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]
My interest in leadership development and cell groups is intimately linked with my passion for church growth. As Wagner so clearly brings out in his landmark book Leading Your Church To Growth, “In every growing, dynamic church I have studied, I have found a key person whom God is using to make it happen” (1984:61). This is also true in cell ministry. Behind a successful cell group is an effective leader. 
chapter, my focus turns to leadership training models in the cell church ,
that is, how
a cell church can effectively, yet
rapidly, train leadership
to meet the burgeoning needs of a growing church. I will cover leadership
training for new Christians all the way to cell apprenticeship and internship.
We have already discussed the urgent need in the cell church to identify potential leaders in the cell church. Under this section, I will suggest some models for preparing new believers to become cell leaders.
I will be using the word “training” in this section as opposed to “discipleship”. To me, the word “training” speaks of movement and direction toward a goal. On the other hand, the word “discipleship” often provokes images of inward growth and personal sanctification that is purely qualitative in nature. The training that I’m describing in this paper is goal oriented and seeks to take the new believer from his present position to a practical, hands on ministry which contributes to the natural process of church growth.
Under this section, I will analyze two models that are becoming
increasingly well known and
probably the most widely promoted at this time.
This is largely due to the fact that Ralph Neighbour has his own
publishing house and Bethany World Prayer Center
has become one of the most well attended cell conferences in the world.
Ralph Neighbour has probably done more than anyone to connect new
believer training with cell group
ministry. In industry terms, Dr. Neighbour has set the standard. Many cell
churches are either using his material or have adapted it in their own
I recently bought the Track Pack from Touch Publications, Ralph Neighbour’s publishing house. This pack includes seven discipleship books (booklets) written by Ralph Neighbour.  These booklets take the new believer from rethinking his value system to learning to penetrate his own “oikoses” (friends, neighbors, and family) through leading small groups.
The main characteristic that separates these training manuals from the “garden variety” discipleship booklets (i.e., Navigator—Campus Crusade variety) is that they are so intimately linked with the cell group. In the cornerstone booklet, The Arrival Kit, Week one, Day one informs the new believer,
Your Cell Group will be served in a
special way. Some day, when you have matured, you may also shepherd others as
a Cell Leader. There will never be more than fifteen in your family cell, and
you will soon discover that each member is on a spiritual journey with you
In the above quote, not only does Dr. Neighbour introduce new believer training and cell group involvement simultaneously, he also plants the seed that someday the new believer might become a cell group leader.
Most of the material for new believers in the Track Pack is foundational Biblical teaching designed to disciple new believers. However, Neighbour takes those teachings and gives them new meaning in the light of the cell group. Take, for example, the Biblical teaching on fellowship. A quote out of the booklet, Welcome To Your Changed Life, says,
There’s an event
unbelievers look forward to, often called the ‘Happy Hour.’ It’s a time
when friends get together for an hour or so and drink alcoholic spirits to ‘get
happy.’ Perhaps you have shared in such events? Christians have the only
TRUE ‘Happy Hour!’ It’s a special time, called a ‘Cell Group,’ when
they get together to be with their Lord (1995:14).
When talking about baptism, he urges the new Christian to talk with his cell leader as soon as possible (1993:41). When touching the Lord’s Supper, he says, “In your oikos, you will observe a special meal called ‘The Lord’s Supper’” (1993:41).
The new believer is guided upon a track (a literal railroad track) that attempts to take him from his worldly value system all the way to conducting small groups and winning his non-Christians neighbors. With each new stage of ministry, Neighbour emphasizes a corresponding book or books of the Bible. The following diagram explains the process better.
NEIGHBOUR'S DISCIPLESHIP TRACK
In my opinion, the strength of Neighbour’s training system does not
reside in the doctrinal/Scriptural teaching of his training material. The
Navigators and other like-minded groups probably have an edge on the market
in this area. Rather, the
importance of these materials lie
in the fact that Dr. Neighbour is the first one to link new believer training
so intimately with cell group ministry.
I believe that the most unique, workable contribution of Dr. Neighbour to new believer training is the concept of sponsorship within the cell group. Sponsorship is much like one on one discipleship. However, the main difference is that the sponsor (or discipler) comes from within the cell group and sponsors (disciples) someone who has been assigned to the same group. However, Neighbour does not only believe that a Sponsor should disciple a new Christian. Rather, he believes that every newcomer to the group should have a sponsor (Sponsor’s 1995:5). 
