I used to hate meetings.
In fact I was very vocal about meetings being a waste of time. In most meetings I attended, I daydreamed about a dozen other ways I could be spending my time more productively.
Over time I would discover the problem was not the meeting per se, but the way the meeting was managed. Today I am a shouting proponent of meetings, at least the productive ones. And I have found that church staff persons, whether full-time, part-time, or volunteer, are among the most notorious for having bad staff meetings.
Over the past decade I have been on a quest to find highly effective church staff meetings. I have been fortunate to observe several, and I emulate them in my own staff meetings. Though all of the good meetings have several diverse characteristics, I found seven characteristics consistent in the highly effective meetings.
- The meetings begin with prayer for the church and her members. Effective staff meetings have core to their purpose the need to pray for the church. These prayers are not quick and perfunctory, but sincere and well thought. The staff comes prepared to pray for members’ physical, spiritual, and family needs. They pray for their members to be a witness in their homes, communities, and workplaces. They pray for unity in the church.
- The meetings take place routinely. Effective meetings can make a huge difference in the leadership and life of the church. They are regularly scheduled, weekly if possible.
- The meetings have a fixed and predetermined length. Don’t intrude upon the staff’s busy schedule by having a meeting go longer than planned. Efficient staff will already have plans after the meeting. Don’t impose upon that time. People tend to become restless if they don’t know when a meeting will end.
- The meetings have an agenda prepared ahead of time. Each staff member submits his or her agenda items ahead of the meeting. Those items largely determine the content and the length of the meeting. It should be a rare and exceptional occurrence when someone brings up non-agenda items. And generic agenda items should not be allowed (for example, “update on student ministry”). If no one has real agenda items, the meeting probably is not necessary. Don’t meet for the sake of meeting.
- The meetings focus a great deal of time on alignment. Are all of the areas of the church in alignment together? Do they fulfill or complement the vision of the church? It would be better to have no staff members than having two staff members whose work and ministry go in opposing directions.
- The meetings start on time and finish on time. They begin on time and they end on time or earlier. I begin meetings on time even if others are late. I actually began one meeting when no one showed up on time but me. I made a lot decisions without opposition. The staff will learn if the leader is serious about the meeting by the prompt beginnings of the meeting, and by the leader’s own punctuality.
- The meetings conclude with action items. As a meeting ends, the leader, presumably the pastor, notes what is to be done after the meeting, who is to do it, and what the timetable for completion is. The pastor makes certain that everyone is in agreement with the action items.
Do you meet regularly in your organization? What do you think of these seven habits? What would you change or add?
This article was originally published at ThomRainer.com on October 19, 2013. Thom S. Rainer serves as president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. Among his greatest joys are his family: his wife Nellie Jo; three sons, Sam, Art, and Jess; and seven grandchildren. Dr. Rainer can be found on Twitter @ThomRainer and at facebook.com/Thom.S.Rainer.