Church Blog
March 18, 2015, 5:00 AM

Reversing the 80-20 Rule

It is said that most churches have what is known as the 80-20 Rule; what does that mean you ask? 80% of serving is done by 20% of the people. I would venture to say that number is not just a local church problem. Did I say problem?...I did, but it can be changed with information and a desire for the body of Christ to be healthy and successful.

80-20 Rule Needs to Be Reversed
By Lonnie Wilkey
editor, Baptist & Reflector


Having been reared in a Southern Baptist church and been attending Southern Baptist Convention churches my entire life, I naturally assumed the “80-20” rule was a Southern Baptist phenomenon. In doing some research, however,  I discovered that rule (unwritten or not) apparently applies to most churches regardless of denomination.

Carl Wilton, a Presbyterian pastor from New Jersey, wrote these words about stewardship in a blog last June: “Every once in a while, some well-meaning church member will stand up in a congregational or session meeting and say, ‘I know the solution to the church’s financial problems. Let’s just divide our budget by the number of members, and ask everyone to pay his or her fair share.’ “Nice idea, but it ain’t gonna happen. It violates the 80-20 rule.”

Some may be wondering exactly what the 80-20 rule is. Basically the premise of this rule is that in any congregation, 80 percent of the work or ministry of the church is done by 20 percent of the people. On the financial side, 80 percent of the church’s budget is supplied by 20 percent of the membership. And, we wonder why churches face financial problems and why baptisms are down across the denomination.

It’s high time that the 80-20 rule should mean that at least 80 percent of the members of any church are active, contributing members and that at least 80 percent of the people tithe and give regularly to support the Lord’s work. Can you imagine how much money would be available for ministry if 80 percent of active members in our churches contributed? Missionaries would not have to wait to be appointed. Local ministries would be totally funded. The list goes on.

Wouldn’t it be incredible if a pastor came up to you, and instead of begging you to teach Sunday School one more year, he would say, “I’m sorry, but we need you to take a rest from teaching for a year or two because we have so many teachers lined up waiting for a class.” As Carl Wilton wrote, “it ain’t gonna happen.” Or I should say, it will not happen until Christians of all denominations take a serious look at themselves and realize they are not doing their fair share for the kingdom of God. And, it won’t happen until Christians allow the Holy Spirit to have control over their hearts and lives.

Thom Rainer, president of LifeWay Christian Resources, nailed it in a column he wrote about why people leave churches. Basically he believes that many people in churches today have an “entitlement” philosophy instead of a “servant” philosophy. In other words, what will church do for me? What will I get out of coming to church? The reason people leave churches basically are the same reasons people have for being uninvolved.

Too many people who sit in our church pews today think they are doing God a favor by attending instead of having the mindset of going to church to worship Him. Worshiping and serving God is all about Him. It should never be about us.

It’s time for Christians to remember and fully understand that we go to church to worship the One and only God who sent His only Son to die for our sins so we may have eternal life. God does not owe us anything. He already gave us His all. It’s time for us to live our lives with an attitude of thankfulness for all He has done for us.

It could be the fault of our own churches that many members do not do their part in the ministry of the local congregation. Dr. Rainer pointed out in his column that churches need to raise the bar of expectations for their members. “We have dumbed down church membership in many congregations to where it has little meaning. Clarify expectations of members,” Rainer wrote. That is so true.

Our churches must do a better job in discipling not only new members but existing members. Only then will there be a hope for reversing the 80-20 rule.


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