As you get closer to the end of the current group season, I wanted to remind you that your effort and commitment is a really big deal. Regardless of how qualified or under-qualified you think you are as a group leader, your investment matters in significant ways. Why? Because when you help people gain a sense of belonging, connection, and love, you are not only impacting the quality of other people’s lives, you are helping people step into an empowered transformation process.

Science and the Bible tell us over and over again that healthy, safe relationships — more specifically the belonging, connection, and love they bring — are essential to healthy living and to growing to our potential. God tells us that love is what transforms us best, and science supports that claim. Both giving all we can in life and getting the most out of life begin with the foundation of knowing we belong, are connected, and are loved.

Along these same lines, I recently came across an interesting study that talked about the power of a friend’s touch on stress levels. Here is the recap:

The researchers put a person in an anxious situation of receiving intermittent electric shocks. They would measure the person’s stress levels in their brain and body as they anticipated the upcoming painful shock and then compare it to a baseline reading. Then, the researchers would bring in the person’s friend and have them touch their friend’s hand. As soon as the friend touched their hand, their brain stress would go to near zero, while still anticipating the shock…just because their friend was holding their hand. (They did not get the same effect when a stranger held their hand. Nor did they get the same results when they had the friends connect in other ways, like by phone.) The in-person effect made the difference. They needed to feel the friend’s presence — a real person, really there, present, and in the flesh.

This is one of the things you do as a group leader. You help people connect in friendship, and in turn, this helps people deal with the stress and craziness of life…and we all know, crazy comes!

I know this can be easy to forget, and it can be easy to minimize what you do as group leaders. You may not feel your investment matters that much. In fact, just this week, an awesome group leader shared that at times she can feel like she isn’t doing enough for the church, to serve Jesus, or to love others. While leading an incredibly life-giving conversation among her group, this leader was sharing that she felt a level of guilt for not doing more. And I was so taken aback — here was my friend helping women engage in meaningful, real-life conversations about Jesus, faith, work, kids, money, identity, calling, and the crazy parts of life, and she was doubting her impact.

Here is the main point: right in the midst of accomplishing the goal of groups — helping people grow in friendship and faith — it might be easy to feel like we’re “just” leading a group and not making a big impact. But I want to remind you that there is no such thing as “just” leading a group and you are making a huge impact.

We cannot argue with the science or the Bible verses that tell us we grow, function and perform best in life when we belong, connect, and are loved. In a culture riddled with isolation, shame, pride, hiding, pretending, and fragile or fake egos, by intentionally creating space for people to authentically connect with others, you are empowering people to be transformed for the better. You are not just group leaders — you are changing the world by helping people experience the connection, belonging, and love they were made for and require to reach their full potential in the various areas of life.