Why One Percent Actually Makes the Biggest Difference.

One degree of separation stands between hot water and boiling point.

One point can be the difference between winning and losing a competition.

One word can be the difference between a good or bad conversation.

One missed iceberg was all it took to sink the Titanic.

One degree closer to the sun and the earth would be too hot to sustain life.

For a number so small, the number one is actually really big.

For years, I’ve said to soccer teams I was coaching,

“Championship teams are not 100% better than everyone else. They are 1% better in 100 different ways.”   

  • So we would push hard to shave time off on our 100 yard sprints.
  • We repeatedly practiced our first touch on the ball.
  • We took one step closer to the person we were defending.
  • We turned up the intensity for the first three minutes of the game to catch the other team on their heels.

When I moved into a ministry position, I realized the same mindset can, and should, be applied. And it could sound something like this:

“Healthy volunteer cultures are not 100% better than every other volunteer culture. They are 1% better in 100 different ways.”   

“Thriving youth ministries are not 100% better than every other youth ministry. They are 1% better in 100 different ways.”

Now when I say better, I don’t mean there is a winner and a loser. I mean better, as in more developmentally appropriate, more culturally in tune, flawless systems, better trained Small Group Leaders, a clean space, killer social media channels, a clearer mission, vision, and strategy… the list goes on.

These 1% shifts can mean the difference between:

  • A student feeling awkward and comfortable when they show up for the first time.
  • A volunteer choosing to continue serving in your ministry or dropping out.
  • Teenagers choosing to invite their friend to come to youth group with them or not.

Recently, we looked at our 1%s as a middle school student team at Orange. At the end of every curriculum season, we gather together and we talk about what was excellent about the season and why, what we wish we would have had more time to work on, and what tweaks we need to make in the process for the next season. The list of tweaks become known as our 1%s. Small changes that add up to make a big difference.

This past season a few of our 1% tweaks looked like this:

  • Change the order of who edits what first.
  • Adjust the due date for one specific piece so it isn’t before the due date of another piece.
  • Identify the next step to on-boarding the new writer we are working with.
  • Shift to a black and white printable versus a color printable.
  • Experiment with a new Vlog style way to do Middle School Teaching Videos.

The thing about identifying 1% is that it doesn’t seem unattainable. It actually feels doable. And you can make a 1% change today.

The other thing about identifying the 1% is if you aren’t intentionally looking for these small changes, it’s easy to miss them.

So here is the challenge:

  1. Celebrate what is working great and identify why it’s working great.

  2. As a team (staff, key volunteers, student leaders), identify the 1% you would each like to focus on, and make a plan to implement and communicate the change today.

Let me know how it goes!

Ashley Bohinc