I just finished reading Planting Churches That Reproduce: Starting a Network of Simple Church. It is written by Joel Comiskey, who has planted three different churches in various locales. It is based upon the cell group model. What is a cell group? Comiskey defines a cell group as "a group of three to fifteen people who meet weekly outside the church building to practice evangelism, build community, and grow spiritually with the goal of multiplying the group." (p. 108)
I see a tremendous amount of good in what Comiskey writes, with some excellent, practical advice on multiplication.
On Multiplying a Group Most groups struggle with knowing how to multiply, particularly when strong bongs have been made. Comiskey gives these practical steps, week by week. Prenatal Period (Weeks 1, 2, and 3) - Have new leader, host, and a few members selected who will start the new group. - Talk about the upcoming birth and why it is important - Divide the group for ministry time. Have the new team go to different parts of the house. - It is important that the new team develops social relationships during the week (phone calls, social contacts, etc.)
Birth (Week 4) - Meet as separate cells but in the same house
Postnatal (Weeks 5-12) - Meet as two separate cells in two different locations (weeks 5, 6, and 7) - Meet back together for a reunion. (Not a formal meeting, but a time of fellowship) (week8) - Meet as two separate cells in two different locations (week 9, 10, and 11) - Meet back together for a reunion. Generally by this time cell members enjoy being together but find they have made the transition and their new cell is really where they are connected! (week 12- two months after birth)
On Finding the Next Missional Church Planter Comiskey's view is that if a person can create a cell group, grow it, and multiply this group into 2 or more, then he has shown the skills needed to be a missional church planter. The progression for finding and training these new planters is: - Attend a cell - Receive training - Plant a cell - Multiply the cell several times - Coach the leaders who have multiplied into other groups - Receive more biblical training - Plant a church in the US or overseas using the same strategy.
On Starting a Celebration (Worship) Service Comiskey cites church planting research that says that the best predictor of missional church planter success is past behavior. Has he been able to start a group from scratch, convert people, and multiply this group? Finding church planters in this way takes at least some of the mystery and unknown out of the process.No church planters today start with worship services, particularly if they are trying to reach the unchurched. But when should they begin a service? Comiskey offers this advice: - When there are four cell groups, begin monthly celebration services in a park, a school, or a rented church building - When there are approximately 10 cells with 100 people, then begin a weekly service--although some stay with a monthly or bi-weekly format for worship.
We are starting to use much of this type of model in our evangelistic small groups, going through the Story of Redemption, and God is blessing this.
What do you think of this model and Comiskey's suggestions?
Gailyn, I'm glad that you got to talk with him. The strength of the missional movement has been its theology, but it has sometimes struggled with practical expressions. We can learn a lot from people like Comiskey, I think.
Starting small like Comiskey suggests seems to be the best way to build DNA before a public launch. Once that happens, and seekers start showing up, I imagine it will be easier to stay the course rather than altering course to please the seekers. Hope that makes some sense. I know what I mean! :-)
Have read several of his books. I was never sure how this translated outside of certain areas like Latin America or the Far East where family dynamics are different. I will have to think about it again.