In our June 8 blog posting, Church Meetings that Work - Part I, we explored multiple best practices that can make your church staff and leadership meetings more effective. The blog outlined several meeting practices reviewed by Ann Michels in her article, 7 Strategies to Master Meetings. This week we will focus on one of those practices: a simple but effective meeting minutes format for your church meetings.
Each section of the minutes format has recommended content and intended outcomes for recording that content. Let’s review by section:
This section should record the following general meeting information:
- name of the group that is meeting
- date of the meeting
- members of the teams in attendance (some groups also record those absent)
- prayer leader (this reinforces that prayer is central to our meeting purpose and outcomes)
- status of minutes from previous meeting (approved, approved with revisions, etc.)
Agenda Topics – Summary of Discussion
This section should record the following information for each topic listed on the agenda and discussed in the meeting:
- Topic Description - The topic description usually comes from the agenda. It is a short phrase characterizing the general subject to be discussed.
- Topic Discussion – This section records a brief summary of the key issues discussed in this section. It should characterize the discussion without any direct recording of the conversation. The length of this summary should be directly related to the percentage of time this topic consumed in the meeting. A typical summary is no longer than one paragraph.
- Decisions - A brief listing and description of decisions made at this meeting related to this topic.
- Action Accountabilities – This information is critical to successful follow up and implementation of decisions and action plans approved during the discussion. A simple format for recording this information uses a Word table such as:
Action Accountabilities Assigned for this Topic
|Accountability||Assign To||Target Completion Date|
|A brief description of the action required to fulfill this accountability.||The names of those assigned to complete this accountability.||The target date this accountability should be completed.|
|Add Accountability rows as required|
Simply repeat the above format for each topic discussed during the meeting.
This section tracks ongoing accountabilities that span more than one meeting. These items should remain on the meeting minutes for each meeting until they are completed. Use a similar table for recording this information, such as:
|Ongoing Action Accountabilities|
|Accountability||Assigned To||Target Completion Date||Date Completed|
|A brief description of the action required to fulfill this accountability.||The names of those assigned to complete this accountability.||The target date this accountability should be completed.||List date completed. Item will now be removed from future minutes.|
Future Agenda Topics
This section is the ongoing repository for future agenda topics that have been identified by the team. This list of topics should be reviewed each time the next meeting’s agenda is being formed, to consider adding one or more of the topics to the next meeting’s agenda. When a topic is added to the list, it should include a phrase describing the topic and the date it was first recorded on the list. If several months go by and a topic does not get selected as an agenda topic, it may indicate that this topic is no longer a priority and should be removed from the list.
This section lists key information for the next planned meeting. Be sure to boldly note if any normal patterns for the next meeting vary from typical meetings (example: change in starting time or location). Typical information includes:
- general assignments (examples: prayer, hospitality, minute recording, etc.)
- topics & assigned topic leader if known
- action steps to prepare for the meeting (example: read assigned material)
End the minutes by noting who recorded the minutes for this meeting.
Here are a few general tips for effective meeting minutes:
- the minutes should use the same topic descriptions as recorded on the agenda
- be sure to record attendees at the beginning of the meeting (it is easy to forget this task and memories can be faulty)
- clarify and record decisions as accurately as possible
- make sure that action accountabilities are recorded in language that is accurate, understandable and actionable
- briefly describe key points shared during topic discussions
- generally avoid attaching individual comments to specific meeting members unless critical to understanding the summary of discussion
- distribute draft minutes within 1-2 days of meetings while notes and memories are fresh
- be sure suggested changes to the draft minutes are communicated to all attendees before finalizing draft minutes for approval at the next meeting
As noted last week, meetings are a vital part of our role as church staff and leaders. By understanding, teaching and implementing effective meeting minute practices, we can achieve Spirit-filled ministry outcomes.
Next week we will review the powerful concept of Active Listening and how it can contribute to effective meetings as well as strong team working relationships.
If The Center for Parish Leadership can assist you in training your church staff or leaders in best-practices like Effective Meeting Management or other areas of need in your church, please contact us.