Can All Cell Leaders Be Coaches?

As pastors, we know that cell leaders need ministry if they’re going to continue to minister. All effective cell churches include a system of care for cell leaders on the front lines. Yet, if you’re like most pastors, you struggle to find these “coaches” who excel in ministering to and supervising cell leaders.

An excellent grassroots way to provide this middle-management care is for each cell leader to coach those new leaders raised up in his or her cell group. The “parent” cell leader has a history of personally pastoring the cell member throughout the life of the cell. When that member launches his or her own group, the parent leader can continue to minister and mentor the new leader out of the loving and supportive relationship already established.

We adopted this pattern for cell leader oversight and care at Republic Church in Quito, Ecuador. We tell our cell leaders, “Each of you is a potential coach. All you have to do is multiply your group, and you will supervise (coach) the new group under your care.”

THE ADVANTAGES

This approach to coaching opens up new potential for all leaders. Not only are they spiritual parents, but they have the opportunity to become spiritual grandparents. Their goal for ministry expands beyond what they can do alone. Cell leaders now envision and strive to live out 2 Timothy 2:2, “And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.”

In Republic Church’s former system, Vinicio served as a cell supervisor who oversaw cell groups. With the introduction of the coaching system, Vinicio is on the same playing field as every other cell leader. He coaches the groups he starts or births, rather than overseeing groups apportioned to him. Vinicio serves his cell leaders with new vigor, because he took part in raising up the leaders and in birthing the new cells. He knows the cell leaders, their needs and their history. Men and women serving under Vinicio are more loyal to him as their coach, since he helped develop their leadership from the beginning of their cell life.

This new style of coaching works for two reasons: 

1) The vested interest the parent cell leader has in both the daughter cell leader and in the daughter cell.

2) The established relationship between parent cell leader and daughter cell leader.

ADOPTING THIS PATTERN

Embracing this approach to cell oversight is a process. You cannot force leaders into this coaching pattern overnight. Begin by casting the vision to your current cell leaders. Show them how to become spiritual grandparents. Help them understand the value of long-term relationships before you enforce a new structure. 

The next step is to encourage every leader, from the senior pastor down, to lead an “open” cell (one that anyone can join) in addition to any “leadership” cell they already lead. Using this method at Republic Church keeps every leader on the front lines of ministry. I lead an open cell group Thursday nights, and this is how I stay in touch with the needs of the people in the church and in the world. 

As new cell members are developed and released as cell leaders, they come under the care of their former “parent” cell leader. As this happens, the cell leader/coach continues to lead his or her own group. Those who coach and lead a cell of their own have the authority to say to those under their care, “This has helped me in my cell group. I think it will help you.”

At some point, the cell leader/coach should have the option of no longer leading an open cell group. The coach’s focus shifts, and his or her energy is devoted solely to coaching cell leaders and groups.

Some churches say that a coach who raises up twelve leaders should cease to lead an open cell. At Republic Church, one coach may care for a maximum of twelve cell leaders. You might place that number at five. Whichever number you choose, a specific number helps each leader to envision multiplying his or her cell more than once. From a pragmatic perspective, a maximum number gives each cell leader a goal to pursue. Leaders won’t rest content with birthing only one or two groups.

MULTIPLY YOURSELF

Multiplying the ministry and leadership is at the forefront of most pastors’ minds. I am always looking for more effective ways to multiply myself through others. I cannot keep up with all the needs of the cells under my care. I need people like René Naranjo, who coaches the cell of Santiago and Mabis. René feels like a parent who is personally obligated to see his daughter cell leader succeed. Santiago and Mabis were long-time members of René’s cell group. When they started their Wednesday cell group, the established relationship between parent and child continued. The pastoral staff simply confirmed the relationship and ensured that the supervision took place.

This coaching pattern can succeed in your church, too. Introduce it slowly and prayerfully, following the outline above, and your cell leaders will thrive under their coaches’ care. Natural relationships between cell leaders and their members are built on transparency, trust and servanthood. As those members become leaders and the parent cell leaders become spiritual grandparents, these nurturing relationships will ensure that no cell leader is without the hands-on pastoring he or she needs to survive and thrive on the front lines of ministry.  

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Joel Comiskey
Joel Comiskey (Ph.D. Fuller Seminary) is an internationally recognized cell church coach and consultant. He has served as a missionary with the C&MA in Quito, Ecuador and is now founding pastor of a cell-based church in Southern California. Joel has written best selling books on the worldwide cell group movement. He teaches as an adjunct professor at several theological seminaries. Joel Comiskey Group is a tax exempt, non-profit organization dedicated to helping complete the Great Commission in this century by providing resources and coaching to plant new cell churches and transition existing churches to cell-based ministry. For further reading on this topic, see Comiskey's books Making Cell Groups Work Navigation Guide and Home Cell Group Explosion.