The 80/20 rule for churches

[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_large","fid":"75","attributes":{"class":"media-image","typeof":"foaf:Image","style":"","title":"80-20 rule","alt":"80-20 rule"}}]] Alan Hartung has blogged about an article he published at THEOOZE, looking at the 80/20 rule. Basically, the 80/20 rule says that, in any church, 20% of the people will do all of the work of the church, while the other 80% just attend services, without being more actively involved.

He starts out talking about "traditional" approaches to this problem, but then he takes an unexpected twist. He posits that this ratio is fundamentally embedded into existing church structure. After all, there are only so many "jobs" to do for a Sunday morning worship service, and, as long as that service is the primary focus of church, then churches actually need those 80% in order to keep the 20% busy!

While I think that may be a bit extreme, I do think he raises a serious point. It echoes what my wife has been saying to me about worship taking too great a role in the life of the church today. Now, before you start the fires to burn me as a heretic: I'm not saying that worship is unimportant - it is important. But so is service outside of the church, and study, etc, etc.

As Alan points out, a lot of those 80% like not having any responsibilities, and will probably leave the church if more is expected of them. That's to be expected. The more significant point he raises, however, is that you'll probably also lose some of the 20%! They like being needed and at the center of attention, and may, at some level, resist change which takes that away. They may say, and even believe, that getting others more involved is a good thing, but then attempt to block changes that might help accomplish it. A few of those 80% leaving might be painful, but expected. Losing even one or two of the 20%, however, might scare the leadership into rethinking their position.

Of course, we could take this a step further. Maybe the 80/20, rather than being embedded in the church's structure, is embedded in our human nature. After all, most organizations and institutions have a few leaders, and many members. So perhaps that's not inherently a bad thing.

So, what do you think? Is Alan right? Is the 80/20 rule implicit in our church structure? And, if so, is that a problem?

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