Increasing Participation from 20:80 to 80:20

1587431645.01. Sl110 Sctzzzzzzz I was reading Alan Hirsch’s new book this morning. Its called The Forgotten Ways. I have actually had it for a while and my blurb is in the front of the book. Its just that I havent fully blogged a review yet and, as you know, a book is not fully reviewed until it has reached the distinguished judgment of bloggers. I will review it really soon, but first . . . here’s some thoughts on participation in church models and how to increase. Its important because:

– Spiritual gifts are given to EVERY member and not just the guy up the front.

– Worship is based on giving, not receiving. This is why Kester once said we must “re-imagine worship as gift and re-emphasize our giving rather than receiving”. btw – Kesters book is now available for Americans under a new title – Signs of Emergence.

– If we are told to preach the word, and not just to LISTEN TO THE PREACHING, then many churches allow only one person to be obedient.

– Joining a passive crowd to watch something happen on stage will not ignite the imaginations and entrepreneurial spirits of a new generation of aposles. Something must be done.

This is what Alan tackles in his book. Check out his diagrams.

Traditional Churches and Seeker Sensitive models are still very platform driven and spectator friendly. Not much participation going on there. Forgottonways3

The typical emerging church models and alternative worship models have increased the level of participation but not nearly enough. More must be done.

Technorati Tags: , ,


Alan shares on how to move from 20:80 (passive-active) to 80:20 by shifting to more of a cell based, missional approach in which ministry is driven by mission and not program. I could waffle on but you may just want to read it for yourself. Heres the chapter on this. Alan told me I could give it to you here. Enjoy . ..

The Forgotten Ways, Sample – Intro and Chapter One PDF]


Andrew Jones launched his first internet space in 1997 and has been teaching on related issues for the past 20 years. He travels all the time but lives between Wellington, San Francisco and a hobbit home in Prague.


  • Danny says:

    Hi Andrew,
    but what happens when a church wants to transition from a contemporary church to an alternative church model? As you see, less pews. Does that mean that people are kicked out?

  • Alan says:

    Andrew – I just published an article I wrote on the Pareto Principle (the whole 80/20 thing) called Church Re-Structure on TheOoze. It sounds like I’m saying similar things to Hirsch. You can check it out on TheOoze if you want here

  • gareth says:

    ummm not sure about his reading of alternative worship – I guess the point would be that over 3-4 months everyone in the community would be involved in the worship rather than just the same people which is true of the other models. His reading is slightly misrepresentational in that regard.

  • gareth – yes – theres is a rotation in these alt. worship services and em. churches of leaders in every area that is not matched in teh traditional church
    i was thinking of this also when i read alans book and i think its a valid point.

  • John says:

    timely stuff, andrew. brings up many other questions. the bigger picture might be our corporate tendency to put others on pedestals, expecting them to assume increasingly greater roles in ‘facilitating’ church/worship – which is interpreted by those with organizational gifts to do exactly that. good timing for me as i’m reading kester’s book right now, and also blogging on institutional vs. organic church.

  • Ellen says:

    I think the traditional church model leaves out liturgical traditions, where the congregation is very much involved in the work of ministry. I wouldn’t say my traditional “pulpit style” church has a 95% passive congregation at all.

  • Mike says:

    I will certainly have to read the book. I hear and understand what is being said. The real issue for me is to define participation. It’s at this point everyone seems to have a differnt idea.
    Ellen is right. Liturgical models invovle everyone.
    Good review. I will add this one to my reading list.

  • Bryan Riley says:

    Exciting and Interesting Stuff! Can you imagine more and more Christians offering themselves up as living sacrifices daily? Wow.

  • John Lunt says:

    I’ve seen a couple of comments indicating the “liturgical” model involves anyone. Please forgive my ignorance. I really have never been involved in a liturgical service. Could you explain how they do it? I’m interested in hearing.

