Warren Bird

Jossy-Bass, 2011

If you’ve been in church leadership for any amount of time, you’ve probably heard of the Pareto Principle, or the 80–20 rule. Simply stated, the principle suggests that 20 percent do the work and the 80 percent watch. It has all sorts of corollaries such as 20 percent of what a person does makes 80 percent of the difference. In any event, the theme of this book is how to activate the 80 percenters.

One of the key strengths of this book is the research. From why the 80 percent are uninvolved to understanding how to involve and re-involve participants, if you’re impressed with stats and charts this book is a goldmine.

The book is divided into three parts: Listening, Learning, and Leading. Each part builds on the previous and walks congregational leaders to a re-activation mindset.

The Listening section begins with research on those who have varying involvement: High Involvement, Medium Involvement, and Low Involvement. The writers engaged both qualitative and quantitative research to find out the whys and wherefores of involvement. For instance, the study showed that the longer someone had been a member, the less their involvement was increasing. Similarly the older a member was, the less their involvement was increasing. There were various reasons for this, but the research itself is instructive. Similar research on the other groups fills the book.

The Learning section investigates the various causes on involvement and lack of involvement in the church. In addition, it provides an overview of what “doesn’t” work (such as make them become a member before allowing them to get involved).

Although all three sections include hands on instructions on moving forward in your particular context, the final section provides specifics that facilitate involvement by emphasizing the need to start where you are, how to make room for new participants, and the ultimate goal of spiritual development.

One could quickly get bogged down (or distracted) by the fabulous research in this book, but don’t let that keep you from getting the message. For a church to thrive, the 80 percent must be addressed … otherwise the revolving door of people coming and going will just keep on spinning.