Having an integrated structure means that we care about all aspects of family ministry. We may not program in each others’ departments, but we’re invested in each others work as it relates to what we’re doing. In family ministries we’ve been asking ourselves two questions as we’ve grown throughout the past several years.

1. How do we grow smaller as we grow larger?

2. How do we become more local as we become more regional?

One of our student ministry’s yellow initiatives accomplishes both. I’m a huge fan of Cell Family. So much so that I had our junior high guru, Jon Grunden write a guest post today for Orange Week 2.0. Jon is not only a great student ministries think tank and resource, he’s a good friend. I’m thrilled to have him share his thoughts on the blog today. Follow him on twitter: @jonathangrunden.

Cell Family: Elevating Community in Student Ministry


Nine years ago our student ministry embarked on a journey.  For years we did the small group thing. We connected each student with a caring adult and a small group of students knowing this would be an environment in which they would grow in their faith.  Eventually, we hit a point where it became difficult to know every student and care for every leader. While we loved having a large number of students each week, we realized that we were beginning to miss the deep and more natural relational connection that a smaller setting allows.  So, we took a step out, and began creating smaller communities.  I would love to say that we set out with a clear vision, but it would be more accurate to say that we stumbled into purpose along the way.

Fast forward ten years, and last night we began our tenth year of Cell Family.  Honestly, it would be much simpler to just meet as one large community each week, but all the work is worth the effort. Cell family works.

Two things have become very apparent as we have interacted with students

We are convinced that students need relationship with a number of adults.  Small Groups are still at the core of our relational connection with students, and our leaders do a fantastic job of connecting with, caring for, and guiding their students, but it takes more.  Our midsized communities, called Cell Families, are gatherings in homes of small groups from the same school.  In this environment, each student can be known by other students they see every day in school and by a group of leaders who love them and are concerned with their spiritual development.

We have noticed, over the last few years especially, that our students are less impressed by smooth programming and more engaged when they are involved in the learning process.  Each of these homes creates an organic environment where teaching can be experiential and conversational.

Cell Families have created an environment where a student knows they are known and where they are surrounded by friends and leaders who are walking the journey with them.

What we didn’t expect was that leaders have grown in the process as well. Cell Families have created a space and structure where our leaders are intentionally connected with a small group of other leaders who can walk together and care for one another on the journey.

While we have had struggles along the way, these groups have been instrumental in fostering healthy and intentional community for our students and leaders.

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