Churches have gained a reputation for boring, lengthy, and ineffective meetings. When I ask church staff or leaders how they feel about their church meetings, I frequently get a negative response. And yet I believe that meetings are vital to effective outcomes of our church ministries. Because of this belief, I have made it a goal to research, implement, and teach effective meeting practices throughout my church staff and consulting career.
Ann Michels, Director of the Lewis Center for Church Leadership, recently wrote an article titled, 7 Strategies to Master Meetings. She outlines seven key practices that will improve the outcomes and experience of your church meetings including:
Know Your Purpose
Whether it is a regularly scheduled or special meeting, all participants must clearly understand the expected outcomes of the meeting. Meetings can have a single or multiple purposes including information sharing, idea generation (brainstorming), planning, decision-making, coordination, collaboration, or relationship building.
Create a Game Plan
A good agenda communicated in advance of the meeting is vital. Components of the agenda include: date, start/stop time, topics for discussion (including advance information to study if appropriate), and assigned accountabilities (facilitator, prayer leader, hospitality provider, recorder, topic leaders, etc.).
Anne suggests several key practices including providing well framed discussion questions, allow adequate time for discussion before decisions, and drawing less active attendees into the discussions.
Keep Reasonable Time Limits
The facilitator must monitor the use of time and keep things moving while achieving the intended purposes of the meeting. A key best practice is to leave general ministry updates until the end of the meeting so it does not take away too much time from other topics. If the meeting purpose cannot be reasonably completed in 1-2 hours, it might be well to schedule another meeting or at least take an extended break to refresh the body and mind.
Allow Space for the Spirit to Work
Key aspects of this practice include symbol and prayer. Our church meetings should include a meaningful symbol of our belief that the Spirit is present, actively providing needed wisdom and courage to achieve our ministry goals. Symbols may be as simple as a lit candle, an image, a cross, or other items meaningful to the attendees and the church. At the start of each meeting, we should consciously recognize and pray for the active involvement of the Spirit in our meeting.
Prayer must also permeate our meeting. Beyond the normal opening and closing prayers, we should also find other times (before key decisions, during times of conflict or strong disagreements, etc.) to utilize the power of prayer.
The facilitator or topic leader has a key role in reaching necessary decisions. I like the image of a funnel for this purpose. We start at the wide opening by sharing all key information required. We then begin to discuss the topic which starts to narrow our focus as we proceed down the funnel. Eventually the facilitator needs to test if a consensus is starting to form. Once all have had adequate time for questions and discussion, we then are ready to finalize the decision. If no decision can be reached, it is important to outline next steps and timing for making the decision.
Monitor Follow Through
It is important to end the meeting with a clear description of any decisions made, action plans developed, assigned accountabilities and completion timetables. Without this step, it is likely that meeting attendees will feel they have wasted their time in the meeting. Meeting summaries must accurately include this level of detail. We will review a meeting summary format in the next blog posting, Church Meetings That Work - Part II.
Over the course of the next two weeks, we will explore in detail two other key best practice areas that will contribute to successful meetings. These topics are:
- A powerful Meeting Minutes Format that will increase the success of expected meeting outcomes
- Understanding the power & practice of Active Listening within our meetings
Meetings are a vital part of our role as church staff and leaders. Rather than see them as boring or a waste of time, we must implement best-practice meeting management skills that will maximize the effectiveness of our investment of valuable time and resources.
If The Center for Parish Leadership can assist you in training your staff or church leaders in best-practices like Effective Meeting Management or other areas of need in your church, please contact us.