I don’t like meetings.
Planning meetings, board meetings, staff meetings, committee meetings…
If I could jettison one aspect of pastoring, that’s what I would get rid of.
So why do I have them? Because, when done well, ministry team meetings are an essential tool for communication, team-building, problem-solving, vision-casting and more.
So I make sure the staff and volunteer meetings are as few and as effective as possible by requiring that they meet these 12 criteria:
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.
(For more about this, check out How Often Should a Church's Leadership Meetings Be Held?)
If you pastor a small church, one of the hardest aspects of planning meetings is something most lists like this take for granted – namely, how to get everyone in the room. When they’re paid staff, it’s easy. When they’re all volunteers (often including the pastor), getting everyone together can be the hardest task of all.
At our small church, we set team meetings around their schedules, not mine. Often, we’ll catch up following our Sunday services, since team members are already at the church. Or during their lunch hour. Or on the night of our children’s program, so parents don’t need a sitter. Or in a member’s home.
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 people you most 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
Never leave one meeting without confirming or setting the date for the next meeting. It’s so much easier to do this when everyone is already in the room than to try to corral everyone later through endless phone calls and emails.
Then set up a system (like email, text, or a planning app) to remind everyone about the meeting two to three days in advance.
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, if they continue, 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?
At our church’s weekly staff meeting we have a regular agenda item called Ministry Stories. It’s a time when we pause to ask “so, what’s going on in your ministry that we can celebrate with you?”
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, I will often 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.
Make Meetings Matter
This list didn’t happen easily or quickly. I learned each principle the hard way. But using them has made our ministry teams more effective, cooperative and even joyful. I hope they can do the same for you, your church and your ministry teams.
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