(This article has been taken from The Refreshing Magazine issue #1 “10 Tips to start a cell group and keep it going!”)
Big and small meetings are an important part of God’s plan. Especially since big meetings allow the few preachers available to convey the deeper truths we need to hear. Small meetings (also called home fellowships or house church) however, allow for all believers to get involved in a more personal and a more loving way. This also allows cell group participants to experience the leading of God’s Holy Spirit, an often neglected experience for many Christians. It is about the cell group meetings that we now wish to speak, as it is really from these that Christians should begin their involvement in the Church. Such involvement will cause believers to go beyond being “babes in Christ”, who only sit and receive, to those who give to others from the “wells of living water” that they have inside them. I have, over the years, found the following ten points useful when starting and working with cell groups and trust that you will find them useful as you apply them. God bless you as you reach out for Him, in faith and in love.
PRAYER & TEAM WORK IS KEY!
Our greatest challenge is to know the will of God. Ask yourself relevant questions such as: “Is it God’s will that, I start a new cell group or be part of another cell group?” There are many answers to these questions that can only come from God. We need to realize one thing, that before commencing with a cell group we need to spend much time in prayer and consideration (waiting on God) before starting anything. When you have the peace of God concerning the answers, then press on with what God has laid upon your heart. Please note that, praying only once for and about the cell group, is not sufficient. You need to get together with the Lord and other believers involved and continuously pray for the work that is to be started (over a period of time). Again we cannot stop it here we also need to pray for the group throughout the time it is active, during the year.
Starting a cell group needs at least two people with a Spiritual grounding. The disciples went out in two's, sharing the Word (See the book of Acts). A believer, one having a personal relationship with the Lord and having received sufficient guidance / training should, initially, be the one to lead the meetings. A novice (or newly saved believer) cannot supervise a cell group on their own – at least not initially. They will have to, over a period of time, be trained (guided) into the functioning of the cell group and the Word of God. This can only take place by regular attendance of a cell group and through sufficient spiritual input into their lives. This training/guidance then provides them with the ability to be supportive in running a cell group. We need to be careful in how we approach this least we scare people from being involved and ready for responsibility. So take it slow and try to gauge by the Holy Spirit when someone is ready to be part of your team. A team is a great back-up, especially if an emergency crops up. There is no need to cancel the cell group as you have a team to rely on in your absence.
Many believe it is the least important aspect – think again. If you are going to have cell group at your home, remember you are opening up your home to other people, many of whom may be complete strangers. You need to realize that it is going to take a lot of effort and courage. Effort, since you obviously need to prepare your home for fellow believers; and courage, because as people, we generally love our privacy.
Another point for your list to consider concerns sufficient secure parking space. Finally, keep this rule of thumb in mind, change or rotate to different venues at least every 2 years or so. It cuts out the monotony and the tradition of going to one place only. However, if the homeowner is more than happy and even insistent on accommodating you for longer than 2 years then take up the offer. Avoid where possible, cell groups at apartment buildings, flats or security complexes where noise, limited secure parking and seating space will create a
The hardest part of a cell group is faithfulness. When you start something, you need to see it through to the end, no matter what opposition you face! There is no place for silly excuses. People will only take the cell group seriously, if you are serious. Faithfulness is part of the testimony of being a Christian. It is also one of the fruits of the Spirit!
MUSIC of the SPIRIT
I have heard of many cell groups using ice-breakers to get people warmed-up and receptive to a meeting. Unfortunately many of the ice-breakers used are often not suitable for a Christian gathering! Often they don’t apply to the meeting and add no value. An alternative does present itself to us. For as little as R30.00 or 3.00 US dollars a Christian music CD can be purchased at any Christian supply store. Usually the lyrics are available within the CD cover. Have the lyrics re-typed and make copies of them for your group to sing from. Use the CD as backing tracks. If you want a greater variety of music then don’t hesitate to purchase another CD. The key to choosing the right songs suitable for a group boils down to asking two questions:
- Are the lyrics in line with the Word of God?
- Are the songs easy to sing? (There is nothing worse than having a song that only the professionals can sing.)
Note: Ensure that you increase the volume of the CD player / Music Theatre system just loud enough, so that you don’t hear one another too clearly when singing. Strange hint this may be, but it works! People won’t feel self-conscious about their singing and it works as a great ice-breaker. Even first-time visitors by the second and third song will have joined in, singing with all their hearts. At the same time, you praise and honour God without resorting to un-Christ-like ice-breakers. (Recommended groups to consider when shopping for music: Hillsong Live, The Mandate, Robin Mark and Spring Harvest live and Praise Africa. These are just some of the great worship groups to use. Avoid most youth albums as they might be too loud for the neighbours and too fast for the group!!).
