Reconsidering the 80/20

There is a common rule of thumb in business, economics, and science called the Pareto Principle. Simply put, the Pareto Principle states that for many events, around 80% of effects come from close to 20% of causes.

In church world, this principle is commonly cited in context that 80% of church volunteer work is done by 20% of church attenders. Having worked in church involvement for 15 years, I can attest that this rule of thumb tends to provide a good approximation (but not a limit).

Claiming that rule of thumb is seen as a way to motivate those who are not involved to join the active 20%.

The problem with this claim is the assumption that the involved 20% are the people growing in spiritual maturity.

  • Church involvement does not necessarily indicate a maturing Christ follower.
  • Increasing involvement does not necessarily indicate a mature Christian leader.

Many of the 20% are involved because they are seeking the affirmation of their church leader(s).

Many of the 80% are serving in their workplace or external ministries and doing their works unnoticed by their church leadership.

Involvement problems are related to identity problems.

Are your volunteers burning out? Maybe people are trying to find a sense of worth.

Are people being invited into a task or into the gospel? Tasks require servitude, the gospel urges gratitude.

Who are they serving?

Not all the problems are with the people you want to volunteer.

Are more volunteers to feed the identity of the leader?

How are you nurturing the spiritual lives of those who are involved?

Are people serving outside the church because the church’s mission is not relevant to the community? Whose kingdom are you building?

Are people being empowered in their giftedness? Do you expect people to function like you do? Leader insecurity can drive involvement down.

The first step to diagnosing involvement problems is to develop awareness of what identity is being built up in your organization.

What does your level of involvement say about you?


I work with followers of Christ to energize discipleship, improve relationships, decrease anxiety and facilitate leadership development. I am a certified coach specializing in pastoral leadership, relationships, discipleship, life transitions, and Christian identity. Also, I am the author of the forthcoming book Discovering Your Root: Developing Your Identity in Christ.

Services I offer are one-on-one coaching, group coaching,  speaking at organizations/churches, leadership workshops, and church retreats. For more info, click here to contact me.


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