Are staff meetings really necessary? Some pastors have told us that they consider them a waste of time ("There's only the three of us, and the other two are part-time. Aren't hallway conversations enough?"). Others confess that they consider staff meetings a burden ("It feels like one more event I have to plan") or even a source of dread ("I always come away with more on my to-do list"). Still others admit they used to have weekly meetings but stopped because of resistance and apathy.
We decided to see how staff meetings are run at one of the best-led churches in America, Wooddale Church in Eden Prairie, Minnesota.
A thoughtfully conceived, well-run staff meeting will improve the effectiveness of ministry in virtually any church. Moreover, great staff meetings are not hard to achieve. For more than 25 years, several important disciplines have made weekly staff meetings worthwhile at Wooddale Church.
Many churches struggle with "ministry silos"—uncoordinated ministries operating within the church but unrelated and disconnected from each other. Regular staff meetings facilitate communication and coordination among these ministries and build a sense of team. The time together allows each ministry leader to discuss challenges and opportunities and benefit from the collective wisdom of the entire team.
These meetings fortify the common purpose and activities of the church and become a time to reinforce values, clarify priorities, and support one another. Without a regular time to interact, staff teams tend to fragment. Coordination and teamwork become more difficult.
Some consultants suggest limiting meetings to only those who have to be there. Others suggest that the number of participants be no more than ten. At Wooddale, we expect all 17 staff pastors to participate in each week's meeting. In smaller churches, it may be helpful to include ministry directors or part-timers and volunteers who are responsible for significant ministries, which allows for adequate representation of the breadth of the church's ministry.
When those responsible for key ministry areas are not in the meeting, communication and coordination suffer.
What makes a great meeting?
Generally, each week we focus on one or two specific ministries (in addition to the repeating staff business), which allows for variety as well as covering the necessary recurring details.
Our staff meetings always begin with 10 to 20 minutes of prayer, though the time can vary as the needs of the day dictate. We'll pray about ministry issues and upcoming church events, as well as individual needs within the staff and church. The format varies, at times with directed prayer around a specific need or theme. Prayer may also take place at other times in the agenda, especially when we need wisdom for a specific area.
Then, a number of items are a part of every staff meeting. Here's our repeating agenda:
First-time visitors and new regular attenders: Reviewing reports of calls to first-time visitors and new regular attenders allows us to track newcomers' reactions to services and ministries, to flag items for follow-up, and to be aware of any emerging trends.
Program inserts/display ads and public announcements: To coordinate communication efforts and establish priorities, we discuss the items scheduled to appear as either inserts or ads in the worship program or included in the list of public announcements made during services.
Future dates: Before adding any new ministry event to the calendar, we review and discuss the merits of the idea and try to minimize scheduling conflicts.