Most pastors hate meetings.
Planning meetings, board meetings, staff meetings, committee meetings . . .
If pastors could jettison one aspect of pastoring, that’s what a lot of us would get rid of.
So why do churches have them? Because, when done well, ministry team meetings are an essential tool for communication, team-building, problem-solving, vision-casting, and more.
So here are 13 principles to make sure staff and volunteer meetings are as few and effective as possible. When done right, they can even become something to look forward to:
Meetings must be:
They might be weekly, monthly, or quarterly, depending on the task or project. But once their frequency has been determined, their appearance on the calendar should be something every team member can rely on.
If you pastor a small church, one of the hardest aspects of planning meetings is something most articles like this take for granted – how to get everyone in the room. When you have paid staff, it’s easy. When they’re all volunteers, getting everyone together can be the hardest task of all.
If you want a robust volunteer team, you need to account for their awkward and changing schedules. Catch up before or after Sunday services when they’re already at the church, during their lunch hour, whenever is most convenient for them, not just when you’re used to having them.
Teams do things. Committees talk about things.
Some committees may be necessary for your church’s polity, or for legal reasons. But, other than those, I recommend meeting with task-oriented teams, not committees.
4. About Solutions, Not Blame
Never let meetings descend into gripe sessions. The best way to avoid that is to make every meeting about finding solutions, not assigning blame. All the energy should be aimed towards answers, not problems.
I also highly recommend dropping the “don’t raise a problem unless you have a solution” rule. This is why a lot of issues never get raised – or solved.
Instead, the rule should be “raise a problem so we can all get focused on finding a solution together.”
Unless you’re in the final crunch time for a big event or project, most well-planned meetings should last an hour or less. The proactive people you want on your team won’t sit for long meetings, and the people who love long meetings aren’t the ones you want on your team.
If you’re wondering how to keep meetings short, this is Rule Number One. Have an agenda and stick with it.
All major subjects must be on the agenda in advance.
Sure, there will be last-minute issues, including those that arise as a result of the meeting. But proper planning will keep them to a minimum and allow for greater effectiveness in the meeting.
7. Scheduled and Confirmed
And now we come to the best way to overcome the biggest hurdle many smaller churches face when trying to wrangle everyone together for consistent meetings.
Never leave one meeting without confirming or setting the date for the next meeting.
This is so much easier to do when everyone is already in the room than trying to corral everyone later through endless phone calls, texts, and emails. Then have a follow-up system (like email, text, or a planning app) to remind everyone about the upcoming meeting two to three days in advance. Yes, it’s on their calendar, but no, they won’t remember without a reminder.
If they stop working, stop having them.
The value and effectiveness of every ministry team should be assessed at least annually, with an eye to determining their value and making them more effective.
Very few things will kill the team spirit of a church like territorialism. When ministries start fighting over limited budgets, calendar time, volunteers, and facilities, it’s a sure sign that they’ve forgotten that everyone is a vital part of a whole body.
This is why the next point is so essential.
Every church needs to know why they exist. Then stay laser-focused on that.
Every team meeting should always have a big-picture aspect to it. How is what we’re doing helping us all reach our common goal?
Every leadership team needs to be intentional about celebrating victories, not just solving problems.
12. Next-Step Oriented
Everyone should leave every meeting with a better picture of what they’re supposed to do next. And some helpful ideas about how it’s going to get done.
On project-oriented teams it’s helpful to close the meeting by asking each member to summarize what they’re going to do between this meeting and the next meeting. This quick exercise keeps the team focused, disciplined, and accountable.
Time to pause, slow down, and re-focus our attention on Jesus is essential. If we’re not making a conscious effort to spend time with the Lord, and request his wisdom in the porcess, it becomes very easy to forget that his goals, his, ideas, his mission, and his gospel is what this is all about.
Make Meetings Matter
This list didn’t happen easily or quickly. I learned each principle the hard way. But using them can make any ministry team more effective, cooperative, and even joyful.
(Photo by Book Lin | Flickr)