Church: Small Groups or Cell Groups?

What is the difference between small groups and cell groups?

Good question. The terms “small groups” and “cell groups” are often used interchangeably. So what is the difference?

A quick answer is that all cell groups are small groups but not all small groups are cell groups. Small groups can meet specific needs of group members. Small groups have a history of benefiting the body of Christ especially in time of revival. Most small groups are one of the programs offered by a church congregation.

Cell groups are a specific type of small group that has a specific model of ministry. Cell groups are not a program of the congregation. They are the most basic unit of the congregation. Cell groups are the smallest units of people who have teamed up to do the work of the congregation and the denomination.

In a cell group, Christians come together in a covenant relationship to do the work of the kingdom. Cell members join with one another to accomplish four specific tasks: edification, equipping, evangelism and leadership expansion. Small groups can also have one or more of these tasks, but cell groups intentionally strive to do all four.


Edification occurs when church members learn to be in loving relationships with one another. God values relationship. The Trinity is God living in relational community. Our purpose in life is to come into relationship with God and one another. Cell members are committed to growth in Christian intimacy and support.

Cell members are accountable to God and to one another in their Christian walk. Praying together and for one another is a powerful path for bonding, healing and edification. Equipping best occurs in a cell group of people who edify and support one another. Christians who know you are best suited to confirm your spiritual gifts.

They team with you and complement your gifts and talents with their gifts and talents. Christians together do the work of ministry Christ sets before them. Christians learn to disciple in the community of a cell group.

Facilitating evangelism

Relational evangelism works best in the cell model of ministry. Cell members intentionally pray together for unbelievers to come to a relationship with Jesus. Cell members cultivate relationships with unchurched people.

Through cell-group outreach, the cell practices body-life evangelism. When an unbeliever sees the life of Christ manifested in a bonded community of Christians, evangelism is easier and more enjoyable (John 13:34).

Cell groups provide an effective and efficient method of developing leaders. Mentoring future leaders is intentional in a cell-based church. Everyone can develop leadership skills in a cell group. God will grant growth according to the availability of leadership to handle the growth. Coaching and encouraging future leaders is one of the most basic objectives of the cell model of ministry. Cell leaders strive to train cell leaders who train more cell leaders, and the cycle continues.

Charles A. Calahan earned a doctorate in family life education and consultation at Kansas State University.

Author: Charles Calahan


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