We often refer to the church where I serve as a "two-chop stick church." Other people would call us a cell church, but I prefer the picture that comes from identifying ourselves as a two-chop stick church. What we mean by that is that we have two equal aspects that work together to designate how we do "church." They are the aspects of celebration and cell. In celebration, we assemble weekly in a large group for the purpose of worshiping God and hearing the Scriptures taught in a manner that is relevant and practical to the living out of our lives. Likewise, we also assemble weekly in small groups for the purpose of ministry, accountability and prayer, and for the purpose of working together to pray for and reach our friends, neighbors and co-workers who don't yet know Christ.
The beauty of being a two-chop stick church is that we understand both of these aspects are essential. It is not that one overpowers the other, but that in the working together of the two equal elements, the ministry happens: worship, teaching, ministry, prayer, discipleship and evangelism. Through the two chop sticks working in tandem with one another, all the aspects of the work of the church occur.
This ministry philosophy permeates throughout who we are. So when it came to understanding how we do ministry for youth and children, it only made sense that they would be two-chop stick focused as well! We believe that our youth and children are NOT the church of tomorrow, but rather part of the church today. So, though their particular needs might require different approaches in order to fit their needs, the structure would be the same.
Our youth meets on Tuesday evenings at our church building. There they have a huge youth celebration service where they worship God and are taught the Scriptures in a manner that is practical and relevant. Their worship and teaching do not look exactly like what happens in our Sunday morning celebration services, but the target audience is a 15-year-old rather than a 40-year-old and thus mirrors the differences. Following the youth celebration, our youth break down into 10 different cells, mostly lead by students, for the purpose of ministry, accountability, prayer, and the working together to pray for and reach their friends who do not yet know Christ.
In a similar manner, the shape of our ministry to children takes place on Sunday mornings. We divide children according to ages kindergarten through third grades and fourth through sixth grades. Both of these age ranges offers a two-chop stick time that happens 9:00 to 10:15 and again from 11:00 to 12:15. In both services for both of these age ranges of children the same things are going on. The children gather first for a worship service on their age level with the desire to see them be able to authentically worship God at their age level and to have the Scriptures taught to them in a manner that is relevant and practical for their age and life. Let me stress again that what goes on in the 4th-6th grade is different from worship and teaching in the k-3rd grade — as it is from the youth celebration service and the adult service!
After the large group event, the children break down into cells with a children's shepherd whose desire it is to facilitate prayer, ministry, accountability, and the praying for and planning to reach their unsaved friends. Perhaps here though is where many churches drop the ball. It is the task of the children's cell leader NOT to minister to and pray for the children — but rather to facilitate the ministry of the children one to another IN THE EXACT SAME UNDERSTANDING AS AN ADULT CELL LEADER WOULD UNDERSTAND HIS OR HER ROLE! Likewise, it is important to understand that we view children's cell leaders as every bit as important as we do leaders of adult cells. In the same way, we include our student cell leaders in training and vision casting in the same sense that we do adults who lead cells.
We believe Christians need to experience the same things: worship, growing in their knowledge and application of the Scriptures, being discipled and held accountable to obey what they've heard, being an active part of evangelism, praying and ministering to others, etc. This happens in the church — whether that's when it meets in an auditorium or a living room — whether they're 6 or 60. It's a two-chop stick approach that fits across the ages.