Nathan Martin of Cincinnatus Consulting discusses the “Rule of Five” and how it pertains to your campaign, nonprofit, or business.

The Rule of Five for Relationships

The Evangelical Christian community has become increasingly alarmed in recent years by numerous studies that show that young people are not staying in the church once they reach age 18. The folks at did a study of 500 youth groups and found that the greatest indicator of a youth staying was the formative relationships with adults in the church. With the operative tipping point number being five.


Now, most people don’t care about the demographic crisis in the church. That is fine. That isn’t the point. What we should care about is the perpetual loyalty in our relationships. And it is worth noting that even in an area with as strong a pull as religion, if there is not a multi-touch relational basis there is no loyalty.

There is a rule here that I have heeded when it comes to organizational relationships and loyalty that I find consistent. When we have at least five formative relationships within an organization, brand, or even family, we are less likely to leave and our buy-in is much higher. Which means that I cannot horde or collect relationships to be ultimately successful. I have to promote community in my relationships.

The “Rule of Five” is not a magic number of relationships your organization should strive to achieve. It is a mindset that when applied will greatly help any organization build loyalty and cohesion within your teams and customers.

What are you doing to encourage multiple relationships with your customers, not just one siloed person to handle the account?

This doesn’t mean that you can’t have sales managers or field coordinators handle individual accounts. But it does mean that to engender loyalty the you must answer the question, “How many people does this customer know at our organization or who uses our organization’s products?” And the answer shouldn’t be one or two. Nobody likes to be on an island. And hoarding those relationships may help in the short term but you risk losing your relationships to a more relational community.

What are you doing to encourage multiple relationships among your team members?

Obviously, the most important part of work is the work. But isolated team members are a ticking time bomb. Do they really feel a part of the team? For non-profits this goes for volunteers as well. Having multiple connection points turns your group into a team not just a fan club. Leaders and organizations who are fan clubs risk great existential crisis when the leader fails or mistakes are made.

What are you doing in your kids’ lives to encourage meaningful relationships with adults?

Grounding our kids in a culture of mentorship will pay dividends for them later on. In today’s society, we care too much about socialization as it happens with a child’s peer group. Peer interaction is great but I want my children to be mentored and to hold formative relationships with their elders. And NOT just mom and dad. But five likeminded adults.

It is vitally important if you are shifting from the transactional to the relational that you don’t try to horde relationships but encourage interaction. Embracing the “Rule of Five” mindset is a great step in that direction. Encouraging community relinquishes control but engenders loyalty which is much more powerful in the long run for both you and those you are relating to.