MentorNet #70

“We Started Small Groups, but they Didn’t Multiply. So Now What?”

Copyright © 2010 by George Patterson, Edward Aw and Galen Currah.
Permission is granted to copy, post, reproduce, translate, distribute and sell.


We are often asked in North America, “Why don’t our small groups multiply?” To sustain multiplication, your church must form three distinct types of cells, just as New Testament churches did: seeker, seeder and feeder cells. Church-reproduction movements in pioneer fields include these three simultaneously. North America churches typically include the first two in the third, effectively stifling them. (In this diagram, the word multipliers refers to mature believers who prove passionate about multiplication.)



Seeker Cell

Seeder Cell

Feeder Cell

Made up mainly of

People who need Jesus

New believers

Maturing believers


Short-lived (members become a seeder cell when baptized)

Lasts until members run out of friends who respond to Jesus


Hosted by, normally…

Seeker like Cornelius, Lydia, Levi, Zacheus, or a new believer

New believer, normally

Mature believer

Led by…

New believer, mentored by a multiplier, or a multiplier’s apprentice

New believer, mentored by a multiplier, or a multiplier’s apprentice

Mature believer

Chance of reproducing…

Nil (folk do not yet know Jesus), although other seeker cells may start

High, provided that the new leader is being mentored by a multiplier

Seldom multiply enough to sustain a movement but can mobilise multipliers


Receive the living Christ (not just learn facts about Him)

Sow gospel seed among friends and start new seeker cells

• Edify maturing believers

• Keep non-multipliers out of seeker and seeder cells

Main activities…

Partying as Jesus did, with activities to gather folks (games, barbecues, sports, outings) and testimonies by new believers, prayer for healing, etc.

Learning to obey Jesus’ basic commands, loving one another and starting lots of seeker cells

Bible study, fellowship, mobilizing for ministry, commissioning multipliers

Common hindrances…

• Fear of losing of control.

• Trying to push camels through
the needle’s eye (Matt. 19:24).

• Teaching dogma prematurely.

• Going directly to feeder cells.

• Wasting time trying to force feeder cells to multiply.

• Fear of doing what Jesus and His apostles did.

• Jumping the gun by taking folks into feeder cells before they finish reaching friends.

• Failing to embrace their cell as the spiritual body that gives them their main pastoral care.

• The overly talkative and attention seekers.

• Excessive monologue.

• Discouraging multipliers.


• ‘Shake the dust’ where camels
fail to enter through the needle (find responsive folk: Mark 6:11).

• Risk doing what Jesus and His apostles did let seekers gather friends to meet Jesus and hear what he is doing among them

• Let new believers who are family heads do at once what God requires of all family heads: shepherd their families and close friends. (You are neither ordaining them nor naming them as elders.)

• Multipliers mentor the new leaders.

• Obey the New Testament ‘one-another’ commands.

• Dialogue instead of monologue.

• Plan member’s weekly ministry and encourage multipliers.

• Start another group when numbers rise.

Helps & examples…

Send examples of how you have successfully gathered a seeker cell to, and they’ll be posted in a MentorNet message.

Helpful materials & guidelines:

Train & Multiply®: (proven)

Paul-Timothy studies (free):

How to mentor new leaders:

• Few need help with this, as most churches already know how to start and sustain feeder cells.

Almost all books on church growth advocate for feeder groups.

Additional resources

·         Order G. Patterson’s Church Multiplication Guide from a bookshop or at <>.

·         To subscribe to MentorNet, or to download earlier messages, visit <>.