And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith (Galatians 6:9-10).

When you read about leadership, it doesn’t take long to stumble across the Rule of Thirds.

Napoleon Bonaparte once said, “There are three types of soldiers in my army. A third is ready to conquer new territory at any time, another third stands in the middle, neither hot nor cold and are hesitant, and the final third wants to stay in camp and have a lunch of wine and cheese.”

I admit to a loose interpretation of Napoleon’s Rule as nobody knows his exact words. The Rule of Thirds has long been attributed to him though.

Over and over, I have found this leadership rule to be true. I have written a book that describes three types of leaders – Leaper, Spanner, Paver. (You can purchase this book at Discipling Another.)

Let’s review:

The first third – Yep, I’m ready to conquer new territory.

The middle third – Sort of sounds like a good idea, what does everyone else think?

The last third – Are you kidding me? I heard that Bonaparte wants us to leave France and invade Russia.

We witnessed the Rule of Thirds play out after COVID:

The first third – I’m ready to go back to church. Just open the doors and I’m there.

The middle third – I want to go back to church but I will wait and see what happens.

The last third – Is it safe? I’m staying home.

When churches reopened, they had about 30 percent of pre-COVID attendance (first third), while now they are trending to 60 percent (middle third), and we don’t know if the last third will ever come back.

What do church leaders do? How does the Rule of Thirds impact leadership?

Leaders can focus time on the last third, who tend to be the loudest naysayers. Does that work? Leaders can lead the first third and forget the other two-thirds and have only 30 percent follow. Leaders can lead strategically by answering questions and making it safe for the middle third for 60 percent.

I found in 49 years of leading a church that there isn’t a lot that can be done initially for the last third except being successful in your intentions. They will follow others – hesitantly – when they see momentum shift away from them. No one likes to be left behind.

I’m not being negative for the last third, as I want them to follow.

The last third is faithful and helpful in the church and in any other organization. They will work, serve, and don’t care about recognition. They just like to be settled.

The strategy for change:

A great idea inspired by God, a leadership team that asks questions and shows reluctance to bad ideas but excitement about great ideas, and taking steps of faith that will inspire the most hesitant!

As a leader of change in the church, I have learned to appreciate all the body of Christ.

With each change, I realized that 30 percent would follow quickly – the first third. Then I focused attention and conversation on the middle third. With the last third, continued explanation and prayer, but also persistence with the vision that God had given to me.

What a joy when the last third accepted the change and added their stability.

As Paul said in Galatians 6… let us do good to everyone!

For responsible change, remember The Rule of Thirds.