  • Alan Hirsch says:

    Actually Andrew, I came to believe that Alt Worship (of which I am generally very appreciative) actually is quite exclusive of the poor and those lacking in aesthetic graces. At its worst its quite elitist even if it never intends to be.
    Thanks for starting this review. I always value your opinion.

  • linda says:

    len h. has also been reviewing this book over at next reformation. great minds think alike. 🙂

  • Charlie J says:

    Thanks for posting this on Alans latest book. Big Al is one of my favorite people.

  • Truth Seeker says:

    Honestly, all this looks like to me is a how-to-guide on how to do interiour decorating for a church. It’s just the moving around of furniture and bigger stage. I don’t see anything that shows that it is truely different than the “traditional” model. The last one just jumbled up the seating. Overall, I dont see any difference.
    My 2 cents!

  • Ellen says:

    John – the word “liturgy” comes from two Greek words which mean “the people of God” and “work” – liturgy therefore means the work of the people of God. In liturgical traditions, we do of course have a minister who leads the service, but our part in the work of the service is very important.
    Here are a few of the things the congregation does during a liturgical service:
    we confess our sins
    we read the scripture lessons and psalms
    we respond to the readings with thanks to God
    we pray intercessory prayers
    we sing the hymns and psalms
    we confess our faith through the creeds
    we give of our offerings
    we greet each other in peace
    we approach the table to receive the body and blood of Jesus

  • Tom Allen says:

    I think Ellen comment is highly relevant and I think this thread confuses ‘leadership’ with ‘ministry’ at times. In the Anglican tradition the priest leading the Eucharist used to be known as the “Celebrant” – until liturgial texts were found in the 1950s were the priest was described as the President. Now we understand that all celebrate – all contribute and some lead (preside in order to enable others contribution) that celebration. Apart from anything else I am given “time” to do this role – and time has proved to be the biggest enemy of alternative worship – people cannot sustain the workload – and the pressure to contribute the main reason why alternative worship has remained small scale – people want to be ministered to.
    Now of course I could offer you loads of examples of bad practice where this does not happen – but these are the principles which somewhat contradict the post.
    I would add to Ellen’s list that we make it possible for people to have a sense of worship by being there. For example singing a great hymn with 200 hundred people is much better than with three. Increasingly as Anglican priest share the leadership one of our tasks as leaders is to ensure that others are not burden by the task. At my midweek communion I lead everything deliberately so that those who come who are very active at other times of the week can just “be” and worship God.

  • don says:

    Thanks Andrew. Sacred Space has been my sabbatical project/obsession now for 6 years. How we use and even arrange our space for worship sends powerful signals on many, many levels. Who are you reading and listening to that is most insightful about the intentional use of space for worship??

  • Tim Bednar says:

    I’m not sure if this applies but I think these active/passive patterns are pretty culturally ingrained (not just simply because of the structure of our worship or environment).
    On the web, participation is about 1% — 99% are lurkers (using a pejorative term). I am coming to terms that no matter if you make it easy to participate — there is a high percentage of people who will not.
    Now why they don’t? I’m not sure, but they don’t and I don’t think even radical structural changes will be enough to invite them.

  • Don – not reading anything right now but i am always visiting other physical spaces (galleries, etc) to see how people space for expression and community.
    Tim – [nice to hear from ya] maybe we all need to see the whole ecosystem of spiritual community and its various events to get a bigger picutre
    – a lurker on my blog might be a pastor of a church
    – i might be passive when i attend that pastors church and he or she might be passive when they attend an art exhibition or something put on by on of that church’s “passive” congregants.
    Eventually, we all get our moment.
    but to leave this in context, Alan is talking about participation within a certain time-bound event that we call the worship service.

