I’ll never forget the first small group I led. I was nineteen years old, and somehow managed to convince four other college girls to join my group. Every Sunday night we gathered in a circle on the floor of my bedroom with the book, A Woman After God’s Heart, and discussed the week’s questions.

It’s been nineteen years since that group, and with an exception of about four semesters, I’ve led some kind of small group, life group, or group through a local church ever since. Groups have been a pivotal part of my life. They keep me grounded, connected, and growing in my faith.

No matter how long I’ve led, every new group begins with butterflies. Even if there are familiar faces, I’m nervous every time. I think that’s a good thing. One — because I’m reminded I can’t lead in my own strength, but only with the power of the Holy Spirit. Two — because what I’m doing is not some casual thing. It matters. It has eternal value. And I want to treat it as such every single week I show up.

Matthew 18:20 says, “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, I am there among them.” (CSB) It’s so comforting to know that when we gather in the name of Jesus, He is right there with us.

All too often when we think of being influential in the Kingdom of God we think big. And for many, big is scary. To do something big within the church feels intimidating; like it’s only for the pastors or a select few — the few who have something profound to say.

I love leading small groups because it’s not about doing something big. It’s just about inviting a few people together and asking God to show up. And when God shows up, things happen. Growth happens, connections take place, broken hearts are healed, lives are restored. I’ve seen it over and over again.

If you’re leading a group for the first time, buckle in! You are in for a wonderful, wild ride. While you may already have a book picked out and a few ice breakers to play, I want to talk about how to prepare spiritually each week.

Armor Up

I believe with all my heart that God wants to show up and transform the lives of each person who steps foot into your group. But I also know that there is an Enemy trying to stop that from happening. As the leader, you are the one Satan is throwing fiery darts at. He is trying to take you down. Be aware of negative attitudes and fight through any discouragement you feel. Every week you step into your group, you are engaging in spiritual battle. Be diligent to put on the armor of God. (Ephesians 6)

Pray Before Group & For Your Group

Give yourself extra margin to prepare your heart and connect with God before your group time starts. You want to be clear-headed and free of distractions as much as possible. Aligning your heart with God’s will allow you to be more receptive to how He may be leading that night. In addition, make time to pray for your group mid-week and any needs that you know of for group members.

Sincerity Trumps Knowledge

Right answers don’t matter as much as a sincere heart. Don’t feel like you have to know everything, don’t pretend to have all the answers. If you don’t know something, feel free to say so.

As Echo Groups kick off this semester, remember it’s worth it. It’s worth the butterflies, the studying, the set-up, and complicated issues you’re not sure how to handle. Every single time we take a step like this- it’s worth it. This is Kingdom work. It’s eternal work. It matters.