The Sponsor-Sponsee relationship lasts from three to four months. Then the relationship changes to partnership. It’s during this transitional time that the Sponsor trains the Sponsee to become a Sponsor of others (Sponsor’s 1995:5). The Sponsor is supposed to do at least six things with the Sponsee (Sponsor’s 1995:22-32). They are:
5. Setting the Pace or Leading
6. Involving the Sponsee with other Christians
As far as I am concerned, the sponsorship idea should be implemented in
every cell group. Cell group
leaders cannot do everything. Trying to lead and shepherd the group, as well
as care for the new converts is not only draining but ineffective. This idea,
steals the wealth of
Navigator/Campus Crusade knowledge on discipleship, but takes it one step
further. It envelops the new believer in a
close knit cell group.
Four booklets of the Track Pack focus on teaching the new believer to reach out to non-Christians. Neighbour believes that the most effective outreach involves reaching friends, neighbors, and family members which he labels our “oikos”. This is the Greek word for house or household in the New Testament (1992:60-65). He also distinguishes between “type A” unbelievers who are familiar with religious customs from “type B” unbelievers who are “…are not searching for Jesus Christ, and show no interest in Bible study or other Christian activities (1992:27).
For the “type B” unbelievers, Dr. Neighbour has designed a “non-Christian type” cell group called Share Groups. These Share Groups do not replace the normal cell groups but rather serve as an extension or outreach from the regular cell group. Those believers who start or participate in Share Groups have the dual responsibility of attending their normal cell group as well as a separate Share Group. Concerning these Share Groups, Neighbour says, “This group should be free, informal, and spontaneous….It’s important for all Share Group members to feel they can be themselves” (1991:60).
The idea of Share Groups is a sound one and obviously has been used by
Dr. Neighbour and others very
effectively. However, I have personally discovered very few people have time
to be involved in a regular cell group, a celebration service, some type of
cell training activity, and then commit themselves to another activity—in
this case, a Share Group. In other words, I have found this concept more
idealistic than practical in the life of a cell church.
Bethany World Prayer Center holds the most promise for promoting and
modeling the cell church model in the United States.
They have successfully adapted Neighbour’s
training methods for new believers to their own context and situation.
First, it should be noted that from the moment that the new convert enters the church, there is cell group
involvement. The process is best described in the following
STEPS FROM NEW BELIEVER TO CELL LEADER
Bethany Cell Conference Manual 1996:17)
As of June, 1996, Bethany had not yet developed their Leadership Track (Step five). The most developed part of their new believer training is step two, the Discipleship Track that begins the moment the new believer arrives at the cell group. The following table better describe the process that step:
BETHANY'S INITIAL TRAINING
Like most things at Bethany World Prayer Center, I really like their
new believer to cell leadership training
model. Although it is still “under construction”, it seems to be
practical, thorough, and doable. I actually like the idea of using four simple
tracts to cover important Biblical truth rather
than paying more money for
an in-depth booklet (Neighbour).
It also seems a lot easier to train Sponsors
with something as simple as a tract.
Like most things at Bethany World Prayer Center, I really like their new believer to cell leadership training model. Although it is still “under construction”, it seems to be practical, thorough, and doable. I actually like the idea of using four simple tracts to cover important Biblical truth rather than paying more money for an in-depth booklet (Neighbour). It also seems a lot easier to train Sponsors with something as simple as a tract.
Bethany should be commended for their creativity in combining personal cell group training with classroom instruction (something that would be unacceptable to some cell group purists--- Ralph Neighbour). Bethany is also the model for effectiveness when it comes to making immediate contact with the new believer and utilizing the cell leaders immediately after the altar call.
Although I like their model and do not have any criticisms of it, I believe that it is not wise for any cell church to follow verbatim someone else’s model of training. Every cell model has to be adapted to fit the situation, the followers, and the leaders.
In this section, I will primarily deal with the latter stages of cell
leader training. That is, I will be describing the various training models for
cell leaders. My starting point will be
three of the four training model categories that Lyman Coleman uses in his
1993 manual on small group ministry.
However, I hope to expand on Coleman’s categories,
offer major corrections,
and add one more model.
I believe that it is useful to start with Coleman’s
categories since most cell leader training will fall under one of them.
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.
The Serendipity Model of leadership training requires six sessions of up-front training with periodic on-going training. That is, the potential leaders are required to take six seminar type classes before they can lead a small group. Afterwards, they are required to attend a monthly on-going leadership training meeting. Coleman takes pride in the fact that his model 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). The requirements in themselves are sound and the once a month ongoing training takes into account the busy life of the cell leader.  It is my understanding that Coleman does not promote the Jethro system in his model of small group ministry. 
However, I have noticed one major difficulty. Serendipity encourages churches to initiate a variety of small groups in the church (e.g., sports groups, choir groups, care groups, etc.). For example, 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).
groups are so diverse, it is 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 ongoing
leadership training in a church that promotes a wide variety of small groups
is very difficult to maintain and make relevant.
