My fastest selling book is How to Lead a Great Cell Group Meeting So People Want To Come Back. Many chuckle at the phrase, “So People Want To Come Back,” and yes, we want people to come back. But getting people to come back to the cell group should never be the principal motivation. A much purer motivation is making sure each member is ministered to and transformed during the process. If transformation takes place, yes, they will come back. So what are key tips to ensure needs are met and people go away satisfied? Several come to mind:
Remember to emphasize the ice-breaker. Many cell leaders minimize the icebreaker or don’t use it at all. I think this is unfortunate. A great icebreaker can get everyone talking and prepare people to enter into worship and the cell lesson. Remember that people have come from work, school, or household responsibilities. Most likely they are tired and thinking about other things. The ice-breaker opens up doors of communication and brings people together in a relaxed, informal manner. The icebreaker helps members to share transparently in a fun, free-flowing way.
Don’t neglect worship. Many facilitators jump into the lesson after the icebreaker. Perhaps these cell leaders prize intellectual interaction more than spiritual experience. Yet we need to think of the needs of the cell members and not primarily the desires of the cell leader. Cell members need to grow in their faith and interact with God in a group setting. Worship in the cell group provides a time for members to minister to one another and to use their spiritual gifts. It also allows each person to interact with one another, rather than the leader dominating everything. What kind of worship am I referring to? It might be Bible reading, singing songs, popcorn praise and prayer, praying for one another, and other creative ideas. There are a variety of ways to worship, but the key principle is to actually do it!
Provide the biblical context for the cell lesson. One error is for cell leaders to jump into the cell questions without reviewing the context of the Bible passage. The cell leader might believe that since the cell members were in the Sunday service, and since they heard the message, they have sufficient background to answer the questions. The truth is that members often forget or don’t understand the sermon. Most people receive immediate edification during a sermon, but they forget the sermon details. Before asking questions about the biblical passage, the cell members need to hear a short summary about the main points of the biblical passage. Afterwards, they will be better prepared to answer the questions.
Listen, listen, listen. The best cell leaders are great listeners! they talk 30% of the time and allow others to speak 70% of the time. They realize that the strength of the cell group is to convert each member into a minister, and the best way to do this is to allow people to share their understanding of the passage and even be willing to fail in the process. Listening makes this happen.
Don’t forget the “witness time.” Cell leaders often run out of time and don’t focus on evangelism at the end of the group. Remember that cell members grow as they reach out. I don’t believe we can emphasize evangelism too much. New people need Jesus, and they need the community of a cell group. Cell members should exercise their muscles to get to know non-Christians and invite them to the group, and the final 15 minutes (normally called the “witness time”) helps in holding them accountable and even planning evangelistic activity.
Close after 1.5 hours. Be spiritual and close on time! People have their own lives beyond the cell group, and they will be more willing to come back if they know the leader is sensitive to closing the meeting on time. And remember that fellowship after the cell group is vitally important. Personal ministry takes place during the refreshment time, and effective cell leaders make sure that people have enough time to hang out, rather than having to leave immediately because the leader didn’t close on time.
These are just a few tips. During the month of September on the JCG blog, we’ll look at some of these principles more in-depth and even offer some new ones to help you become a better cell leader. We’ll cover:
Week 1 (September 01-07). Don’t neglect the opening time. Often cell leaders rush through the Icebreaker, worship, and prayer, so that they can get to the “meat” of the lesson. Don’t do this. The Life group is all about transformation and not just about study
Week 2 (September 08-14). Prepare yourself. Jim Egli’s book, Small Group, Big Impact is very clear that it’s far more important that the leader prepare himself or herself rather than simply the cell lesson, room environment, refreshments, etc. The key is the filling of the Spirit.
Week 3 (September 15-21). Prepare the lesson. Cell leaders are busy. I always cringe when I know the cell leader has not looked at the lesson prior to the cell meeting. People know it, the leader is nervous, and problems can easily occur. Often when a leader is unprepared, he or she feels the need to cover all the questions. Prepared leaders only use those questions that are relevant.
Week 4 (September 22-28). Tips with the questions and the lesson. I’ve found that the best leaders first give a summary of the Biblical text, rather than jumping into the questions. They listen well, call on people, adapt the questions to those present, mix observation questions with application ones, and are able to isolate the talker.
Week 5 (September 29-October 05). End well. Effective leaders end on time!! The unprepared ones keep on going, hoping things will go better. I also think it’s good to close with some kind of cell evangelistic vision, whether praying for the empty chair, planning an evangelism event, or at least praying for each other.