If you’re like most people, you probably think church staff meetings are the worst. They are boring. They are pointless. They are a waste of time.
I used to think so too…until I ran into some good ones.
Now, I’ve completely changed my opinion of meetings. They don’t have to be a dreaded consumer of time. They don't even have to be a "necessary evil". In fact, they can be incredibly helpful and even engaging.
How do you transform a meeting from “the worst” to something positive?
While I haven't mastered every aspect of leading great ministry meetings, I have learned a few helpful tips.
Step one is structuring the meeting correctly. Here are 4 ways to help structure a great meeting.
1. What Kind of Meeting is This?
Most meetings suffer from a kind of multiple personalities disorder. In other words, we often try to make a meeting do too many things at once. A great meeting has a specific goal.
The first way to structure a great meeting is to define the purpose of the meeting. Here are some options:
The Check-In Meeting
During the summer months, my team has a check-in meeting every day. It lasts a maximum of 15 minutes and each person is responsible to share 3 things:
- This is what I’m working on
- This is what I need everyone to know
- This is what I need from the team
The purpose of this meeting is simply to get on the same page and run in the same direction.
The Review Meeting
Another meeting that my team often engages is the review meeting. The purpose of this meeting is to evaluate an event, program or trip. We’re providing feedback.
In this meeting, we often utilize a tool called “4 Helpful Lists”:
- What was Right?
- What was Wrong?
- What was Missing?
- What was Confusing?
This tool directs our conversation and feedback. Once everyone has provided input we create an “action steps” list to move the conversation forward.
The Strategic Meeting
A third type of meeting is the strategic meeting. The purpose of this meeting is to make a decision.
For my team, this often ends up feeling more like a debate than a meeting. It is often passionate, loud and intense. In my opinion, this is a good thing because it means the team is being honest.
It’s important to note that the strategic meeting doesn’t mean that the decision in question will be made democratically in the meeting because it often lands on the leader to make a tough decision. However, this meeting ensures that everyone on the team is heard.
All of these meetings are necessary and important. My point is simply this: do your best to communicate what type of meeting you are calling because then people will know how to prepare and act.
Combining different meetings is usually counterproductive.
2. Whose Meeting is This?
Another way to structure a great meeting is to clearly communicate whose meeting it is.
In other words, who is in charge of this meeting?
The worst meetings are the ones where you sit around for 10 minutes asking, “Who is in charge of this meeting?” I hate that. Every meeting should have a clearly defined leader who is responsible for the meeting and any action steps required afterward.
If you’re unsure who the leader is beforehand, ask!
Secondly, when asking “whose meeting is this?” consider who needs to be in the room.
One of the reasons that people often hate meetings is that they get pulled into meetings that do not pertain to them. When this is true, that person’s time is wasted.
As a rule of thumb, less is better than more. Only invite those who truly need to be there.
3. Be Predictable
Another reason that people hate meetings is that they never know how long they will go.
There is nothing like the angsty feeling you get when a meeting should be over but you’re stuck. It’s like meeting Alcatraz.
There are two easy solutions to this:
- First, send the agenda beforehand. This helps people mentally prepare for the content and the length of the meeting. A simple email like this can go a long ways:
- Secondly, start on time and end on time... end of story. You can build a huge amount of respect simply by honoring people’s time. Starting and ending on time communicates value to the people in the meeting.
4. The Secret Formula
Lastly, here’s my secret formula for how I like to run a meeting. While not the only way, coming at a meeting in the following order has proved to be successful for me again and again.
Whenever possible, I try to begin a meeting with some sort of relational connection.
If it’s a check-in meeting, ask attenders to share highs and lows. If it’s a strategic meeting about whether or not to expand the summer camp program, ask attenders to share their most meaningful summer camp experience.
Just figure out a way to connect relationally. It helps build trust and a sense of “we’re in this thing together.”
State the Purpose
As clearly and succinctly as possible, tell everyone what the purpose of the meeting is. This clearly defines the boundaries.
When you do this, you can keep the team on track and keep Doris from going on and on and on about her cats.
Whatever the business of the meeting is, get to it! This is the meat of the meeting.
As the leader, keep the team on track, draw out those who are not speaking up and quiet down those who are monopolizing the conversation. Everyone needs to be heard.
Another reason that people often hate meetings is that they seem pointless. Too often people describe meetings by saying:
“We talk and talk and never actually do anything.”
Unfortunately, this is often an accurate critique.
The reason is that many meeting end without this last and crucially important step: action.
A meeting isn’t over until action has been decided on. Whoever is leading the meeting must identify the action steps, assign them to the appropriate team members and provide clear direction on when the action must be completed.
How to Apply This to Your Church Staff Meetings
These structures can be applied to any church and organization. It will take some thought and intentionality to change (meeting structures have a way of falling into a rut and staying there) but I believe church staff meetings can be structured in a way to build trust, bring out passions, give people a voice, and get more done through clear action steps.
Here's a checklist to use to think through your own church staff meetings:
☑ Is there a single purpose for the meeting? (e.g. this is a check in meeting or this is a review meeting)
☑ Does everyone know what that purpose is?
☑ Does everyone know who the leader of the meeting is?
☑ Are only the people who need to be at the meeting present?
☑ Do people know the agenda before the meeting? (either through repetition or an email they receive ahead of time)
☑ Does the meeting start and end on time... every time?
☑ Does the meeting end with clear action steps, who needs to perform them, by when, and who will keep them accountable?
I hope this checklist helps you craft even better meetings that allow you to more efficiently serve those connected to your church. And if you're interested in even more information on leading great meetings, check out my previous post on tips for great church staff meetings.
Are there structures you've used in leading your own team or staff that weren't included here? I'd love to hear about them in the comments below!