5 Tips for Making Meetings Actually Work

Stop and think about how much of your time is spent in meeting in an average week at your church. Now, do some quick math to calculate that across your team. Wowsers! That’s a lot of time! (Bonus: Assign some monetary value to each of those hours.)

Clearly, you need to work on ensuring that your team is being a good steward of all that meeting time.

Although it can seem like a “plumbing” issue of how the church does its work, in many ways the meeting culture of your church could be a make-or-break aspect of what is either pushing your ministry forward or holding it back. As I’ve had the honor of being in the orbits of some fantastic churches over the years, I’ve noticed some healthy habits that those leadership teams live by to get the most out of their meetings. Rather than seeing meetings as a necessary evil of “doing church”, these teams are looking for ways to optimize their meeting culture towards performance that pushes them forward. Here are some healthy habits I’ve seen in churches that are making a difference today:

Use meetings to make decisions, not to disseminate information.

Meetings are disagreements to move the organization forward. Healthy teams use meetings as a place to come together to make decisions. More pointedly, leaders use meetings to make decisions. A good meeting should be built around ideas that need to be debated and discussed in the context of an impending decision. Meetings are not a place to simply pass out information or keep everyone informed. It’s a waste of your team’s time to use meetings as a place to ensure they are up to speed on what’s happening at the church.

Adults are basically “just in time” learners, so when you use a meeting to simply pass along information, they are almost hardwired to not pay attention because they can’t put the information into practice right away. However, you can turn this same dynamic on its head by using meetings to present a desired and debatable outcome that you’re going to discuss. People can’t help but lean in and want to participate when change is on the horizon based on this meeting. When there are consequences to meetings, people show up and are ready to jump in. If the meeting feels inconsequential, your team will disengage at best or maybe even resent the meeting.

3 Other Ways to Disseminate Information to Your Team Besides Calling a Meeting

  • Voice Messages // You’d be amazed how much information you can pass in a 5 minute audio message recorded on your phone. It’s easy to record your voice and email it out to your team.
  • “What to Expect” Documents // In just one page, you can outline a lot of information that people need to know about an upcoming event or activity at the church.
  • Weekly Check in Email // Many churches have a standard report email that is generated every week with data that the entire team needs to know. Get your information to hijack on the back of that communication.

Ensure people come prepared to discuss.

No agenda? No meeting! If whoever is calling the meeting doesn’t have time to prepare the people attending the meeting for what is being discussed, it’s probably best not to meet. People don’t like surprises and it’s a bad use of people’s time to get their gut reaction to issues without them having time to prepare. If the decisions being made in the meeting are of such low consequence that people don’t need to think about them ahead of time, then they should be delegated to a team member to make the decision and inform the team later. The prep is both an agenda that outlines the decisions that will be made at the meeting and reading materials to help people as they process the decision.

5 Elements of a Compelling Agenda

  • Decision: // What is the big decision that is being made at this meeting? This is the overall driver for why you are calling people together.
  • Attendees // A clear list of who will be at the meeting. If people don’t know each other, a one-line bio is helpful.
  • Please Read // A list of resources designed to bring the team up to speed on the issue at hand.
  • What’s at Stake // Why is this such an important decision? A clear and compelling reason why this decision needs to be made at this time.
  • Rules of Engagement // Some ground rules about how the team is going to go about “doing” the meeting.

Healthy teams work to avoid the feedback bubble.

Learning teams win. Churches that are making a difference in their communities are led by teams of people that are looking for ways to learn from other organizations and apply those lessons to their church. Stagnant churches keep to their own small tribe and shout into the echo chamber of their community. Healthy meetings seek to bring in data from a wide variety of sources to push to a better answer, not the answer that was assumed from the outset. Too many churches just run the same plays over and over and aren’t committed to bringing in outside voices to help them make better decisions. If you are looking for a way to improve your decision-making as a team, you need to bring in voices from other circles to help you make better decisions.

This is particularly important when we think about our ultimate mission as a church. Every church needs to find ways to leverage opportunities to reach people beyond their own church. In fact, the local church is the only organization in the world that exists not for its member but for people not yet connected to the church! As Colossians 4:5 says, “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity.” The hard truth is the voice of the “insider” will always be louder than the “outsider” and so your church needs to find ways to include those voices at your decision-making table. If you only listen to those people who are already with your church, you will miss the opportunity to reach people who haven’t been reached yet!

3 Ways to Add Outside Voices to Your Decision-Making Process

  • Data is Your Friend // Find hard numbers that talk about what is actually happening rather than just your opinion or hunches. There is no bad information, just information you don’t like.
  • Invite People In // Who is attending the meetings at your church should be driven by the decisions being made, not by tradition or hierarchy. Pull in people who can speak first-hand about the decisions being made.
  • Coaches // Growing churches bring in people who have been down the road they are looking at before. A day with a coach or consultant can help bring added clarity to the decisions you make as a team.

