It was around 2007 when when we, Peoples Church Cincinnati, were taking the whole congregation through a 20 week long experience called the “Vision Experience”. It was a small group study that we put together internally to help the congregation grow in racial unity and diverse relationships by having difficult conversations about race in a Christian context. Part of the curriculum included historical information, personal stories, and experiential exercises. During the course of the 20 weeks the leadership committee would evaluate how the groups were performing by getting feedback from the facilitators, the church staff, and our own experiences. At one of these debriefs, I remember discussing a subject that had come up in several of the small groups: people of different cultures and different church backgrounds were not enjoying certain aspects of the church service.
At this point in time the church was still very much in transition from being a 98% homogeneous White church to one that was now 15-20% people of color including 1st generation immigrants. Chris Beard, our lead pastor, was pressing forward with a vision of being a Rev. 5:9 church like Heaven: many ethnic groups and languages all worshiping Jesus together. Bringing this vision to fruition was slowly introducing different cultural influences into the church services. Varied preaching styles, an updated look of the facility, and multi-cultural worship music were some of the gradual and radical adjustments that were made. The result was that people who loved Jesus, loved the vision of the church, and wanted to be a part of what God was doing still had difficulty with some aspects of the church. It was during this time that the leadership team came up with the 70/30 Rule to help everyone embrace and celebrate what God was doing in Peoples Church.
The 70/30 Rule says that everyone in the church should expect to fully enjoy 70% of what happens at the church while expecting to not feel immediately drawn to or understand the other 30% because that portion is for someone else’s full enjoyment. Furthermore, when something is happening in church that is not of your preference you should celebrate that because that means someone else is feeling connected to Christ and His church in that moment. To help drive this point home, I would say as a service began, “Make sure you young people here today don’t sit down when the worship team goes into that old school hymn! Make sure you stay standing just the same, even though that is not your type of music. Because that song isn’t for you. That song is for the senior saints that are being brought back to the day they fell in love with Christ during that song. So we want you young folks to celebrate with them the same way they celebrate when your repetitive Bethel worship song is played.”
Many people can relate to not enjoying certain types of worship music, but when it comes to several cultures coming together people will have cultural clashes in so many situations. Food selection at gatherings, dress code at events, start time for celebrations, length of service, outcomes for meetings, and so many other things are effected by cultural norms. Every culture has their standard for these types of things, but when you combine cultures you have to make sure that every culture has an opportunity to lead. This means that someone is always going to feel out of place and we want that feeling to be celebrated. In effect, the 70/30 Rule is the basis for creating a new culture in an intentionally diverse ministry. The new culture is celebrating being uncomfortable so that others will have comfort.
There is no scientific study or mathematic rigor behind the 70/30 percentages, we just went on gut feel when we named it. But over the past 13 years we have found that people embrace it and when they see the beauty of God’s diversely united church they understand the value.