Have you ever felt that only a small number of church members were doing the majority of the work? It’s pretty common in churches, at least the ones I’ve been a part of, for us to depend upon the same few individuals to teach Sunday School, sing on the praise team, lead the men’s ministry, serve as deacons and coordinate the discipleship ministry. When this happens, we are observing what is called the 80-20 rule or Pareto principle.
The Pareto principle states that roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the inputs or causes. The principle was named after Vilfredo Pareto, an Italian mathematician and economist who noted, in 1906, that 80% of land in his native Italy was owned by the wealthiest 20% of the population. Pareto went on to comment that 20% of his garden’s pea plants produced 80% of the peas he grew. It’s important to understand however, that the numbers don’t have to be “20%” and “80%” exactly. The key point of this principle is that most things in life (effort, reward, output) are not distributed evenly – some contribute more than others.
What if we’re observing the 80-20 rule in our churches only because we’re failing to engage the community as God intends for us to do? Scripture (Ephesians 4) teaches that believers have been gifted and should be equipped for the work of the ministry.
But what if we’ve limited the ministry in our churches and are not providing places of service for some believers. Churches should be engaged in outreach focused community ministry. When the majority of our ministry is inward focused and self serving, we are keeping a large number of believers from using their gifts, passions and experiences in service to Him as they were equipped and prepared for.
Community ministry in the name of Christ creates opportunities of service for believers who will find joy and fulfillment in serving because they’re using the talents and gifts God has equipped them with. Christ followers want and need to serve – but not all are given the chance if ministry opportunities ONLY exist within the walls of the church.
The next time you observe the Pareto principle happening in your church, let me challenge you to consider how an outreach focused community ministry might involve the passion, gifts and talents of the “other 80%”.