Breaking the “Mythical” 150% Participation Barrier

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Certain barriers are legendary when they’re broken.  The four minute mile immediately comes to mind.  When Roger Bannister became the first person to record a sub-four minute mile on May 6, 1954 it changed everyone’s mind about what was possible.  46 days later another runner broke Bannister’s record with an even faster time.  Since that time many runners have beaten Bannister’s time and today the record is nearly 17 seconds faster.

What would your reaction be if you read an article about breaking the mythical 6 minute mile record?  Surprisingly there are articles for that!  Not exactly…because they don’t use the word “mythical” and they’re really not about a record.  But there are articles.  And the only people reading them are fitness runners who want to improve their time.

A recent article by our friends over at the Leadership Network called Breaking the 50 Percent Barrier in Participation prompted what I hope was very little interest in readers here at MarkHowellLive.  After all…is anyone really shooting for 50% participation?  I guess that might be a milestone on the way to 100%, but it’s not my goal!  And I hope it’s not yours either.

Participation Is Based on the Wrong Number

The key for me is that the participation percentage is always based on the wrong number.  In almost every case participation levels are based on average adult attendance…and that’s the mythical part!

If you’re thinking clearly, you realize that your average adult worship attendance is only part of your congregation (or crowd if you want to use Saddleback’s terminology).  How can that be?  Easy.  The real number is much higher.  Over the course of a month there are people who attend 3 to 4 times.  Others who attend a couple times.  And some who attend only once.  Then you’ve got some folks who only attend a few times a year (maybe Christmas and Easter), but if they’re asked where they go to church…they’ll say they go to your church.

What’s the big deal about that?  If you believe that the optimal environment for life-change is a small group…then you need to set your sights higher than 50% participation.  After all, if you’re averaging 500 adults in worship and you get 50% of your average adult worship attendance in groups you end up with 250 in groups.  And that’s not bad.  But it fails to take into consideration the fact that you’ve really got 650 adults who came over the course of that month.  So your 250 in groups?  It’s not a true 50%.  And if life-change happens best in a group…you’re changing a smaller percentage than you think.

I’ve written about this concept more than once.  The Perils of the Well-Worn Path and How to Choose a Small Group System or Strategy both refer to the idea of clarifying the right win.  And it’s not 50%, it’s 150%.  That’s why I wrote the Top 10 Reasons Saddleback Has Connected Over 130% in Groups.

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