  • Chris Enstad says:

    This brings to mind the whole style vs. substance debate on the whole “pomo” church thing and, as the comments reveal, it doesn’t help that debate much. I would echo the comment that presence in worship might just equal participation. I would also caution against sweeping generalizations on Catholic liturgy blocking participation by the hoi polloi… I know several Catholics and Episcopalians who would take offense that somehow they were not participating in worship simply because the priest is the celebrant. Further, what is the purpose of worship? To fairly distribute labor, or, rather, to worship the God that has grasped each of us, and then to return to our lives perhaps a bit (en)lightened and at most with a new sense of call to ministry within our own vocations?
    And what is active and what is passive? The little baby watching his parents receive communion is surely actively perceiving that something is up here and someday they will receive that too, and they will know it is a sacred moment based on those early imprinted observations.
    Just some late-night thoughts. Looking forward to Soliton.

  • Tim Bednar says:

    Andrew — that is interesting. We all get our moment. I just wonder if the “spectator” part of worship is enculturated so deeply that particiation will never be very high.

  • alt.worship and the poor

    Noted the following (10) comment about alt.worship on tallskinnykiwi. Actually Andrew, I came to believe that Alt Worship (of which I am generally very appreciative) actually is quite exclusive of the poor and those lacking in aesthetic graces. At its…

  • Alan Hirsch says:

    I’m surprised none of you have picked up on the profoundly consumeristic element in corporate worship, tradition/liturgical, contemporary, or alt worship. My point is that in the end the medium is the message. Try as much as you like, you cannot get all the people actively involved in a worship service or in leadership. Something is wrong with the model itself.

  • Ari says:

    Alan, I completely see where you’re coming from and agree with your observations regarding “consumeristic worship”. In fact, as a leader/pastor in a traditional model (fortunately not anymore), I might see it a bit more intimately than those who are not and certainly more intimately than I would like.
    I’m not sure if I agree with your comment about alt.worship being elitist but I think I *might* understand where you are getting that sense from. I don’t have enough experience with it yet to make a judgment.

  • cheryl says:

    hey Alan
    i’m working in an alternative worship project in melbourne… much of the worship i help curate is with asylum seekers and people in prisons. if they’re not ‘the poor’, i’m not sure who is.
    i’m pretty sick of the allegations of elitism which are made against alternative worship.

  • steve says:

    I have been back to this post about 6 times and I just can’t get my head around it.
    firstly, why is participation in church being linked to a church service eventy thing? surely the litmus test of participation is life lived 24/7, not the “service eventy thing.”
    secondly, on what basis is the assumption that the only form of participation in worship is preaching/speaking up the front?
    thirdly, my phd research on alt.worship participation by participants showed way higher engagement than 20%. So am really keen to know on what data base the 20% claim is being made.
    as to the comment (no 10?) about alt.worship and the poor – i have engaged with that on my blog – that’s not pimping, but it needed more space than a “comment.”

  • Daniel says:

    Hmm… 2 points.
    1) It seems to me that much contemporary thought and discussion about worship is still thinking of worship as “an experience.” You know, “We are glad you are here and hope you have a powerful worship experience with us today at St. Individual’s Church.”
    Traditionally, Christian worship has been understood in terms of “liturgy” – meaning the work or service of the people – so that what goes on in worship is primarily seen as an ACT that the people DO, rather than an experience they recieve. In liturgical theology ALL of the congregation are active participants, in fact that is part of the meaning of the “Amen” that they say at the end of the service. “We declare that we have all together made this offering of praise to you, O Lord.” Because worship is really about God, not us and our experiences or our being fed or our whatever – it is about God who is utterly worthy of continual praise and trust.
    2) Based upon your pictures: Why assume that if people are not on the stage that they are therefore passive? Why assume that if they are not actively leading the congregation in worship somehow that they are not doing ministry? Would everyone in your church even WANT to be on the stage? Should they want to?

  • Meeting atMajors

    Twas a small group last night, but we did manage to have a bit of discussion. First off, Id like to say that the pizza from the woodfire grill was awesome. As for discussion, we spent a little time discussing the pros and cons of liturgic…

Leave a Reply