Capture action steps and assign responsibilities.

Take massive action. The reason you’ve called meetings at your church is to make decisions. Therefore, coming out of the meeting should be a series of decisions that need to be assigned to team members to follow up on. In fact, the very essence of what “happens” coming out of meetings is new and vibrant energy that has been released. If your meetings aren’t leading to people taking action, then you are just using your meetings to inform people of decisions that have already been made and you should stop meeting.

3 Vital Pieces Needed to Record Next Steps After a Meeting

  • Owner // Who is the person responsible for the next step coming out of the meeting?
  • Outcome // What was the decision that was made by the team?
  • Due Date // When does the owner need to make sure the item is completed by?

As important as the agenda is the pre-reading material, someone from the meeting needs to follow up quickly with “action steps” that are going to be initiated because of the meeting. Ideally, those are recorded in the meeting and sent right away. Again, the meeting should be a tool to push the church forward, so now that decision has been made, the organization should move to take action on that decision!

Meetings should be an exciting event, not a total bore.

All meetings should be optional and exciting. If you are just getting together for the sake of getting together, stop it. Don’t force your people to sit through another meeting just for the sake of meeting. Cut your “repeating” meetings out or at least in half. As a team leader, you need to ensure that each meeting is exciting and engaging, not boring. If the meeting is putting people to sleep, then the team leader isn’t doing their job.

6 Ways to Make Your Church Team Meetings More Exciting

  • Make Them Optional … really! // If people can choose not to come to the meeting and won’t suffer any retribution from the team leader, you’d be amazed how creative the team leader will get to make the meeting great.
  • Add Food // Something almost magical happens when you add food to a meeting. Have a favorite exotic food? Add it to the start of your next regular meeting and see what happens. (Skip the donuts … it’s been overdone.)
  • Standing Meeting // Okay … this might not be fun, but it is just effective. Take all the chairs out of the room that you meet in and have the meeting standing up. You’ll be amazed at how quickly you move through the agenda!
  • Thank You Notes // Kick off your meeting with some gratitude! Hand out thank you cards to everyone on your team and have them share something that someone else on another team at the church did that was fantastic. After people share, have them write thank you notes to the people that they shared about!
  • Get Rid of the Table // The physical space you meet in matters. Get rid of that big table that blocks everyone. Paint the walls a bright color. Making a physical change can switch people’s attitudes about your meetings. What if you themed the room something fun? Hawaiian Luau Theme? Christmas in July?
  • Stick It Up! // In preparation for the meeting, put 3-4 pieces of poster board around the room with short sentences describing issues your church is facing. As people arrive for the meeting, give them a pile of post-it notes and a marker and ask them to jot down solutions for each issue and stick it up on the boards around the room. Take some time to discuss the ideas generated.

It is important to connect with your team relationally, but don’t do that poorly through something masquerading a meeting. Cut out some meetings and then use that freed up time to go do something fun with your team and actually connect!

Interest in learning more about meetings? Listen to Al.

If you are interested in diving deeper in great meeting culture, you need to follow Al Pittampalli and Modern Meeting Standard. He is a leader in thinking about how organizations do meetings well and is leading a revolution to get all kinds of organizations to improve them! Much of my thought has been shaped by Al on this front and I find myself coming back to him time and again when I’m faced with needing to retool our meeting culture one more time! I’m grateful for his leadership.

> Read more from Rich.


 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Rich Birch

Rich Birch

Thanks so much for dropping by unseminary … I hope that your able to find some resources that help you lead your church better in the coming days! I’ve been involved in church leadership for over 15 years. Early on I had the privilege of leading in one of the very first multisite churches in North Amerca. I led the charge in helping The Meeting House in Toronto to become the leading multi-site church in Canada with over 4,000 people in 6 locations. (Today they are 13 locations with somewhere over 5,000 people attending.) In addition, I served on the leadership team of Connexus Community Church in Ontario, a North Point Community Church Strategic Partner. I currently serves as Operations Pastor at Liquid Church in the Manhattan facing suburbs of New Jersey. I have a dual vocational background that uniquely positions me for serving churches to multiply impact. While in the marketplace, I founded a dot-com with two partners in the late 90’s that worked to increase value for media firms and internet service providers. I’m married to Christine and we live in Scotch Plains, NJ with their two children and one dog.

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4 “Must-Haves” for Weekly Staff Meetings

I’m weird. I like meetings. They are an opportunity to interact with people. Being an extrovert, I enjoy the collaboration of teamwork.

Not all meetings are created equal. Church staff meetings can wander into theological briars and get stuck. Discussions about facility requests can circle on a roundabout like Clark Griswold in London. Some church staff probably think the “lead” in lead pastor needs to change to “tangent” (I’m guilty!).

