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The Participation Pyramid
The Participation Pyramid
Graphic showing that 20% of members are leaders and provide 50% of resources

As voluntary associations, dependent upon voluntary contributions of resources, churches need to weight the opinions of members in their decision-making, based upon members’ demonstrated commitment to the congregation in one or more of the resource areas.

As you can see in the illustration, there is a very strong correlation between members’ contributions of “time, talent and treasure.”

  • People in leadership tend to be 20% of the congregation, but this group provides 50% of the time, talent and treasure.
  • 50% of people just attend rather than lead or volunteer. 20% or less of the financial resources come from this group.
  • Citizens, or people with some level of commitment, make up the remaining 30% of both membership and resources.

Individual members move between the three participation categories for a variety of reasons: the normal life cycle, employment changes, health, life events, invitation or discouragement, spiritual growth or alienation, the presence or absence of covenant group ministry, and so on.

Small congregations (those having fewer than 100 active members) tend to have proportionately more citizens and fewer attenders than do larger congregations, although the proportion of leaders remains relatively constant.

Beyond 1,000 active members, the proportion of attenders increases, while the proportion of leaders tends to decrease, although the proportion of financial support coming from leaders may increase, especially in megachurches.


For more information on growth plateaus, see Growth Cycles of Congregations Explained.

About the Author

  • The Rev. Stefan M. Jonasson, before he retired from the UUA, served as Director of Growth Strategies from 2011 until his retirement and as Director for Large Congregations from 1999 to 2001. and coordinator of services to large congregations. ...

For more information contact conglife@uua.org.

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