In the US the Meta Model of small group ministry seems to have the
highest profile due to the fact that two
of the largest churches in the US are using it (WillowCreek and Saddleback
The Meta model requires less up-front training than the Serendipity approach. Coleman says, “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). George, the philosophical thinker behind the Meta Model, sets forth his reasoning behind less up-front training in his recent book, The Coming Church Revolution,
Those who plan
training and leadership development in churches tend to overdo orientation
training and under do supervision. Why? Their own educational upbringing has
made them comfortable with orientation training but relatively unfamiliar with
the notion of supervision....any growing Christian...will be able to put
together lots of the pieces on a common-sense basis with only a small amount
of instruction (1994: 83).
As a pragmatist, George realizes that no one model is laid in concrete. In other words, although George would prefer to use an effective model of apprenticeship, he is willing to change if the apprenticeship is not working. He says,
The poorer the
supervision, the richer the orientation has to be. The thicker the
supervision, the thinner the orientation has to be. Adult learning that is
rooted in behavior change opts increasingly in favor of supervision and on the
job training rather than on orientation (1994:84).
To compensate for the lack of up-front training, each cell leader and intern in the Meta model must attend on-going bimonthly leadership training.  In other words, the Meta Model requires that the cell leaders spend more time fulfilling on the job training. Ideally, every other week, they are required to meet in a general leadership training event called the VHS (Vision, Huddle, and Skill Training).
(both the leader and the intern) learn best through experience and reflection.
George rightly says, …the best possible context anyone has ever discovered
for developing leadership occurs because of a small group” (1994:48).
If the small group is the best context for a leader to
gain experience, the
bimonthly leadership training session is the best place for leaders to reflect
on their experiences. It is
during these leadership training meetings that the top leadership of
the church can help in the training process (George 1992: 119-152).
In his book, Prepare Your Church for the Future, George strongly emphasizes the bimonthly leadership gatherings (Vision, Huddle, and Skill Training) 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.) ties 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.
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 people 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).
I personally believe that the change of emphasis from on-going training to apprenticeship is the result of the difficulty in gathering together leaders from such diverse groups and trying to offer them something relevant. This was the same criticism that I offered concerning the Serendipity Model.  As I have studied the Meta Model in five flagship churches around the US, I have discovered that ongoing training has become increasingly difficult, if not irrelevant. 
However, it must be added that the Meta Model promotes a strong Jethro
system of leadership (see footnote under Serendipity Model). In my study of Meta Churches in the US, I noticed an increasing reliance on the Jethro system,
due to the difficulty of gathering the small group leaders together for
According to Lyman Coleman, the Cho model requires no up-front
training. Once the cell group is
formed, Coleman says that 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). Coleman then proceeds to talk about what Dale
Galloway does, who Coleman labels as the major as the major advocate of
the Cho model in the US (Coleman 1993: 5:19).
I am not sure
how Coleman arrived at these conclusions,
but it does not appear that they are true.
First, in Dale Galloway’s
recent book on his small group
ministry called, The Small
Group Book, he talks about offering an initial training time for cell
leaders and interns that lasts three
day event (1995:93). Second, the evidence seems to point to Galloway being
more of an advocate of the Meta Model than the Cho Model.
If by calling this training
system the ‘Cho model’,
Coleman is referring to the what Paul Yonggi Cho actually does in
Korea, he is also mistaken.
Contrary to what Coleman 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). Cho believes that “…the success of home cell groups depends on the guidance of the pastor, a trained lay leadership and continual fellowship with the Holy Spirit” (1981:135).
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).
In summary, the original Cho Model (before it became impractical to train the cell leaders on a weekly basis) consisted of:
1. An eight week training course for potential cell leaders
2. Strong implementation of the Jethro System
Weekly Training for the cell leaders (this has now been cut back to twice per
This original Cho model is followed
precisely by Bethany World Prayer Center today. The cell leaders and
interns are required to meet every Wednesday night with their section pastors
and district pastors who train them in the cell lessons. Pastor Larry, after
delivering exegetical teaching to the congregation, meets with the cell
leaders to pray for them and stir
them up with fresh vision. There is also a
required cell leadership training before one can lead a group. Like in
Cho’s church, there is also a healthy
Jethro system in place.
Neighbour’s model of pre-training and ongoing training is unique. From my understanding of Neighbour, there is no ongoing training after one has begun leading a cell group. He believes that potential leaders must be trained from within their existing cell groups through a combination of modeling and personal training.  I believe that Neighbour does promote a leadership training retreat in which potential cell leaders are invited. However, my point here is that after the cell leader begins ministering, there are no ongoing training meetings. Neighbour believes that the only way a cell church can keep up with the constant need for new cell leadership is if each leader trains new leaders (1990: 221).
