I’ve coached and observed churches that have failed in their transition to cell church. I’ve also had the great pleasure of witnessing churches who have made it all the way to a fully functional cell church. The churches that successfully transition follow certain key principles:
1. Commitment of lead pastor. It’s possible to have a “church with cells” without the lead pastor’s continual involvement and commitment, but it’s not possible to have a cell church. The lead pastor must guide the vision from beginning to end. This means personal involvement in cell ministry—leading the first cell, coaching the first cell leaders and staying passionate about cell church long-term. I counsel pastors not to start the cell church vision until counting the cost and being willing to hang in there for the long haul.
2. Commitment of leadership team. Many pastors fail here. It’s important that the lead pastor guide the leadership team (paid or unpaid) through the transition process. In my seminars, I tell lead pastors to ask for a “Starbucks budget” during the pre-transition period to win over the movers and shakers of the church and to build the leadership team. I remember one church that asked me to coach them. The lead pastor wanted me to guide them through the process, and I tried for over one year. The transition eventually failed because the lead pastor failed to convince key pastoral staff members. One staffer in particular torpedoed the process by criticizing cell church and promoting his own program. The lead pastor didn’t want to cause “problems” and eventually decided not to go through with it. Developing a leadership team to guide the transition process is critical to successfully transition to cell-based ministry.
3. Planned strategy to transition. Those who fail to plan, plan to fail. Most churches start a pilot group, which the senior pastor leads. Some do it differently, but all have a clear strategy to become a cell church, have counted the cost and are willing to make the long-term sacrifices to become a cell church. Remember it often takes between four and six years to transition a conventional church to the cell church strategy.
Are you willing to follow these three key principles?