BUILD each other up in LOVE
Another vital part of the cell group is open sharing. The Bible teaches us to give attention to 3 things when coming together as Christians. It says “concentrate on the public reading of Scripture, on exhorting, and on teaching. Do not neglect the gift that is in you, which was given to you through prophecy, accompanied by the laying on of the elders' hands. Think on these things. Devote your life to them so that everyone can see your progress. Pay close attention to your life and your teaching. Persevere in these things, for if you do this, you will save both yourself and those who listen to you.” (1 Timothy 4:13 – 16 ISV) There are three areas to cover that must be shared among the people within the group, which are:
- Bible reading: If you have waited on God during the week, and have received a Bible verse that you feel will bless others – then read it to the group!
- Strong encouragement: The Bible teaches us that we should be encouraging those in our group as often as we can in these last days. Not preaching down on them, but encouraging them to push on and run the race till the end, much like a cheerleader would. Include testimonies of how God has answered prayers and how God has kept you during the week – don’t hide that light (testimony) under a bushel!
- Teaching: You might find that due to a lack of understanding of God’s principles among believers that teaching needs to be given to help them understand the truth. What is shared needs to be carefully considered by the “teacher” and must be checked carefully by the “hearer” before being accepted as “the final Word of God”. Note that out of reading, exhortation and teaching, that teaching will probably be the least emphasized in the cell meetings.
Finally, the key to knowing whether the meeting was a success or not, is not in numbers or popular appeal, but rather in whether the meeting had a definite theme identified as being from God. A meeting that (without clever orchestration or organization by members) comes together smoothly, it should flow like water. It should tie all participants’ contributions (including songs) together miraculously. An indication that the meeting is of God. Since all things that God has shared in your life can be confirmed by the contributions of other believers, look for such confirmation, to confirm that you and they are in the Spirit.
This is a very critical point to consider as the human concentration span on average is only half-an-hour long. By having meetings for longer than an hour, you generally commit “cell group suicide”. Rather keep meeting duration short – not longer than an hour (unless previously agreed upon with other members). Spend half an hour singing and half an hour sharing with one another. Then close the meeting. Don’t waste time! Since for many people, time is precious. Remember the Bible teaches that the Word of God is like a seed, not a boulder. We share here a little and there a little – not in huge long sermon-type presentations which generally never work.
Keep in mind the circumstances of the people you are fellowshipping with. Arrange the cell group to cater for those particular needs accordingly. Each cell group will be different. For example in a farming community to have a cell group early in the morning or early at night isn’t possible. Most farmers during harvest time start work at 04h00 in the morning and finish work at 22h00 at night. Thus the farmers generally can only have cell meetings after 22h00 at night. While city folk will be stuck in traffic, getting home late and thus a 19h30 meeting time would suite city folk. Another point to consider is the serving of refreshments after the meeting. This needs to be considered carefully as it can be costly and not all can afford to do so. If the group feel they need to interact (get to know one another) and encourage one another after the meeting, then by all means. Also consider that this time of sharing after the meeting should not infringe on the time of the host. Your cell group can be as big as you feel necessary; yet remember the Lord says that: “For where two or three come together in my name, I am there with them." (Matt 18:20 GNB). We do advise that you do not have more than 30 people present as it just becomes difficult to stay intimate and to stick with the meeting plan. A comfortable or reasonable size is 8 people. In some countries it is against the law to have Christian meetings, thus arrangements need to be made to allow secret meetings. In such cases, singing isn’t always possible and fewer people should attend a meeting for safety purposes.
UNITY with LOVE
The right spirit is very important. Without it, everyone might as well go home! People need to desire the unity of the Spirit (The Spirit of Jesus) The people in the group may have different backgrounds, different beliefs, different denominations and unique personalities – All unified by Jesus Christ. In time, if the group progresses long enough with the right spirit, then the differences in beliefs will get smaller. This is a clear indication of people coming towards a Unity of the Faith (or belief). (Read Ephesians 4) Sometimes you will get trouble-makers that just don’t have the Spirit of Christ – don’t just chase them away. This will be the easy way out. Rather, as the Bible teaches, pray for them. God will do the sifting. Jesus never chased the Pharisees away! In time, if the trouble-maker belongs with your group, then God will draw them in as part of it and He will changes prevailing attitudes. Remember it says in the book of Acts that “God added to the Church daily SUCH as should be saved”. (Acts 2: 47 & read Matthew 13: 24 – 42) God will add as He sees fit and remove those who don’t belong.
Love is the end of all things. The Bible teaches that without love we are nothing (1 Corinthians 13). Perfect love also casts out fear and it covers a multitude of sins. Love will ensure that nobody will intentionally hurt another or be responsible for a group dissolving because of irreconcilable matters. You might not be a great speaker or well-learned theologian or pastor with incredible teaching abilities from God’s Word; but if you have love then you will have a cell group full of incredible individuals who will equip and see each other through to the end of the race into heavenly glory.