Today’s post closes out a series looking at the new book “The Other 80 Percent” by Scott Thumma and Warren Bird. The authors 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.

Previous posts included a look at where the 80/20 Principle originated, defining the other 80 percent, the creation of listening teams, and the use of learning teams. The authors challenge church leaders to put everything they’ve learned into practice by, well, leading. First, a warning – it is critical to balance energetic appeal to newcomers with care of existing members. It’s easy to be gung-ho about welcoming new faces to your church, but what happens when the “new” wears off? After that, Thumma and Bird recommend something so common sense most leaders miss it entirely: Begin reaching out to your marginal participants by doing more of whatever you are doing that already promotes participation. Don’t reinvent the wheel – at least unnecessarily! Other ideas include:

  • Proceed with your best efforts
  • Affirm your expectations for commitment
  • Reevaluate the process of participating
  • Help people use their gifts and interests
  • Individualize avenues of participation
  • Make sure the rewards aren’t limited to heaven
  • Expand what it means to participate

While the 80/20 Principle may work just fine when it comes to the business world (and applied correctly, in ChurchWorld), most often the 80/20 Principle needs to be carefully watched. The way to keep Pareto at bay is for a church’s leadership to be truly committed to being a spiritual shepherd, always connecting activity with some aspect of spiritual maturity.

“The Other 80 Percent” is an excellent book for church leaders to read and put into practice. An unusual combination of research and practical helps, it will serve leaders well as a guide to helping understand and activate what oftentimes is a majority of membership.

What will you do TODAY to understand the other 80 percent?

More importantly, what action will you take THIS WEEK to help them become active?


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