How To Have A Successful Children’s Cell Time


Holly Allen teaches in the Education Department at Abilene Christian University and was the Director of Children’s Ministries for a cell church in Abilene, Texas for four years. She is currently pursuing her doctorate in Christian Education from Talbot School of Theology.

If you want to know the truth about something, ask the children. They will tell you. When I asked some of the children in a cell group what their special memories of children’s cell time were, they said: 7-year-old: “I remember when Mr. Leonard (senior pastor) sat on the floor with us and listened to us.”

4-year-old: “I like to be with the big kids and do what they do. They let me talk and everything.”

15-year-old: “I remember when Jeff blindfolded us and led us around the furniture. He said that is the way God leads us, and we should trust Him.”

9-year-old: “I remember when I was afraid to go to public school because I had been home-schooled. All the kids prayed for me.” When leaders in new cell churches hear these testimonies they ask: “We like the idea of children’s cells, but how can we create children’s cells that work? How can our children learn to pray for one another, love one another, minister to one another?”

What is a Children’s Cell?

A children’s cell is “a small group of children bonded together around a leader for mutual care, prayer, questioning and discussion. Living their Christian life together, they reach out to serve others and to win other children to follow Jesus” (Lorna Jenkins). This cell (often called the Kid’s Slot) is a sub-group of the family cell.

In actuality, children’s cells function like adult cells. The goal of children’s cells is to meet children’s spiritual needs much as adult
cells meet adults’ spiritual needs. But most cells do not know how to create children’s cells that do this. Intergenerational cells needed guidance with their children.

To facilitate the children’s cell, each family cell should designate a children’s cell coordinator. This person does not lead every children’s meeting, but he or she gives oversight to the ministry to the children. Each week adult cell members take turns as the children’s cell leader. Everyone in the cell should be able to love the children and lead them through simple activities and stories.

A Children’s Cell Format

Over the years, I have wrestled with what a children’s cell looks like. I began writing children’s cells guides to provide structure and direction for the various adults who lead the children’s cell or Kid’s Slot. Though the format for each cell guide varies somewhat, the common components include an icebreaker, prayer, Bible story, theme activities, sharing struggles and victories, listening, and regrouping with the adults.

Ice breaker

The icebreaker is usually a simple, non-threatening question like, “What is your favorite ice cream?” Sometimes the question connects to the Bible story or biblical theme being emphasized that evening, such as, “What would be difficult about being raised in a king’s palace?” (This icebreaker accompanies the story about Moses being raised in Pharaoh’s house.)

Each child usually answers the ice-breaker, though it is not “required.” Visitors are encouraged to answer but are given an easy
“out” by saying, “Would you like to tell us your favorite zoo animal or would you like to pass?”

The children look forward to the icebreaker each week and expect it. Though the icebreaker time is light and easy, it can lead to deeper discussions and prayer. I remember when the story time was about Ananias and Sapphira, and the icebreaker was: Can you think of a time when you told a lie and got caught? I began the icebreaker by confessing a lie I told to my sixth grade teacher and how he found out and what happened to me.

The children were fascinated by my story and wanted to hear all the details and how it turned out. Two or three remembered specific lies (and consequences). A preschooler said there were monsters under his bed. One second grader said that she sometimes didn’t tell the truth, and she was afraid that she was a really bad person. We prayed with her for forgiveness.

In this case, the icebreaker led to confession and a way to acknowledge and work through the sin and the fear.

Prayer Time
This is a time for sharing victories and struggles. The children’s cell coordinator keeps the prayer journal that is passed each week to the children’s cell leader so that last week’s prayer needs can be reviewed.

One week a tender-hearted child (Erin) asked the cell to pray for a girl at her school who was being bullied (Sara). The next week the other children asked how the week had gone for Sara. “Not very well,” was the response. Another child suggested they pray for the main bully (Justin). They did. Every week for months the children prayed for Sara and Justin. Eventually Erin asked that they pray for her. She wanted to befriend Sara, not just pray for her. A few weeks later Erin asked that they pray that she might publicly defend Sara. Each week the current cell leader noticed the prayer need in the journal and each week the children prayed. Though Justin was still bullying Sara at the end of the school year, the whole children’s cell realized the biggest change happened in Erin. She had learned to stand up with courage for a friend.

Bible story
The children’s cell should also include a Bible story. The children’s cell guides I developed always include a synopsis of the Bible story, the scripture reference and directions for a fairly active way to tell the story. For example, the children pass around a heavy rock while the teacher tells the story of the Israelites as slaves in Egypt from Exodus 1. Sometimes a thumbs up, thumbs down script is included:
• The spies went into the land as God had told them. (thumbs up)
• Ten spies said the land was too hard to take. (thumbs down)
• Two spies said the Lord would enable the Israelites to win.(thumbs up)
• The Israelites believed the ten spies. (thumbs down)
A more active way is for the children to stand up or sit down instead of using their thumbs. The children’s cell leader can decide how active the story telling needs to be.

There are a variety of creative ways to communicate the Bible stories. Sometimes a script for adult “actors” (parents or other adult cell members) is included. Other times the children are given art supplies to draw the story as it is told. Sometimes directions are given for helping the children enact the story. The goal is not only to communicate facts, but also to provide an opportunity for children to learn by interacting with adults and one another.

Share personal insights

At this point, the children’s cell leader is encouraged to share a time when God has worked powerfully in her own life. This is the time when the most significant things happens in the children’s cell group. When the various adults who take turns leading the children’s cell share what God has been doing in their lives, confess areas of weakness, and pray for God’s guidance, the children see God is working in the Christians around them. They discover that the adults they know seek God in all they do. Basically, the children are privy to the “normal Christian life” as lived by the adults in their church.Sometimes following the sharing, there is a time for “listening” to God, a time for making scripture real and usable or a time for asking for God’s empowerment in overcoming sin or for healing.

Regrouping with adults

When cell time is over, the children regroup with the adults for a few minutes to share something they did in their cell time. They might repeat the “Thumbs Up-Down” activity, re-enact the story or share food they have made. They might say the Ten Commandments or a memory verse or share an answered prayer. The cell guide offers one or two suggestions each week. This closure activity renders two important functions: first, it signals to the adults that the children’s cell is over, therefore the adult cell needs to end soon. Second, the children get to share what they have been doing, helping them (and their parents) realize that these activities are important, not merely busywork.

Meeting Children’s Needs

Over the period of a school year, the children in a children’s cell come to know each other well; they play together, pray together, praise together. They bond together. They begin to feel safe enough to confess needs and fears. They learn to pray for each other and minister to each other. They experience God’s powerful work in their lives. They see that God is working today on the behalf of His people as He did for His people of old. They begin to realize that they are His people.

It isn’t necessary for the children’s cell guide to be followed exactly for children to see God; perhaps only a few of the suggestions on the cell guide will be completed. The purpose of the cell time for children is the same as it is for adults – to address their spiritual needs. Just like adults, children need a place to be accepted and loved, to share their needs and fears, to pray for others and to be prayed for, to forgive, to confess, to experience God. A children’s cell can be that place.