Unit 3.6 Ralph W. Neighbour: Healthy Core Group


Healthy Core Group

Church size depends on the linking relationship between the Acrowd@ and a leadership Acore@ and upon the span of control in the leadership core. In a small church, each person in the crowd is directly linked by a relationship to someone in the leadership core. This limits the growth of the small church as only two layers are allowed: core and crowd. When the span of control is six, there can be one pastor, up to six leaders and thirty-six followers for a total of forty-three. When the span of control is twelve, as Jesus chose, there can be one pastor, up to twelve core leaders and 144 followers for a maximum total of 157. A competency limit is often reached beyond this total.[1] A church cannot grow beyond its capacity to link the Acrowd@ to the Acore.@

Some form of hierarchical organization in a larger church must link each person in the Acrowd@ to the leadership core; that common link defines a Abase design.@ Ralph Neighbour first identified this way of defining organizational paradigms with the Program Base Design, or PBD, where members are linked with the core group by participating in programs, activities and events. Programs require leaders who minister codependently to passive recipients/consumers and frequently burn out, resulting in a long term, chronic shortage of leaders to operate the programs in a PBD church (WD: 65-76).[2] The form of the link between the leadership core and the crowd can be used to identify five basic paradigms or Abase designs@ of churches. In the Chaplain Base Design (CBD), individual nurture to passive members by the pastor as chaplain is the priority.[3] In the Temple Base Design (TBD), people are linked to leadership only by presence in a worship service in the Temple. In the Academic Base Design (ABD), persons are linked by learning  experiences, usually Sunday School or clergy participating in denominationally sponsored workshops; the answer to every problem in this environment is Amore information, more seminars!@  These forms of organizational linking are unhealthy.

Cell churches represent a Network Base Design which Neighbor calls the APeople Base Design@ (WD: 65). Traditional churches build up programs; cell churches build up people. The network management model of the Yoido/Neighbour cell church is known as the A5x5″ because every five cell leaders are linked to a supervisor; every five supervisors is linked to another supervisor. This results in a management structure of many hierarchical layers which some consider inefficient, preferring to have as many leaders as possible multiplying cells. With a span of control of five, however, these supervisory leaders have all the time necessary to respond quickly to help with any need or problem experienced by a cell leader (SG: 231-235).  When supervisors are tightly scheduled with many responsibilities, the cell leader support system is easily overwhelmed; then problems flourish and growth stops.

It is involvement in evangelism and/or share groups that leads to rapid spiritual growth in developing leaders (SG: 9, 41, 95; WD 255). Neighbour distinguishes between ministry to two different types of unbelievers, type “A” and type “B” unbelievers (WD: 281, 254; SG: 39-41, 104-107). Type A unbelievers are open to the message of the gospel through bible study (SG: 39). Type B unbelievers are hostile to the message of the gospel but are open to a messenger; they are ministered to relationally or in share groups (SG: 40, 97, 16-17).

While equipping for maturity primarily takes place within the cell, the equipper is fully supported by the mother church. Leadership development printed resources are provided by Touch Outreach Ministries and known as the AYear of Equipping@ (WD: 249, 329-341; SG: 61-72, 222-236).[4] The year long process includes four weekend retreats  (WD: 329-341). Cell churches cooperate in larger groups which Neighbour calls congregations to meet various needs (WD: 223-229). Neighbour reminds us that Aone never joins a congregation; the only available link to its ministry is to join a cell@ (WD: 224). The cell comes first.

In order to be successful with the 5×5 model, Neighbour writes, Athese principles must be followed: 1) There must be a comprehensive equipping track that takes all new believers (and existing cell members) to a functioning level of maturity within one year. Without this there is a substantial breakdown in discipleship and leadership development. 2) Each cell leader must mentor two ro three members with leadership potential to keep the number of interns higher than the immediate need. Without new leaders, cells cannot multiply. 3) A constant sense of urgency to see every cell member win a AType A@ unbeliever (man of peace) for Christ within six months of cell life must be maintained. The cell group will ossify and eventually die if evangelism is not considered the primary purpose@ (WD: 234). A person of peace is a key person of influence with connections to many others in a social network; when they are converted, the gospel then spreads throughout that person=s entire network of influence. The term man of peace comes from the missionary instructions of Christ in Luke 10:1-12. While not everyone is a person of peace, everyone is connected to a person of peace; they are connecting nodes in a social network. Conversion of a person of peace will lead to a wave of conversions among their oikos network due to their relational influence. Examples are Cornelius in Acts 10:1-2, 19-48 and the Philippian jailer in Acts 16:25-34.

Beautiful and inspiring testimonies of cell life can be found at the following pages:

WD: 222, 327.

SG: 29, 47, 106, 73-74, 82-84.

[1]For information on competency limit of the Rule of 150, see Kevin Martin, The Myth of the 200 Barrier: How to Lead through Transitional Growth (Nashville: Cokesbury, 2005), 39-42.

[2]Neighbour=s chart in the Assignments folder, A Study In Contrasts, demonstrates the PBD traditional church. While cells rapidly create leaders, drawing leaders out of programs to lead cells often sparks heated conflict in PBD churches.

[3]Chaplain Base Design churches usually have less than 100 in worship; Program Base Design churches usually have more than 300 in worship. Mid-size churches blend CBD and PBD traits in conflict and tension. It is a major cultural change for a CBD church to grow beyond the Two Hundred Barrier to become a Program Base Design (PBD) church. Many small churches are unwilling to do this and surrender their intimacy with the senior pastor.

[4]The complete Amentor‑driven discipleship process@ is available from Touch Outreach Ministries here at a reasonable price: http://www.touchusa.org/web/products/ProductDetail.aspx?pid=113

NOTE (my response)



Abbreviations for page numbers in parentheses:

WD: Ralph W. Neighbour, Jr. Where Do We Go From Here? A Guidebook For The Cell Group Church. Tenth Anniversary Edition. Houston, TX: Touch Publications, 2000.

SG: Ralph W. Neighbour, Jr. The Shepherd=s Guidebook: Spiritual and Practical Foundations for Cell Group Leaders. Revised Edition. Houston, TX: Touch Publications, 1995.

The quote is from Major League Disciple Making: An Overview of the Best Research on the Cell Church, an online course developed for the Institute for Discipleship at www.BeADisciple.com in 2009. Course materials, including these lectures, can be downloaded here: http://www.disciplewalk.com/IFD_MLD_Class_Links.html

All Scripture quotations are from the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright © 1946, 1952, and 1971 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Please review the page How and Why We Use Quotes.

This entry was posted in z_Major League Disciple Making. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.