Why 20 percent do 80 percent — and how to fix it
Wednesday, July 09, 2014
I was having breakfast recently with a good friend. He's an active participant in ministry, and we were lamenting the Pareto principle. For those unfamiliar, it's that "law of the vital few" where 20 percent of a congregation seem to do 80 percent of the work.
I hear it so much in ministry meetings that it hardly registers anymore. But as my friend and I were talking, I realized that the church now uses the 80-20 rule as a crutch. It's an excuse for why churches can't do more, or do ministry better.
Sadly, I think the church is wrong to accept it. But here are three reasons we do:
1. We keep asking the same 20 percent: It ultimately takes more effort to engage the 80 percent who don't serve, so we keep going back to the ones we know will. This cripples ministry potential. We need to make the additional effort, so that our ministries have new blood for input and allow people to take a break and recharge.
2. We lack the entrances into ministry positions: Few churches have an "easy" way for people to check out ministry opportunities and make a decision to help. Sadly though, we also lack the exit paths for the 20 percent to step down while keeping their heads held high. Both are necessary for revitalizing ministry.
3. We secretly dread training volunteers: This is barely uttered outside of ministry circles.
We need to decide that our churches should have opportunities for everyone. And we need everyone to participate.
We've all had horror stories to share about the volunteer who will never leave and doesn't do the best work, while requiring extra hours of training and corralling. We don't want to take the time because it's easier to retain the trained. But this reinforces the bad habit of the 20 percent doing everything.
So let's fix this!
1. Create on-ramps for service opportunities: Have ministry fairs for recruiting. Instill in your congregation that you need them to step up. And demonstrate how to do it.
2. Limit time in key roles: Keep the 20 percent from doing it all. Term limits aren't just for government. Set a "rest period" for the key roles. Encourage others to step up.
3. Create an atmosphere of training: This is the key to encourage and motivate many people to take on the various tasks. Engaging all your members will utilize spiritual gifts and talents.
Right now there are people in your pews who want to help. Let's do the work to engage them into Christian service. After all, that's the work of the church.
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