First Night Basics


First Night of Small Group

As we gear up for a new semester of small groups, we thought it would be great to revisit some of the basics regarding the first night of the small group. This is obviously relevant for those leading a group for the first time. But for those who’ve been leading for awhile, this can be a good reminder of things we may start to take for granted and neglect.

We’re going to be very practical and basic, discussing what it takes to get off on the right foot.

Before Group

Before the first night of your group, you’ll want to email those who have expressed interest in attending your group. Remind them when the group is meeting and give the address for the meeting location. You’ll want to include your phone number in case anyone gets lost, making sure to have your phone on you the night of the group so you’ll receive any calls.

Nothing creates conversation and community like cuisine, so plan ahead regarding any snacks for your group. You may want to consider the three Cs – cookies, chips, and caffeine.

You’ll want to be sure you create a welcoming environment as well. Set up enough chairs for the number of people you expect, make sure enough lights are on so the room is well lit, and if there are any funky odors, consider lighting a candle.

Most importantly, the day before or day of your group, be sure to spend some time in prayer, asking God to be with you and your group. We’re helping people to follow Jesus and that’s not something we can do on our own – we need His help to do so.

During Group

On the night of the group, your highest priority is to help people get to know each other. Make sure to provide plenty of time for conversation. In fact, that could be your only agenda item for the night. You want to help people to connect and begin developing relationships.

Greet people as they arrive and if you observe anyone standing alone, engage them in conversation and help them to connect to others in the group.

If it’s a big group, consider using name tags. You might also want to play the name game – having each person share their name plus an adjective that describes them which starts with the same letter as their name. It’s a bit silly, but it really does help names stick.

You might also want to include an icebreaker, perhaps asking them to share a funny story about a childhood friend or to describe their hometown. This helps them gain insight into one another, both in terms of what they share and how they share it, cultivating connection.

On the first night, it’s also important to cast vision for the group. You should explain why you are leading the group and what you hope to accomplish. You should explain whether consistent attendance is important or if people can come and go. You should also set expectations regarding any homework participants will be asked to do. Establishing expectations on the front end is much easier than trying to change the small group culture once it’s developed later on.

After Group

After group, be sure to send a follow-up email thanking them for coming and reminding them of any details regarding logistics or homework for the following week.

And finally, don’t forget to pray for them. Remember, this isn’t just a meeting you’re having – you’re helping them to follow Jesus and you need His help to do that.

Some Things to Consider:

  • What’s your favorite icebreaker question? What’s your least favorite?
  • How can you ensure that you are consistently praying for your group?
  • What’s your vision for your group? What are you hoping to accomplish?
  • Do you have expectations regarding homework and attendance for your group? How will you communicate those?
  • Which aspect of your group are you most excited about?
  • What’s your biggest concern as your group kicks off?