From Large to Small Group
By Joel Comiskey
Small Group Network (August 2002)
Small Group Network (August 2002)
2002, I met Mark, the pastor of a growing Southern Baptist Church in
“I train our cell leaders to be ready to pounce
on every visitor in the church. Our cell leaders immediately try to assimilate
the newcomers by inviting them to their cell groups. We’ve
discovered here in
cell evangelism?” I countered. “Shouldn’t
we be training and encouraging cell members to evangelize their friends and
agreed wholeheartedly with me. “It’s not an either-or situation. We should
ask our people to do both,” he said. “Most of our small group growth,
however, comes through assimilating people
from the large group gathering.”
Tap into your Large Group Potential
heard over and over the need for small group evangelism. And yes, we need to
constantly exercise our small group evangelism muscles. But let’s not forget
the large group context. The ideal is that everyone in the church attends both
cell and celebration. In reality, there will always be a pool of those who
attend only the celebration. Some of these people are visitors; others have
attended the church for quite a while. Some will participate in a cell group
after one invitation; others require a shove.
advice is to aggressively invite all people at the celebration service to the
cell: “I’d like to invite you to my cell group on Friday night at
I think you’d really like it.
Do you need a ride?” Cell leaders don’t need to worry about competition
among themselves. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if five different cell leaders or
interns invited the same visitor?
heard that “it’s hard to teach an old dog new tricks.” Well, it’s true
in churches, too, so don’t be discouraged by the resistance of some. Go after
the visitors and the new converts. These are the people who still have
non-Christian contacts to invite to your cell group. Perhaps, the person will
come to your small group after only one invitation. The reality is that many
will not. They first need receive personal contact.
newcomers right away makes a huge difference. After carefully analyzing growing
churches, Herb Miller reaches this conclusion in his book The Magnetic Church:
other single factor makes a greater difference in improving annual membership
addition than an immediate visit to the home of first-time worshippers. … When
lay persons make fifteen-minute visits to the homes of first-time worship
visitors within thirty-six hours, 85 percent of them return the following week.
Make this home visit within seventy-two hours, and 60 percent of them return.
Make it seven days later, and 15 percent will return. The pastor making this
call, rather than lay persons, cuts each result in half.[i]
how much more impact that visit has if it comes from a lay person rather than
from the clergy.
leader, if you want your cell to grow, develop, and multiply, one of the keys is
immediate visitation of newcomers. When someone visits the celebration service
in your church (or your small group) plan an immediate follow-up visit, send the
person a card, and/or pick up the telephone and call. Offer to give the person a
ride to your small group. Do what it takes to assure the person from the large
group actually shows up in your small group. The saying, “People don’t care
how much you know until they know how much you care” is true, so care for the
cell churches around the world have implemented systems so newcomers don’t
“fall through the cracks.” Visitor cards are collected in the church and
distributed to the various cell groups, who in turn contact the newcomers.
Because of this organized approach to reaching out, many visitors attend a cell.
These churches track newcomers to ensure that they receive proper follow-up and
Just Do It
While refusing to only
fill our small group through large group assimilation, let’s take
advantage of people who God has already brought to the church through the large
group gathering. These people need community, accountability, and perhaps
salvation. Boldly invite them to
your small group. Then do what it takes to assure that they actually come.
[i] Herb Miller, How to Build a Magnetic Church. Creative Leadership Series. Lyle Schaller, ed. (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1987), pp. 72-73.