There are several approaches to staff meetings. Most church staff meet weekly to discuss short-term, operational items in a standing meeting with a set time. My staff meets every Tuesday from 9:30 a.m. until 10:30 a.m. to work through weekly items. The agenda is largely the same every week. Other types of meetings include strategy meetings with key leaders—sometimes called whiteboard sessions—which are more open-ended and focused on long-term goals. One-on-one meetings often cover individual goals. Ad hoc meetings might draw in a special team to accomplish a unique task.

In this post, I’m referring to the weekly operational staff meetings with a repeating, or standing, agenda. I suggest including the following four agenda items every week.

  1. Prayer. Excluding prayer from ministry meetings is tantamount to driving a vehicle without ever replacing the oil. Eventually, you’re going to wear out. We ask the church to submit prayer requests weekly. We pray over all of them and sign a card sent to those requesting prayer. We want them to know we’ve prayed for them. We pray for each other. We pray for our community. We pray for the last. The first item on the agenda every week is prayer because it is the most important.
  2. Scripture for the upcoming week. Not every church meeting needs to begin with a devotion. But your weekly staff meeting should include a discussion about the Scripture for the upcoming Sunday. My goal is to have a sermon draft by our Tuesday meeting. I then share with the staff the direction of my sermon. I seek their input and use the feedback to reshape my messages. There is no need to have a separate devotional time; simply use Sunday’s text.
  3. Ministry stories from the previous week. You become what you celebrate. Every week, I encourage the staff to share ministry successes. Learning how God works in another person’s ministry area is an encouragement to everyone. It also helps us connect the dots between God’s work in the church. For example, a child accepting Christ may coincide with her grandmother’s decision to teach a Life Group and her father’s decision to join the worship team.
  4. Thank you cards to write. Every week I ask the staff if I can write a note to someone. I also encourage them to write notes to people in their ministry areas. A hand-written note sent through the snail mail is a rarity. They stand out. They make a statement. Check out this previous post I wrote on the power of hand-written notes.

We spend about 5 to 15 minutes in prayer, about 10 minutes discussing the upcoming text, about 5 to 10 minutes sharing ministry stories, and less than 5 minutes discussing thank you cards. Most weeks, these agenda items take about 30 minutes, which leaves an additional 30 minutes for other items. The time spent on these four agenda items is worth it every week.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sam Rainer III

Sam serves as lead pastor of West Bradenton Baptist Church. He is also the president of Rainer Research, and he is the co-founder/co-owner of Rainer Publishing. His desire is to provide answers for better church health. Sam is author of the book, Obstacles in the Established Church, and the co-author of the book, Essential Church. He is an editorial advisor/contributor at Church Executive magazine. He has also served as a consulting editor at Outreach magazine. He has written over 150 articles on church health for numerous publications, and he is a frequent conference speaker. Before submitting to the call of ministry, Sam worked in a procurement consulting role for Fortune 1000 companies. Sam holds a B.S. in Finance and Marketing from the University of South Carolina, an M.A. in Missiology from Southern Seminary, and a Ph.D. in Leadership Studies at Dallas Baptist University.

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comment_post_ID); ?> I agree 100%, you can tell if a church is doing this it grows, if there's no growth there's poor leadership..
 
— Dennis Whiterock
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Great work Bubba! Its exciting to see how God has blessed your faithfulness over your lifetime into remarkable, fruitful, Kingdom expansion! Jesus DID say, "without Me you can do nothing!" (John 15:5). No surprise that He rewards "thick and thin" prayer with great fruitfulness! :)
 
— Mike Taylor
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I loved this presentation. It helped greatly as I organized an Outreach Ministry of The Shepherds Care. Thank you. Esther Callaham Mahgoube Emmanuel Pentecostal Church New Jersey
 
— Esther Mahgoube
 

Clarity Process

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Your Team Can Either Meet or Work, But Not Both at the Same Time

Note: Starting in 2016, we will be routinely posting content from one of the most innovative content sources in the church world: SUMS Remix Book Summaries for church leaders.  SUMS Remix takes a practical problem in the church and looks at it with three solutions with each solution is taken from a different book. As a church leader you get to scan relevant books based on practical tools and solutions to real ministry problems, not just by the cover of the book. Each post will have the edition number which shows the year and what number it is in the overall sequence. (SUMS provides 26 editions per year, delivered every other week to your inbox). 

>>> You can purchase a subscription to SUMS Remix here >>>

So how can you transform every ministry meeting with one big idea? It starts with understanding that every organization and every team experiences drift to see meetings as the work, rather than as a support tool for the work Here is the way we unpacked it last year in SUMS Remix edition 1.8.

Solution #3: Design meetings for one purpose: to support decisions.

