What Is 80/20 Orthodoxy?

What is 80/20 Orthodoxy?

80/20 Orthodoxy is a problem. Don’t know what 80/20 is? This is my favorite definition of the 80/20 rule, also known as the Pareto Principle, as written by Joseph Juan.

“for many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes.” Joseph Juan

…or you might prefer a more complex definition:

“Mathematically, the 80/20 rule is roughly followed by a power law distribution (also known as a Pareto distribution) for a particular set of parameters, and many natural phenomena have been shown empirically to exhibit such a distribution.” M.E.J. Newman

Where Credit’s Due

To give proper credit, this idea came to me from The Very Rev. John Finley, Chairman of the Dept. of Missions & Evangelism for the AOA. After speaking with Fr. John, this idea brought to mind a whole host of questions about Orthodoxy in America. I wonder if any of these are true for you.

80/20 Orthodoxy is a problem.


Are You Scared Or Inspired To Read On?

The 20% which is doing the work, donating, helping, and growing spiritually, is your core group. What if you could grow your core group? What if that was your definition of Orthodoxy evangelism?

Have you heard of 80/20 applied to a church’s physical size? When a church is 80% full,  then 20% of the people should go start a mission. Except of course if you are in a temporary facility and have not moved to your permanent location.

Let’s do an exercise! We will call our sample parish “AOC” (American Orthodox Church). AOC averages 200 people on Sunday mornings. Per the 80/20 rule, AOC can comfortably seat 250 people . If we drew a map of potential areas to start a mission, we could probably find an area where 20% of the members are located. These 20% are probably not fully engaged because of how far they live from AOC. They are probably not the 20% relied upon for 80% of your budget, so you safe there too. The reasons continue to pile up that explain why a church which is 80% full should look into missionary solutions.

The Data

80/20 Orthodoxy is not exact science, and the scenarios mentioned above may only partially apply. Maybe at your parish 90% of the work is done by 10% of the people. However, you can see how the rule is a great starting place for doing a parish evaluation of your strengths and weaknesses.

In a research study performed by Alexei Krindatch, we learned that we have about 800,000 Orthodox “adherents” in America. An adherent is someone who is connected, even loosely , with Orthodoxy. Just over 20%, or just over 200,000, of them are regular weekly attendees. Of those, the 80/20 rule tells us that the core of the American Orthodox Church is about 40,000 strong. This number is not statistically proven, but may be deduced by applying the 80/20 rule to the number of regular attendees. You can read the full report by clicking HERE.

Stephen Covey gave the world great information in his famous book on 7 habits. One of the habits is to “put first things first.” To demonstrate this idea, big rocks are placed in a jar, then smaller rocks, then pebbles and finally sand. And then water. It all fits if we focus on the 20% that matters. However, if you fill up the jar with water, or sand, or pebbles, there is no room for the big rocks in our life, such as God, family, relationships, and so on. What if we tried to focus 80% of our time on the 20% which matters, the big rocks? The “what ifs” continue about confession, stewardship, and more. That is why I write this blog.