One of the most frequent concerns we hear, when working with congregational transformation, is “We don’t have enough people to do all the ministries.” Interestingly, when we investigate, we’ll hear these same words from both staff and volunteers – as well as from church members who are only marginally involved.

Using the Pareto Principle as a base formula (the 80–20 Rule), most congregations are overcommitted for the number of work-a-bees they can count on. In fact, in too many churches, the same 20 percent of the congregation simply rotate positions over and over again, ostensibly because “No one else will step up.” This experience of the faithful few doing the lion’s share of the work is so common that has simply been accepted as the norm – and though the twenty-percenters complain heartily about it, they generally accept their experience as gospel reality.

Although the Pareto Principle is considered axiomatic in business, it is in fact a secular observation and doesn’t take into consideration that the capital “C” Church is the Body of Christ. As Paul points out, every one of us who a part of the body has a place and a responsibility based on our call and gift. The problem with most local churches that reflect the Pareto Principle, however, is that they deprecate callings and giftings in order to emphasize jobs and positions. Of course, this is contrary to what the New Testament teaches, but seems “normal” and “right” because it fits into the business and institutional world view. Therefore, it is essential that every leader of the congregation embraces the One Person, One Passion, One Position imperative.

The One Person, One Passion, One Position imperative reminds the congregation that each person has a place in the Body of Christ. Implanted by the Holy Spirit, each member of the Body has a particular passion that, when discovered, can be loosed and nurtured and equipped for the common good of the church (1 Corinthians 12). Problems arise when a local congregation mandates and codifies jobs and positions that seem necessary for a congregation to be a bonafide Church. When a congregation implements the One Person, One Passion, One Position imperative, it is true that some existing ministries may indeed have to be cancelled. However, consider this: does a congregation really want to host a ministry that is led by someone who has little or no passion (and thus, no calling) for that work?

When a person pursues their passion in ministry, they are like those in Isaiah whose strength is renewed, who mount up with the wings of eagles; who run and do not become weary; who walk and do not grow faint (40:31). Indeed, when a person is working within their passion and calling, it is unthinkable for them to even consider quitting.

But what about getting new leaders? How does limiting the number of jobs a church leader can have raise up new ones? Well, there is a tried-and-true reality that comes into play here. When there is actually space for new ministries and new leaders, only then do new leaders truly have the opportunity to step up. Rarely will a healthy, potential church ministry leader step into leadership when another ministry leader is leading. In fact, many times a church will try to solve the lack of leadership problem by inviting new people to lead existing ministries, but when they try, the previous leader (or the legacy committee/team) either micro-manages or plays the “that’s not how we do it here” controlling ploy. And then the congregation wonders why they can’t get and/or keep these “new” leaders. But when there’s a true vacuum, then new leaders rise to fore.

However, when a congregation’s leadership considers implementing this imperative, there are always concerns that mission-critical ministries may have to be cancelled, or worse, that existing staff will have to pick up the slack. However, if a ministry is truly mission critical, as opposed to a long-time favored program, God will raise up a called and passionate leader for that ministry. Indeed, that leader may currently be a participant in that ministry – but without the opportunity to invest in their passion because the “position” is already filled. This is truly a step of faith, but let us not forget that is exactly what the church is, has, and always be called to do.

Here are the rubrics for implementing One Person, One Passion, One Position:

  • No one may lead or serve as a team member in more than one ministry. The only exception to this rubric is that a team leader may also serve on the Session as a representative of that ministry.
  • Team leaders and team members should serve only where their passions are. To help individuals discover their passion, the Discipleship Fractal leader (see Recommendation 3) should ensure all existing leaders are afforded an opportunity to take the Personal Ministry Assessment, or another gift and passion inventory. Ultimately, every person in the congregation should have the opportunity to participate in a passion’s inventory.
  • A leader may participate in other ministries, but they cannot serve in any decision-making role. In other words, a team leader or a team member may also sing in the choir if this is a joyful commitment. However, they may not serve as a representative of the choir on the Worship Planning Team.
  • Anyone who currently serves on two teams must choose which team they will continue to serve based on their passion, not on the needs of either team. The board should help those who are unable or unwilling to make a choice by choosing for them.

Once this has been implemented, the final programmatic pruning should already have occurred. The congregation’s leadership must withdraw support from every ministry program that does not have a gifted, called, passionate leader committed solely to that ministry.

When these four steps have been completed, the leadership should have pared down its ministry programming to a those that accurately reflects the actual size, resources, and capabilities of the congregation as it is – not as it wishes it were.

One last, important note. Whenever someone in the congregation approaches a member of the leadership team to complain that a favorite program has been cancelled, the “party line” response should be one of these four, depending on the reason for the cancellation.

  1. “That program was outside of the congregation’s mission. Though it was a really good program, we simply could not continue it and be faithful to the mission God has called us to.”
  2. “Unfortunately, we simply don’t have the resources to be a church that offers comprehensive ministries for everyone in our community. Although it was a really good program, we had to direct our resources in other directions.”
  3. “Although that seemed like a really good program, it wasn’t producing the fruit of discipleship our congregation’s mission expected from it.” [Note: the word discipleship adequately covers all three aspects of the mission statement.]
  4. “The ministry simply didn’t have a called, gifted, and passionate leader who was willing to invest in it and so we had to cancel it.” [Note: depending on who is registering their concern, it may be profitable to add: “Is this a ministry you feel called and passionate to lead?”]