ReadThisTHE QUICK SUMMARY

How many times have you dreaded going to a meeting either because you viewed it as a waste of time or because you weren’t prepared?

Read This Before Our Next Meeting not only explains what’s wrong with “the meeting,” and meeting culture, but suggests how to make meetings more effective, efficient, and worthy of attending. It assesses when it’s necessary to skip the meeting and get right to work.

Read This Before Our Next Meeting is the call to action you (or your boss) need to create the organization that does the meaningful work it was created to do.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

The profound tragedy of meetings is that everyone feels a benefit from calling a meeting but few of us benefit from attending.

Church leaders know in a real and visceral way that they have too many meetings, and too many of those meetings are bad! The resulting broken meeting culture is changing how teams focus, what they focus on, and most important, what decisions are made.

Ministry is a complex beast, and meetings can help tame the beast – but only meetings that insure intelligent decisions are made and to confirm that our teams are collaborating together in carrying out those decisions.

Church ministry teams don’t need standard, mediocre meetings that are all about making excuses and engaging in internal politics. It’s those types of meetings that keep leaders from doing the real ministry work they were called to do.

Traditional meetings are treated as just another form of communication. They’re just another item to be included in the same category as e-mail, memos, and phone calls. Meetings are too expensive and disruptive to justify using them for the most common types of communication, like making announcements, clarifying issues, or even gathering intelligence.

Seven Principles of the Modern Meeting

  1. The Modern Meeting convenes to support a decision that has already been made. The Modern Meeting focuses on the only two activities worth convening for: conflict and coordination.
  1. The Modern Meeting moves fast and ends on schedule. Traditional meetings seem to go on forever, with no end in sight. Strong deadlines force parties to resolve the hard decisions necessary for progress.
  1. The Modern Meeting limits the number of attendees. If you have no strong opinion, have no interest in the outcome, and are not instrumental for any coordination that needs to take place, you aren’t needed in the meeting.
  1. The Modern Meeting rejects the unprepared. The agenda should clearly state the problem, the alternatives, and the decision. It should outline exactly the sort of feedback requested, and it should end with a statement of what this meeting will deliver if it’s successful. Anything that’s not on the agenda doesn’t belong in the meeting.
  1. The Modern Meeting produces committed action plans. These plans should include at least the following: 1) What actions are we committing to? 2) Who is responsible for each action? 3) When will these actions be completed?
  1. The Modern Meeting refuses to be informational. Reading memos is mandatory. Teams must share complete thoughts that are actually worth reading and responding to – and everyone must read it all in advance.
  1. The Modern Meeting works only alongside a culture of brainstorming. These sessions are dedicated to the creation of possibilities, a place where the imagination is allowed to run free and generate a plethora of ideas, from which innovation can be born.

Al Pittampalli, Read This Before Our Next Meeting

A NEXT STEP

Management genius Peter Drucker said that meetings were by definition a concession to deficient organization. Teams can either meet or work, but they can’t do both at the same time.

It’s time for your ministry team to do real work through a revised meeting structure by taking the following actions:

  • Distribute the Seven Principles of the Modern Meeting listed above and ask your team members to review and reflect on them for the purpose of supporting the decision to establish a Modern Meeting process.
  • Schedule a one-hour time in which each member of your team will prepare concerns and solutions to implementing the Modern Meeting process in ministry setting.
  • Following this meeting, develop a set of action plans to implement the Modern Meeting process for a three-month trial period.
  • Throughout the trial period, constantly reinforce progress and concerns via information shared among all team members.
  • As a part of the trial, schedule weekly brainstorming sessions to help support the Modern Meeting process (see #7 above).
  • At the conclusion of the trial period, decide and commit on following – or not following – the Modern Meeting process.

Taken from SUMS Remix Edition 1.8, March 2015

>>> You can purchase a subscription to SUMS Remix here >>>

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Will Mancini

Will Mancini

Will Mancini wants you and your ministry to experience the benefits of stunning, God-given clarity. As a pastor turned vision coach, Will has worked with an unprecedented variety of churches from growing megachurches and missional communities, to mainline revitalization and church plants. He is the founder of Auxano, creator of VisionRoom.com and the author of God Dreams and Church Unique.

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COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> I agree 100%, you can tell if a church is doing this it grows, if there's no growth there's poor leadership..
 
— Dennis Whiterock
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Great work Bubba! Its exciting to see how God has blessed your faithfulness over your lifetime into remarkable, fruitful, Kingdom expansion! Jesus DID say, "without Me you can do nothing!" (John 15:5). No surprise that He rewards "thick and thin" prayer with great fruitfulness! :)
 
— Mike Taylor
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I loved this presentation. It helped greatly as I organized an Outreach Ministry of The Shepherds Care. Thank you. Esther Callaham Mahgoube Emmanuel Pentecostal Church New Jersey
 
— Esther Mahgoube
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.