Watch a bird in flight, and you will notice the two wings do not flap randomly; they are in perfect sync with one another. The cell church is often called a “two-winged” church, able to reach new heights because of the connection of its large-group and small-group wings. Just as in the early church, a synergy combines the dynamic of corporate gatherings and the intimate sharing of home groups (Acts 2:42-47).
What does it mean for your large-group and small-group wings to move in harmony with each other? Most cell churches create this synergy in part by dovetailing their cell agendas to their Sunday sermon themes. (For example, seven of the eight major cell churches researched by Joel Comiskey for Home Cell Group Explosion tie their cell themes to the Sunday messages.)
Correlating your cell agendas to your sermon themes is not difficult, but a few important things really make it work. If you write dynamic cell agendas tied to your Sunday messages, your two-winged church can soar to new heights.
WHAT NOT TO DO
The cell groups are to follow the same theme and Scripture as the Sunday message, but they are not to discuss the sermon. Your goal is to have people interact with God’s Word, not with the sermon. Also, if the sermon itself is the reference point, visitors and those who missed the celebration service will feel left out.
When you write questions for the cell agendas, do not include questions that assume previous Bible knowledge. Focus on the plain meaning of the passage and its application. I remember leading a cell group with two brand new Christians in it. I asked how the message of the passage was exemplified in incidences from Jesus’ own life. While it created lively discussion, the new believers sat silent, intimidated by others’ Bible knowledge. Unfortunately, they did not return to the next week’s cell gathering. Cell groups are different from Sunday school classes. The focus is on life application of the Word, not knowledge of the Word. Focus your questions on the simple, powerful message of the Bible passage and on how we need to respond to God.
Also, do not use a long passage. Pastor Dion Robert oversees one of the most dynamic cell churches in the world, in the Ivory Coast. His cell groups focus on just one verse each week. I don’t restrict cell agendas quite that much, but the lesson remains: Stay focused. It is all right for cell leaders to occasionally deviate from the given agenda, but this should be the exception rather than the rule.
ESTABLISH A SIMPLE SYSTEM
Writing cell agendas doesn’t take a lot of time, but it does require a simple system. The first step in creating this system is deciding who should write the agendas. Many senior pastors write their own because the agendas are crucial to the life of their church. Other pastors find they are not talented at crafting questions, so they delegate it to someone more gifted in this area.
The person writing the cell agendas needs the message theme a few days ahead of time so the cell leaders can receive the agendas the day of the sermon. Don’t worry if the sermon changes at the last minute—the agenda will still be of value and can still be usable.
If possible, distribute the agenda to cell leaders in multiple ways. For example, we have mailboxes for the cell leaders, and the agendas go in those boxes each week. But they are also sent via email to those who have email accounts. That way, some who missed Sunday service or forgot to check their box get the agenda in a timely manner.
For maximum life-change, follow a sermon topic for four to six weeks. This allows God’s Word to soak in and take root in cell members as they hear the Word and discuss related issues over a period of weeks.
WRITE POWERFUL AGENDAS
At the top of the agenda, clearly put the week, the theme and the Scripture. To illustrate a typical cell agenda here, we will use:
Week of January 1 — “New Beginnings,” Philippians 3:12-14
The agenda should then follow the standard four W’s:
Welcome. Include one or two icebreaker suggestions. These can follow the Scripture theme or be related to the time of year. Icebreakers should be easy to answer and not consume much time. For example, you could put:
1. What is one thing God did for you last year?
2. What is one goal you have for the year ahead?
3. What is one thing you want God to do for you in the New Year?
Worship. You don’t have to include worship suggestions, but you can. Usually someone other than the cell leader leads worship. Remember, cells should use songs that are easy to sing and used by your church on Sundays.
Word. This is the heart of your agenda. State the objective of the Word time in the agenda. For our example, you could write:
Objective: Cell members will identify the things God is calling them to leave behind and bring these things to Him in prayer as they reach out to the new things Christ has in store for them.
The most common error in cell agendas is including too many discussion questions. Most cell leaders feel obligated to cover all the questions you include. A good Word time has only three or four questions. If cell leaders try to cover more than that, the extroverts in the group will dominate the meeting. By using fewer questions and sitting on them, everyone is drawn in and interacts with the passage. This is crucial because introverts often have more profound answers. (They are actually thinking about the questions!)
Questions should focus on the main meaning of the passage and its application. Here are four questions that can be used repeatedly with some variation:
1. What stands out to you in this passage?
2. What seems to be the main point of this passage?
3. Can you illustrate this truth from an experience in your life?
4. What is God saying to you right now?
For our sample passage of Philippians 3:12-14, you could use the suggestions below in an agenda:
1. Have someone read Philippians 3:12-14.
2. Ask: “What stands out to you in this passage?”
3. Ask: “What is something you gave up to follow Christ?” Note that some people give up obvious and ugly sins to follow Christ, but others like Paul have to give up things like religious legalism and self-righteousness.
4. Discuss: “What are some obstacles that prevent Christians like us from going on with God today?”
5. Move into smaller groups with three or four men or women in each group to share and pray together around this question: “What is God asking you to leave behind, and what is God calling you to reach for in the year ahead?”
Works. This final part of the meeting focuses on outreach. If this is consistently squeezed out of your meetings, move it before the Word time for four weeks straight. It is helpful in the Works time to use a tool like TOUCH’s “Blessing List” to keep cell members focused on praying for and loving their lost friends, co-workers and neighbors. We encourage the cells in our church to pray for the neighborhood of the home they meet in that week. Give practical suggestions like this in the Works portion of the agenda. Frequently suggest they plan parties and cookouts and invite these people to attend. Also, highlight upcoming churchwide harvest events to mobilize the cells to pray for and invite unbelievers. For a January agenda on Philippians 3:12-14, you could use suggestions like these:
1. What obstacles are keeping you from being more effective in evangelism? How can those obstacles be left behind as you reach for all God has for you in the year ahead?
2. Have your cell discuss the following questions in pairs and pray together: Who is one person you want to see come to Christ in the year ahead? What obstacles are keeping that person from Christ? Take time to bring that person to God in prayer. Ask for the obstacles you have named to be removed. Invite the Holy Spirit to reveal to that person their need and the love and power of Jesus.
I highly recommend you dovetail your cell agendas to your Sunday sermon themes. If you have begun to do this, the suggestions above may make your agendas even more powerful. By dynamically uniting Sunday messages and application in the cells, your two-winged church can soar.