Measurement: Execution is insured through measuring the right things, aligning each part to the whole, and establishing controls and reporting systems

The 80/20 Rule And How It Can Transform Your Church

Known by various names, including Pareto’s Law, Pareto’s Principle, The 80/20 Rule, and The Law of Disproportionate Distribution, the 80/20 Rule is a powerful and simple tool for analyzing and optimizing choices involving distribution of any kind.

By the numbers it means that 80 percent of your outcomes come from 20 percent of your inputs. The concept is especially useful in business and personal matters by causing us to focus on the 20% that really matters. This concept can be applied to:

  • Prioritization
  • Planning
  • Evaluation
  • Decision Making
  • Problem Solving
  • Selling
  • Marketing
  • Budgeting
  • Resource Allocation
  • Change Leadership
  • Project Management

History of Pareto’s Principle

Pareto’s Principle is named after the man who first discovered and described the 80/20 effect, Vilfredo Pareto (1848-1923), an Italian economist. Pareto first observed the 80/20 principle when researching wealth and income distribution in nineteenth-century Italy.

Pareto noted that broadly 20 percent of the people owned 80 percent of the wealth and subsequently discovered the principle can be applied to virtually all other distribution scenarios as well.

Here are some examples of Pareto’s Law as it applies to various situations in any given organization or business. Remember it’s a guide rather than a scientific certainty.

  • 80 percent of results come from 20 percent of efforts
  • 80 percent of activity will require 20 percent of resources
  • 80 percent of usage is by 20 percent of users
  • 80 percent of revenue comes from 20 percent of customers
  • 80 percent of problems come from 20 percent of causes
  • 80 percent of profit comes from 20 percent of the products
  • 80 percent of complaints come from 20 percent of customers
  • 80 percent of sales will come from 20 percent of sales peopleThe precise ratios for specific situations can be different than 80/20, but the principle applies nevertheless that a minority is typically creating a majority.

Applying Pareto’s 80/20 Rule in the Church

The 80/20 Rule is counter-intuitive to how most ministers think. They assume the critical 20% is doing OK, then they should spend their time on the 80% that is not doing, giving or attending as much in comparison.

The life of Jesus provides a clear example of wisely applying the 80/20 Rule in his time and teaching. Jesus spent time daily with the crowds but spent focused time with the 12 disciples, and took Peter, James and John apart for even more intentional instruction and delegated responsibility. And clearly, Jesus loves and longs for each sheep.

The fact is that ministers can’t afford to ignore either the 20% or the 80%. Both should be closely monitored and provided time and attention. But, Pareto’s Law is dramatically effective when applied to distribution decisions in the local church, because it encourages a focus of activity, resources, time and effort that usually produces quick and noticeable improvements.

Below are examples of how to apply this principle in ways that could potentially change your church.

Program Priorities: 80% of your ministry results that measurably impact the mission and vision of the church comes from 20% of your programs, emphases and initiatives.

Therefore, program impact could be improved by carrying out a quick and simple ‘Pareto analysis’ to clearly see at a glance where to direct your program efforts, and probably also see many programs that could be discontinued.

Outreach: 80% of your prospects are generated from 20% of your outreach efforts.

Therefore, outreach results will improve if you identify which strategies produces most of the new prospects, and use the identified most-effective strategies more often (and use the less-effective strategies less often, or not at all).

And typically, only 20% of a congregation has the gift of “Evangelism,” therefore focusing more training and resources on these 20% will garner more results than a commensurate amount of training and resources spent on the other 80%.

Budget Allocation: 80% of the biggest Kingdom impact of your church’s budget comes from 20% of the dollars allocated. In most churches 80% of the budget is spent internally and only 20% externally.

Therefore, Kingdom impact will increase the more you reallocate dollars to line items that produce greater results, which are usually those that are focused outside the walls of the church.

Giving: 80% of your church’s revenue comes from 20% of your giving units.

Therefore, giving will increase significantly if you identify your top 20% giving units and focus developmental strategies on those who have the “gift of giving” and are committed to biblical stewardship.

Leadership: 80% of your church’s leadership effectiveness comes from 20% of your volunteer and staff leaders.

Therefore, providing increased opportunities and intensified training and resources for the top 20% of your leaders will increase effectiveness more rapidly than spending a commensurate amount of training and resources on the remaining 80% of leaders.

Website: 80 percent of time spent on your church’s website will be spent on 20 percent of the website pages.

Therefore, identifying the pages of your website that generate the most traffic and investing new resources to make them more prominent and engaging will have the greatest impact on website traffic.

Publicity: Members receive 80% of their information about the church from 20% of your promotion efforts.

Therefore, surveying your congregation to determine the top two ways they prefer receiving information from the church and reallocating your messages accordingly will focus and enhance congregational communication.

 Core Competencies and Passions: 80% of your member’s service should be spent in areas of competency and passion. Spend more than 20% of your time serving in areas outside your skills and passions and motivation and output declines significantly.

Therefore, providing a process for church members to identify and connect with ministries that play to their gifts and passions will increase ministry effectiveness and volunteer retention.

Time Management: 80% of your results that help you accomplish your job description comes from 20% of your time.

Therefore, prioritize and focus on the handful of activities that you do every day that produce the most results.

What others would you add?



Posted on May 10, 2016

Jim Baker

Jim is a Church Organizational Leadership and Management Coach, Consultant and Trainer. Throughout his career Jim has demonstrated a passion for showing Pastors and Ministers how to use organizational tools for church and personal growth and health.

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“For I may be absent in body, but I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see how well ordered you are and the strength of your faith in Christ.” Colossians 2:5