Many years ago when I was in seminary, I was given an assignment to write a research paper on any problem a shepherd (pastor)/staff may face on a regular bases. After several weeks of interviewing multiple shepherds and staff I began to see a pattern emerge that I titled “The 95 5 Principle.”
My research concluded that 95% of a shepherd’s time is spent dealing with 95% of the people who only do 5% of the ministry in the local Gathering. The remaining 5% of the people are doing 95% of everything needed to carry on the function of a Gathering. Unfortunately, the shepherd and his staff have very little time to work with and train these 5%ers. In fact, I discovered that most of them never speak at length to any of the staff unless there is a serious issue which arises.
I also found that the turnover among the 5% was very low. Most of them continue to volunteer for the same positions year-after-year and rarely ever complain about the amount of work needed to balance their home and work life with the time spent preparing or being at the Gathering.
What I did find, however, is a very high percentage of dissatisfaction among the 5%. Most of the ones I spoke to complained at length at how poorly the staff was performing and at how little help or encouragement they received from their shepherd. What I found among the 95% was an elevated support for the shepherd and the staff. They were quick to point out that when they had a need, (which was quite often according to the shepherd), there was always someone from the staff to speak with and encourage them.
As most of you have already concluded this is a very dangerous practice, especially as we move toward a societal trend of Americans becoming more and more selfish in the decisions they make. I believe if I were to do this same research today I would find that the percentages have shifted more in favor of those who do nothing in the Gathering.
How do we change this scenario? I suggest 3 simple practices which can help alleviate some of the burden from the 5% and get more of the 95% active in ministry.
- Say NO to the 95%. Most of the issues this group bring to the staff are nonsensical. With a few exceptions they usually want to talk about mundane, non-essential matters which have no real relevance in true spiritual life. It is time to tell the 95% to grow up and stop letting every little issue become a major stumbling block. Tell them it is time to stand on your OWN two feet.
- Celebrate the 5% publicly. Let the 95% see the 5% being praised, celebrated and rewarded. Bring them in front of the Gathering and extol their spiritual virtues. Let everyone know what these people are doing and how much it is appreciated by the shepherd and staff. We have a “pastor/staff appreciation” day to encourage God’s servants so why not a quarterly 5%er appreciation time?
- Give the 95% something to do. Find specific jobs, (mundane at first) and personally invite individuals from this group to take charge of them. My research found that most of the people from this group would be willing to serve if they thought a job was created specifically for them. Take some of the burden off of the 5% and slowly begin to transfer it to the 95%. You will find that some in the 95% will become a 5%er.
In conclusion I would remind you of one simple truth that applies to all shepherds and sheep, (both in the Gathering and in a real pasture with farm animals). The shepherd never kills and eats the good sheep which are reproducing. He eats the ones who do not reproduce. Stop killing yourself and your 5%ers trying to keep a bunch of sheep happy that will never reproduce anyway. Spend 95% of your time with the 5%. Encourage and value them at every opportunity. Then you will find that the 5% will produce more spiritual fruit and they, in turn, will help you with the 95%.