After describing the four training models, Lyman Coleman refers to the fifth model, that is, the model that best describes your own personal situation. 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 (Vision, Huddle, and Skill Training) model that is now promoted by Carl George.  Apart from many helpful hints in the manual, the core principle was holding bimonthly training session with all the cell leadership present. 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 our three and one half years s of cell ministry. Both of us agreed that the bimonthly training sessions were the backbone of our cell ministry and the key to our success. 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.
pre-training developed in two
stages. In the initial stages of the cell ministry, I taught a taught a Sunday
School course entitled “How To Lead A Cell Group.” That was my first
attempt to put together a cell
manual. Later, when the manual was more fully developed, I offered a one day
seminar for new leaders.
Among the five
models discussed under this section, there seems to be more similarity than
dissimilarity, more agreement than disagreement. The following table gives an
overview of the four cell leader training models:
SUMMARY OF CELL LEADER TRAINING MODELS
Model appears to be the weakest in that there is not an emphasis on
apprenticeship within the cell group nor on the Jethro system. I also
found Neighbour’s model to be deficient, due to the lack of formal
leadership training and ongoing training, which I believe are both very
The Serendipity Model appears to be the weakest in that there is not an emphasis on apprenticeship within the cell group nor on the Jethro system. I also found Neighbour’s model to be deficient, due to the lack of formal leadership training and ongoing training, which I believe are both very important.
The Meta Model and the Cho Model have the most in common. However, the Cho model includes both formal pre-training as apprenticeship training within the cell group, while the Meta Model only offers apprenticeship training. With this in mind, it would appear that the Cho Model offers the most complete system of cell training. It is also true that the Cho Model has produced the most rapid church growth, which is another factor in its favor.
Therefore, in summary, an effective cell leader training model should have:
1. Some kind of pre-training for potential cell leaders before they begin leading their groups.
2. An apprentice system within the cell group in which potential leaders are in the process of being trained from the moment they enter the group.
3. A Jethro system in which every leader is pastored. 
4. Some type of on-going training (this training might be weekly, bimonthly, or monthly).
 Again, the major part of my research in Latin America will involve trying to determine the characteristics of effective cell leaders in contrast to those who are ineffective.
 This year they are preparing for 3,000 pastors to travel to Baton Rouge to attend their five day seminar.
 Jim Egli is co-authored The New Believer’s Station. These booklets are distributed through Touch Publishing House—1-800-735-5865.
 For those who are already Christians, he recommends that the Sponsor use the booklet, The Arrival Kit. This booklet talks about areas such as: kingdom values, being filled with the Spirit, spiritual bondage, etc. I’m not sure if I would personally use the ‘sponsoring’ concept with everyone that arrives in a cell group. Again, this seems more idealistic than practical.
 Recently I heard from Jim Egli, a director at Touch Outreach, that while their seminar ministry is not seeing great results, Bethany World Prayer Center is being swamped with pastors attending their cell seminars.
 In this 1993 manual Coleman goes into great detail in describing the Meta Model, the Cho Model, the Serendipity Model, and the Covenant Model (which I will not use here because it is not really a church growth model.
 From what I know and have read about Paul Cho’s model of training leaders, Coleman is way off in the way that he describes it.
 Bethany World Prayer Center requires that the cell leaders and interns attend a weekly training session.
 That is, cell leaders are cared for by leaders over them. The leaders over the cell leaders also have leaders over them and the process continues up to the senior pastor.
 At this time, very few Meta Churches insist on bimonthly ongoing leadership training (since the Meta Model has now been proven in the market place).
 From my research, I have discovered that the lines are increasingly difficult to distinguish between the Serendipity Model and the Meta Model. Both offer a plethora of small groups and both have a very difficult time training leadership on an ongoing basis.
 In my tutorial on Cell Group Strategies (June, 1996), I discussed this issue.
 In my tutorial on Cell strategies, I describe New Hope Community Church in greater detail. The reason that I believe that New Hope Community Church has modeled the Meta Model more than the Cho Model is due to their wide variety of small groups, the fact that George set forth the Meta paradigm after studying Galloway’s church, and the fact that Galloway openly promotes the Meta Model in his seminars.
 I’m referring here to the training offered in the Track Pack.
 It is 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.
 The weekly ongoing training was the original model that the Yoida Full Gospel Church practiced for years. As was mentioned earlier, this weekly training time has now become biannual due to the rapid growth of the cell groups.
 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),