Hybrid Cells

By Joel Comiskey, How to Lead a Great Small Group (new 2022 edition)

I believe that God is calling his church back to face-to-face cell groups. We’ve been exploring post-Covid small groups on the JCG blog this month. But what about those who have been won to Christ during Covid-19 and don’t live close to the church or maybe even in another country? What about the shut-ins and those who can’t drive at night?

I believe that the cell groups are for members of each local church and the unchurched—those who don’t regularly attend an evangelical church or are unbelievers. It’s unwise to invite a member of another evangelical local church. Remember that this person is being pastored by another pastor and should be encouraged to start small groups within their local church.  And this is true for those who live overseas. Those who have received Christ via Internet cells during Covid-19 should now be encouraged to find a local church and a face-to-face cell group in that local church.

But let’s say someone has been converted and is part of your local church. Perhaps the person lives overseas and has not found a local church. Maybe the person simply can’t attend because of age or physical disability. What about the possibility of zooming the person into the cell group?

How can this happen? One way is to connect a notebook computer to a TV screen so the person can communicate as if he or she was in the group.

One time we placed a notebook computer on a chair and zoomed in on a cell member who was feeling sick that night. Granted, it wasn’t the best experience for her because the screen was small, and it was hard for her to see everyone. I noticed that after the cell, some caring members took the computer around to various people to offer greetings and prayers. We have another cell group in our church that Zooms people in each week. This cell meets in Henry’s house but has perfected bringing in others via the Internet. 

My wife works at BIOLA university as part of the staff faculty in spiritual formation. She facilitates small group cohorts on campus. One of her groups has 4 students physically present and six online. Of course, BIOLA is set up to quickly bring in the other students via the Internet with many microphones and cameras. Most cell groups won’t come close to this type of professionalism. Yet, it’s worth trying, failing, and trying again. 

In the first week of September, we highlighted the need to return to the face-to-face community in our cell groups. I hope that this is your church’s desire as well. However, maybe God is teaching his church also to use the Internet for his glory. While groups should meet face-to-face, maybe God is opening the doors to bring people into the group via the internet. 

What have you experienced with hybrid groups? Have they worked for you? Please feel free to comment below.