The Other 80 Percent

Turning your church’s spectators into Active participants

The title of this post is about a new book from Leadership Network, and that book is all about the 80/20 rule that’s in play at your church.

…and it’s not a pretty picture.

In case you missed it, here’s an introduction to the 80/20 rule from yesterday’s post. It’s mainly talked about in terms of efficiency, but when applied to ChurchWorld, it’s a crippling truth: for most of the roughly three hundred thousand Protestant churches in America, only a small percentage of those in regular attendance are active and engaged in mission and ministry. In fact, a church is highly unusual if more than half are.

“The Other Eighty Percent” is a practical guide for church leaders written by respected researcher Scott Thumma and noted author Warren Bird. Thumma and Bird have listened to thousands of church members’ voices to discern what motivates less-connected, inactive members to move toward a life of discipleship and living out their faith in community.

Reality Shows

Gallup surveys of Americans have shown that for decades roughly 40 percent of Americans say they are in church weekly, but recent actual counts of Christian attenders indicate that perhaps no more than 22 percent of Protestants actually show up in any given week. By the numbers, that would mean:

  • If the 40% actually showed up, that would mean each congregation would average 360 in attendance
  • In reality, the average attendance is under 100
  • If 80% of the country claims Christianity; and
  • 65% say they belong to a church; but
  • Only 40% show up sometime each month; then

The greatest American mission field may well already be the members of Christian churches

Root Causes

The current situation in American religious life is deeply engrained and far-reaching, but it can be examined and dealt with in your church. Thumma and Bird offer the following complex set of questions for you to study in order to address the problem – and develop a solution:

  • Is the lack of member involvement because the sheep no longer want to follow?
  • Do some Christians want a life of faith apart from the church?
  • Is the “low bar” situation in some churches the fault of the shepherds?
  • Is the situation the result of an organizational problem?
  • Is it a spiritual problem?
  • What can religious leaders do to reach the less-committed persons associated with their congregations?

The authors aren’t content to just document the problem; they suggest some very practical strategies that can stimulate a greater expression of faith and increased involvement in the portion of God’s kingdom that is the local church.

The message of “The Other 80 Percent” is this: If you pay attention to your less-involved people, they will become more involved.

Tomorrow: Listening


One thought on “The Other 80 Percent

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