An 80/20 Approach to the Christian Life: 2 Reasons Why Christians Should Care About the Pareto Principle

Pareto Principle for Growth

Do you want to live a more meaningful and purposeful Christian life, but you feel like it’s hard enough just to get everything done on your to-do list each day?

I’m right there with you! That’s why I’ve made “Get Your Act Together (Productivity and Time Management)” the first of my Steps to Find Purpose and Meaning in Life.

Thankfully, I think I’ve found something that can help. I’d like to introduce you to the “Pareto Principle,” also known as “the 80/20 Rule,” the “law of the vital few,” or the “principle of factor sparsity,” if you want to get all technical about it.

Put as simply as possible, the 80/20 rule says this: 80% of effects come from 20% of causes.

Take a moment to think about this, and it becomes obvious that the 80/20 principle is at play all over the place.

Have you ever heard someone say that 80% of the money/work in a church comes from just 20% of the congregation? 80% of sales come from 20% of clients? As long as you don’t get hung up on exact percentages and allow the principle to be a ballpark estimator/lens, you can see the Pareto Principle at work in several different areas of life, from agriculture to economics.

Here’s a helpful video if you’d like to learn more about the 80/20 Rule:

Performing an “80/20 Analysis” = Determining which 20% of things are responsible for 80% of the results.

This works both positively and negatively. Right? 20% of the people you spend time with are responsible for 80% of the positive emotions and experiences. But 20% of the people you spend time with are also responsible for 80% of the negative emotions in your life.

20% of the things you spend your time doing are responsible for 80% of the outcomes – both positively and negatively.

This means that you can make some pretty drastic changes in your life by zeroing in on the correct 20%! Eliminating the bad 20% and focusing on increasing the good 20% can quickly turn your life around.

Doing an 80/20 analysis in various areas of your life can save you a bunch of time, because you’re maximizing your efforts by prioritizing the changes you make.

The 80/20 Rule is, therefore, understandably a pretty popular concept. (Google “80/20 Rule” and you’ll see what I mean!) If you’d like to learn more about it, consider picking up Richard Koch’s classic book, The 80/20 Principle: The Secret to Achieving More with Less. (Heads up: that’s an affiliate link. If you end up buying that book, I earn a small commission, at no extra cost to you.)

However, I’m convinced that there are two reasons why Christians in particular should care about the 80/20 Principle.

2 Reasons Why Christians Should Care about the 80/20 Pareto Principle

1. It could be deadly to your Christian life.

That’s right, I think that, if it’s misused, the Pareto Principle can be deadly for your walk with God.

Here’s the thing, if you allow “the world” to calibrate your 80/20 analysis, then you will end up frequently overlooking the things that God cares about — the things that God wants YOU to care about.

Do you think that loving your enemies, caring for the poor, turning the other cheek, and loving the unlovely are going to show up at the top of your 80/20 analysis if you’re not allowing your head and your heart to be shaped by the gospel – by the Good Story of God? I don’t think so.

So, Christians should care about the 80/20 Rule because, if we use it incorrectly, it might end up making us less effective for the Kingdom of God.

2. It could change your Christian life for the better.

However, just because a principle can be misused doesn’t mean you should use it!

(Also, technically, the Pareto Principle is at work, even if you’re not choosing to capitalize on it! So, there’s no sense in ignoring it!)

As long as we allow our perspectives to be shaped by the Gospel, Christians can profitably use the 80/20 Principle to become more effective, healthy, and whole for the Kingdom of God. There’s no reason not to use this tool.

Performing an 80/20 Analysis on Your Christian Life

Take advantage of the Pareto Principle by applying it to your walk with God. Think about it with me:

What 20% of People, Things, and Habits are Drawing You 80% Farther Away from God?

What people/places/things/actions are responsible for the vast majority of your spiritual decline?

Is it your phone? Social media? Pornography? An old friend who is clearly influencing you more in a negative direction than you’re influencing them in a positive direction?

You need to prioritize your time, your efforts, and your prayers to decreasing these things. Even taking just one of these “worst offenders” out of your life could make a huge difference.

What 20% of People, Things, and Habits are Drawing You 80% Closer to God?

What people/places/things/actions are responsible for the vast majority of your spiritual growth?

Is it going to church regularly? Getting up early to read your Bible and pray? Finding and spending time with a trusted spiritual mentor?

You need to prioritize your time, your efforts, and your prayers to increasing these things. Doing so will have an outsized impact on your spiritual life.

Remember, YOU Can’t Do This Alone

No, of course, we can’t “fix ourselves” on our own!

We desperately need the life-transforming ministry of the Holy Spirit to make these kinds of changes in our lives. And God doesn’t love us based on how well we do an 80/20 analysis (praise God!).

But still, it helps to have a clearer idea of where to focus in terms of having a closer relationship with God and others. And I believe that the 80/20 Rule can help us get more clarity.

Coming Soon: An 80/20 Approach to Productivity, Time Management, Bible Study, and Theology

There’s another reason why I’m bringing up the 80/20 Rule. This principle will guide my future posts about

  • Productivity
  • Time Management
  • Bible Study
  • Theology

Why? Because I’m not convinced that anyone needs to learn 100% or even 80% about these topics before they move forward. Attempting to do so will frequently lead to paralysis and indecision, instead of growth.

Instead, it pays off to begin with the most effective 20% of the information in each topic area. And that’s what I’m going to focus on in the weeks ahead.

Got Questions?

I’d love to help you brainstorm how the 80/20 Principle could make a difference in your Christian life. Feel free to leave any questions, comments, or concerns in the comment section below!

Finally, if you’ve enjoyed this content, would you please share it with at least one other person who could benefit from it? Thanks!


By joshuapsteele

The Rev. Dev. I solve problems with a pastor's heart for people and a programmer's eye for detail. Learn more at

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