenants of the church growth school of thought. I mentioned how cell-based churches today are models of rapid church growth and how that almost half of the 50 largest churches in the world today are cell-based.

One chapter was dedicated to exploring how small groups evangelize. It is becoming popular to view the cell network in terms of ‘net fishing’ rather than fishing with a single hook. We also explored the place of friendship evangelism and aggressive or urgent evangelism in the cell group.

The major bulk of this tutorial was dedicated to analyzing the goal of cell group evangelism, namely cell multiplication. Although there is much more research to be accomplished, the evidence is pointing to  cell multiplication as one of the key principles that sets apart effective cell-based ministry.

I now conclude this tutorial with much personal satisfaction. By examining and reflecting upon other cell group models,  I have a new understanding of hat God is doing in the world around us. My examination of cell multiplication has given me a new hunger to explore this topic further. By completing this tutorial, I  have become even more convinced that I can help the body of Christ at large, by  discovering why and how cells multiply, and then sharing that information with Christian leaders.





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Cell Research   


Allen, Roland

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1982    Effective Group Discussion.  Dubuque, Iowa: Wm. C. Brown Company Publishers. 4th ed.  

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1981    Successful Home Cell Groups. Miami: Logos.  

Coleman, Lyman

1993    Serendipity Leadership Conference Syllabus. Serendipity Publishers.  

Galloway,  Dale

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1995    The Small Group Book. Grand Rapids: Fleming H. Revell.  

George,  Carl

1991    Prepare Your Church For The Future. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.  

1993    How To Break Growth Barriers. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.  

1994    The Coming Church Revolution. Grand Rapids: Revell.  

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1993    Community That Is Christian: A Handbook On Small Groups. Wheaton: Victor Books.

Hadaway, C. Kirk, Stuary A. Wright,  and Francis DuBose

1987    Home Cell Groups and House Churches. Nashville: Broadman Press.  

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1988    The Disciple Making Pastor. New Jersey: Revell.  

Hunter, George G. III

1996    Church for the Unchurched. Nashville: Abingdon Press.  

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1994    Growing the World’s Largest Church. Springfield: Chrism.  

1995    “The Importance of Small Group Multiplication” in Global Church Growth. Vol. XXXII, no 4, p. 12.  

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1994    “Don’t Believe The Lie!” Equipping the Saints. Winter. Publication of Vineyard  Christian Fellowship  

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1990    How to Lead Small Groups. Colorado Springs: NavPress.  

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[1] For a more in-depth understanding of Galloway’s system of training,  read  pages .93-110 in Galloway’s most recent book entitled, The Small Group Book (1995).

[2] It’s also true that there is nothing new under the sun,  and I suspect that Carl George simply gave new life to an already existing bimonthly cell training model.

[3] My excitement about my present manual is due to the fact that  it has gone through so many editions. In other words, I changed it according to what actually worked in our cell ministry. Cell theory that didn’t work  has been deleted as a result of the numerous  editions.

[4] Neighbour has developed an elaborate set of materials which deals with every stage of the believer’s walk. However, all of this material is designed to be used within the cell group and the cell group structure.

[5] I had four conversations with Dale Galloway during and after his 1995 cell seminar in Columbus, Ohio. Dale explicitly told me that Carl George had  intensely studied Hope Community Church (Galloway’s church) in Portland, Oregon before writing his  book, Prepare Your Church for the Future.  Dale implied that the principles in George’s book came from his ministry. Yet, in one sense, all of those principles ultimately came from Cho'’ model in Korea, since Galloway  began his cell ministry based on Cho’s model.

[6] Neighbour points out that this is one aspect that is common to all of the cell churches. In his book, Where Do We Go From Here (1990:73-80), Neighbour talks about this apprentice system (George calls this the Jethro model) that is so common in cell churches today .

[7] Chapter 13 of  Successful Home Cell Groups is dedicated to the importance of recognition of cell leadership.

[8] In the special presentation, we also included   the leaders (and their wives) of the new daughter group.

[9] I have become so convinced of this truth that I will openly correct  cell leaders who use this terminology. I remember one L who I invited to speak at one of my seminars. He repeatedly used the word division in describing cell multiplication, and I corrected him before the whole seminar, as a point of clarification (he was a good friend).

[10] Cho attributes much of his success in ministry  to goal setting principles (1982:161-176). He has a fourfold goal setting formula: 1st: Set the goal (after much prayer) 2nd : Dream about the goal (capture God’s vision for it) 3rd: Proclaim the goal to those who will make it happen (congregation, etc.) 4th : Prepare for the fulfillment of the goal (In other words, make plans as  though God were  going to accomplish it).

[11] I should clarify the term ‘mature’. Only because oftentimes the so called  ‘mature people’  resist cell multiplication the most.  They can also be very critical of the new leader. I’m using  ‘mature’ to refer to people who are convinced of the cell multiplication idea and will do everything possible to make it work.






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