One of the biggest problems facing the church is that a small number of people end up doing a large amount of the volunteer work. This could be summarized in the 80/20 rule, or the Pareto Principle, which suggests that 80% of the effects of an event come from 20% of the causes. When related to the church, in most instances, we can see that 20% of the members are handling roughly 80% of the work.
This is an interesting phenomenon, considering that church is called to be a body comprised of equal parts (see 1 Corinthians 12). I would argue that a biblical basis for a church is not one that has fallen into the 80/20 rut, but one that is encouraging, challenging, and equipping all covenant members to serve in some aspect. How can we, as the church avoid this Pareto Principle? How can we bring the 20% up and broaden the volunteer/ministry work? I hope to offer several options that can encourage you to begin to broaden the volunteer base of your local church, and get more people involved on a deeper level.
- Make clear the vision and mission of your church to the membership. A church that knows where it is going and how it is going to get there will be more prepared to serve, so as to accomplish that mission. In every organization, a mission is needed. The mission and vision of an organization enhance the goal-making process and keep the work of that organization on track. When the mission and vision of the church are made clear, distractions become fewer and fewer, and more people are inclined to serve. The members know why they are serving, and in what capacity the service will be done. Each church has a unique mission and vision, and that truly is a beautiful thing. Determine the church’s vision and mission, and use those to encourage others to serve.
- Encourage the members to lead. Pastors and church leadership, you cannot do everything yourself. Delegation is a biblical skill that you should not take for granted. You should also not be content with 20% of the church membership providing 80% of the work to be done. Every time you meet as a body, encourage your entire church membership to find a way to get involved. This is challenging, and you will probably never fully succeed, but you should attempt this every time. It may seem tireless, and you may never see more people become more involved, but you should not lose heart.
- Avoid ministry burnout. If the involvement in the church is spread out among more than 20% of the people, you will also see less ministry burnout. The 80/20 rut leads to quick ministry burnout, because people become quite heavy-laden. People become fed up with too many responsibilities, and lose sight of why they are contributing so much. Burnout in the church can be avoided more people become involved, sharing the weight of the certain tasks at hand.
- Make it known that everyone plays an important role in the body of Christ. No member of the church should ever feel unimportant. No member of the church should feel as though they have no place in the local church. No member of the church should feel as though the body of Christ already has enough functioning body parts and is not in need of more. The church should be a body of encouragement and edification. No one is an island in the church, or at least they shouldn’t be. The church is always in need of more people being plugged into the ministries and serving in some capacity. No church is ever at maximum capacity of membership service.
- Having more people involved in ministry denies leaders opportunities to gain a false sense of self-importance. As less and less people become involved in the local church, more and more leaders must become responsible for more and more responsibilities. When leaders are responsible for far too many tasks, the tendency to gain a sense of self-importance becomes an issue. I have seen this in my own life. Whenever I fail to delegate tasks, or attempt to do everything in my church, I become big-headed and arrogant. I look back at the task upon completion and think, “Man, look at what I have accomplished. I am such a great leader.” Instead, church leadership should always be empowering members to take part, and encouraging more leaders to step up. By allowing others to lead, current leaders can avoid the natural feelings of arrogance that come, for at least a little while.
None of these options are definite, and I do not claim to be a professional of any sorts. But I do believe that it is important for the church to do all it can to overcome this 80/20 rule. We, as the unified body of Christ under the covenant of his blood, must never become satisfied with the amount of Kingdom work taking place. There is always more work to be done, more people to reach, and more grace to be imparted. By encouraging more people to be involved with the ministry of the church, hopefully, we can begin overcoming this ugly 80/20 rule.