Sick Cells

Cell Basics

by Joel Comiskey

Winter 2009

Is there ever a time to close a cell group? I had one seminary professor at Fuller Seminary tell me that small groups have a life cycle of approximately one year. After one year, it’s best to close the group, according to this professor. Only months after talking to this teacher, I visited Faith Community Baptist Church in Singapore. FCBC had a policy at that time of closing cells if they didn’t multiply in one year. If it didn’t multiply in one year, they would reshuffle group members to healthier cell groups. On the other hand, some would say “it’s a sin to close a cell group” (this was the policy of one of the largest cell churches in the world).

So is there ever a time to close a group? I believe there are rare occasions when it’s best to start over. I led one group that eventually had to close. The group simply was not healthy. I decided it was better to integrate the remaining members into other groups and start a new group from scratch.

The fact is that some small groups never go beyond themselves. No one is willing to enter the prescribed training and lead a new group (or be part of a new group leadership team). No evangelism is taking place and eventually the leader becomes over-burdened and decides to quit.

Other groups allow unresolved conflict to fester. Certain members talk too much, stay too late, and don’t control their family. If you deal with the conflict quickly, you can resolve it. Buried problems, however, have the propensity to become that elephant in the room that everyone knows about but is unwilling to talk about.

Then there’s the problem of me-ism. Of course, selfishness is part of every small group to a certain extent. Yet, it is possible for groups to be taken over by selfish people. Some group members never get beyond themselves and end up damaging the group by demanding more and more attention. You’ve heard the phrase that twenty percent of church people do eighty percent of the work. Sometimes groups are wholly comprised of those who don’t share the work load.

Granted, the leader and supervisor needs to do everything possible to jump start the sick cell. Randall Neighbour writes from a coach’s perspective: “I can smell stagnation before the leader sees it, and I take action. I visit the group and ask them what their plans are for outreach, knowing I will get blank stares and dumbfounded looks. Then I visit the group two more weeks in a row and ask them the same question every week until I hear them voice plans for growth. Then we pray together about those plans.”

While I I agree 100% that the coach and leader needs to do everything possible to strengthen a sick cell, I believe there are times when reshuffling and starting over benefits everyone involved.

What do you think? (please comment HERE )