Pursuing the Right Things

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So most of you know that I went to college to pursue Business Administration, not any sort of Bible degree.  And it’s not because of any significant reason, other than I was more interested in being wealthy than Godly.  I eventually said yes to God and His direction, but not before learning a bunch of pretty interesting leadership stuff.  One of the principles we learned is one that Pastor Brian is a big proponent of.  And it’s one that our staff talks about constantly and I still try my best to apply and adhere to.  Because used correctly, this principle could literally change your life.

It all started with the dashing man shown above in the early 1900’s.  He was an economist, so he was big into nerd things.  And being big into nerd things, he realized one day that just 20% of his pea pods contained 80% of the peas.  Just a small portion of the overall yielded most of the harvest.  He later found that the same numbers appeared all over the place.  Most famously at the time, 20% of his fellow Italians owned 80% of the land in Italy.  And the more places he looked, the more he found this to be true.  It was true with wealth distribution (still is), it was true with productivity, it seemed to be true almost everywhere.  So here we are today with the Pareto Principle, most commonly known as the 80/20 rule.

The 80/20 rule simply states that 80% of the results come from 20% of the work.  A really smart fella’ named Dr. Joseph Juron explained it a couple decades later as “the vital few and the trivial many”.

These two men said in a really smart way what we all seem to suspect deep down inside: that most of the junk we do is just that.  We spin our wheels and spin our wheels, but not much is actually accomplished.  And the reason is pretty simple.  We’re focusing on the wrong stuff.  We’re not necessarily focusing on unimportant stuff, but we’re focusing on unimpactful stuff.  Is unimpactful a word?  Maybe ineffective is a more effective word here.

Need a visual?  I gotcha…

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This is a principle that seems to hold true in every situation.  For example, it’s been shown that:

  • 20% of laborers do 80% of the labor
  • 20% of salesmen do 80% of the sales
  • 20% of the customers buy 80% of the product.
  • 80% of the problems come from 20% of the causes
  • 80% of the software failures come from 20% of the bugs
  • 80% of the complaints come from 20% of the customers
  • 20% of the products account for 80% of the sales

I’m not telling you this so that we can better sell our Hunger Project t-shirts.  Nor do I keep a count of who excitedly talks about our events and gets people to sign up.  Though maybe I should.  Just kidding

…or am I?

I say this because we all want to be more effective people.  Whether at work or at home, we all want to be more impactful.  We want to spend our time doing the right things that get the results we want.  And by applying this principle, we can turn our goals and dreams into reality.

Let me show you what this looks like in an area we can all relate to: youth ministry!!!

My time can be taken up with 1,000 different things.  Email, phone calls, budgets, networking, event planning, dreaming, counseling students, training volunteers, supporting parents, service prep, writing teachings, going to sporting events, creating graphics, cleaning, improving the auditorium, decorating, prepping the next grade to come into youth, developing student leaders, designing t-shirts, planning mission trips, having lunch at the schools, calling first time visitors, calling students who’ve been MIA, hanging out with students, creating teaching series, creating a social media presence, communicating everything going on in the ministry, getting parents’ support, calendaring, marriage counseling, blogging, helping kids discover next steps, maintaining the environment, making videos, fundraising, hosting events, on and on and on I could go before ever even talking about all the general church stuff involved in working at a church.

So there’s lots of things to do.  And all those things need to be done.  But where do I spend the majority of my time?

When I first entered the ministry here, the youth group was about 15 kids from a church of about 300 people.  Right off the bat, I found that the most impactful things I could do were gain the trust of the parents and build relationships with the teens.  So my top 20% that produced 80% of the results was spending time with students, gaining support from parents, and developing good teachings.  To that end, I went to the schools and had lunch with them several times a week.  I was at a game or event of some sort nearly every night of the week.  I hung out with students nonstop and made them a part of my life.  I met with parents to talk about vision and how I want to partner with them in what they’re doing.  I read lots of books and devoted alot of time to develop my teaching abilities and tried to provide a Wednesday night service they’d want to invite their friends to.

The result is what we see today.  I group that has grown tremendously in number and impact.*Full disclaimer: I do not claim to be the cause of God’s movement.  God is the one who moves and changes.  I merely claim to have done a halfway decent job stewarding the time and people He gave me.

However, I’ve recently had to take a step back and look again at what my top 20% is.  I can’t have lunch with every single student.  I can’t go to every single sporting event.  I can’t intimately know each student in our ministry.  I can’t counsel that many people.  Now to some extent, those top 20 are becoming the bottom 80.  Because life is like that.  It moves and sways.  Seasons come, only to be replaced by a new one.  That’s why we talk to our children differently as they grow.

So in an effort to better steward all the students we have, I’ve had to take a look at what’s effective in growing in this season.  And what I’ve found is that the best use of my time is training up leaders, empowering volunteers, and delegating/equipping others.  That doesn’t mean that I don’t meet with students anymore.  It just means that’s not my focus now.  Now my focus is developing others to do that.  I no longer rely on just me to build relationships with our teens, but prepare an army of 30 people to do the same.  I don’t focus on trying to run an entire Wednesday night service.  I focus on giving elements away to people who can do it better, so I can be more focused.

So hopefully you’ve got a clear picture of the 80/20 rule.  My question is: how can you apply this?

Maybe you’ve been thinking of work and all the things you want to complete.  Maybe you’re thinking of the youth group and ways you can be most effective.  Hopefully you’re thinking a little of your family and home life.  Because you’ve got dreams.  But dreams are sidetracked by all the little things that life throws at you.  We’ve all had that day where we plan on getting something super important done.  But emails come, people stop in, you’re asked to help with something, etc.  And at the end of the day, you’ve accomplished a whole lot of nothing.  The Pareto Principle begs you to find what’s truly important.  Then when the demands of the day sap away your time, you can identify the 20% of things that matter.  And when something on your agenda needs to be removed, you have the wisdom to say that it can’t be those things.  Don’t dodge the big, scary important task by completing all the easy, menial tasks.  In essence, it asks us to not just work smarter, but work smarter on the right things.

What are your right things?  I’d really encourage you to sit down and give this alot of thought.  If you’re married, talk about it with your spouse.  Pray on it.  Work through the WISDOM acronym Pastor Brian shared during this Why series.  What does leading your family look like?  What are you leading them to?  How are you getting there?  Are you building or just maintaining?  By facing these tough questions, you can change the direction and momentum of your life!  Do things that matter!