First Night Survival Guide

First Night Survival Guide

Preparing for and leading your first meeting.
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Secondly, make a note to follow through on any requests. I've found that during the meeting I might tell one person I'd e-mail him and another person that I'd look up more information on the passage. Don't forget about these requests. Try to do them right away. If that's not possible, write yourself a reminder.

Later On

At some point in the next day or so, you should follow up with your new group members. You can use whatever communication medium is appropriate for your context. I personally find e-mail to be a great tool for the post-meeting follow up. Remind group members of any relevant details, especially the time of the next group meeting and any homework that needs to be done before then. You can also include a link to resources (books, studies, curriculum, etc.) that they need to order for the next meeting.

Lastly, continue to pray for your group. As you get to know them better and better, you'll know how to pray specifically for each member. Most important, ask Jesus to help you all follow him more closely.

Don't Stress Out

I would guess that you've been overwhelmed with information about leading a group, and you probably have no idea how to keep it all straight. Even this "survival guide" may seem overwhelming. You may be going overboard trying to get everything perfect before your first night. If that's you, I have some words of wisdom.

The first night of my small group was just last week. We aren't a new group, but it was our first meeting in a long time and we intentionally welcomed new people to our meeting. Unfortunately, the day of the meeting I didn't have time to prepare. Instead, I ended up dealing with a broken down car, figuring out how to carry a carful of stuff home on the subway. Once home I had to try to fix my cell phone charger, so that my phone would be charged before group. Plus, my wife and I had a fight—just to top off a great day.

Needless to say, very few of the things I normally do to prepare didn't happen. I even missed an e-mail from a prospective group member who wanted to come to my group. According to my suggestions for a successful first meeting, I failed.

But everything turned out fine. The group still met, and we still had a good time getting to know one another. And I don't think anyone hates me. Ultimately, we need to remember that God is responsible for his church, and that includes each of our small groups. God uses our preparations, but God will work it all out, even if you forget the cookies.

—Will Johnston is the Small Group Catalyst for National Community Church in Washington, D.C.; copyright 2012 by Christianity Today.


  1. What will need to be done to prepare your meeting place? Will you do this or will someone else?
  2. What vision will you give your small-group members? What questions do you need to answer in order to formulate your vision?
  3. How stressed are you about getting everything exactly right at the first meeting? Take time to offer these worries to God.

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