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Learn to Navigate Leading Small By Robby Angle and Dr. Bruce McNichol

Five Best Practices for Leading Small

Jesus modeled a leadership that had an outsized focus on deeply investing and leading small bands, first the 12, with even greater investment in Peter, James, and John.

Jesus lived out this counterintuitive principle by leading small to accomplish greater influence. The validity of this model has not changed.  

Proven Best Practices

Leading small in a group setting requires intentionality and humility. It is unfortunately easy for these groups to flounder or nurtures surface-level relationships. Five best practices have proven themselves to distinguish typical groups from groups people will talk about for the rest of their lives.

Leading small in a group setting requires intentionality and humility.

Exceptional leaders who are focused on investing deeply with a few implement these practices in leadership teams, small groups, and family systems. These practices follow a sailing metaphor to help us simplify and remember them.

(1) The Destination

Determine the goals of your group. If a group doesn’t know where they’re headed, they are “batting at the wind” and wasting much of their time. Does everybody know and agree on where you are headed?

(2) The Captain

Lead with intentionality and vulnerability. This is the objective of the group leader or captain. Within these five principles, the role of the captain is the most important and influential component for groups longing to experience transformation. However, it’s much easier to know about the principles of effective leadership than to implement those principles in the teams and groups that we lead

(3) The Crew

This represents the group’s culture. Clarify your group culture. There’s an unspoken crew culture, or family system, in our board meetings, friend groups, and at our dinner tables. Do you know your group’s spoken and unspoken rules, and how are you intentionally shaping that culture?

(4) The Ship

Design your time for transformation. The wise design and structure of the ship deeply influence how the captain and crew spend their time on this adventure. How you do what you do as a group matters profoundly.

(5) The Route

Plan to get where you want to go. One of the most critical responsibilities in sailing is navigating the route. The captain must learn both focus and flexibility as they plot their course.

It’s Hard Work

Leading small is hard, and feels like swimming against the current. It’s a struggle to lead with intentionality and vulnerability despite our desires to lead well. We resist leading “small” because we fear that if we do, the outcomes will suffer. The pressures of our responsibilities push us to major on productivity and minor on the relational investment required in the practices above. The urgency of our growing list of responsibilities as leaders is continually at odds with our desire to practice deeper investment in those around us.

There are lessons to learn from Jesus, group therapy, organizational team leadership principles, and small group methodologies used in ministries and churches. These best practices help us be our best as captains leading small for outsized impact.

The Reward

If you consistently lead small, you will experience amplified joy, beauty, and love with the Triune God and others, because you were made for this! Your soul will come alive with many relational epiphanies!


Robby Angle is President of Trueface and  Dr. Bruce McNicol is President Emeritus of Trueface, Robby is the author of The Cure For Groups (Trueface, 2021) and Bruce is co-author of The Cure (Trueface, 2014).This post is an adaption of their article in the Spring 2022 edition of Outcomes magazine.  

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