Do You Hate Meetings? This Will Help.

"How did the meeting go?" 

Those of us who are married are familiar with the question. It's the standard greeting in the homes of church leaders.

Because church leaders create (or get roped into) a lot of meetings.

Your spouse may or may not even know you were at a meeting. But the odds are in their favor that between now and the last time they saw you, a meeting did, in fact, take place.

Assuming that there is genuine interest behind the question while also assuming that you provide a genuine response, I'm wondering how you know your meeting was 'great' or 'fine' or 'somewhere south of a visit to the dentist for a root canal.'

What Kind Of Meeting Is It? 

In his book The Advantage, Patrick Lencioni points out a common problem in meetings.

They try to do too much.

Imagine a meeting where you wrestle with a long-term strategic issue before deciding what kind of toilet paper to buy for the bathrooms in the children's ministry area. That evolves into a pastoral conversation about a family who is thinking about leaving the church because they don't like the church's children's ministry. Which leads to an impromptu performance review of the children's minister. That in turn leads to a 'season of prayer' for bitter families and bumbling staff members.

Sound familiar?

Lencioni calls it meeting stew.

Now I like a good stew.

But your meetings won't be great if you throw anything and everything into the agenda.

Because you cannot mentally and emotionally switch from strategy to execution to pastoral care to open confession in one sitting.

All of those are critical in the life of your team.

But you simply cannot try to do all of that in one meeting.

Instead, you need to separate everything out into different meetings.

  • Status update - 'What are you working on?'
  • Decision-making - 'What needs to happen right now?'
  • Strategic Planning - 'Where are we going?'
  • Pastoral Care - 'How is everyone doing?'

But Who Has Time For All Those Meetings?

Now, the reason most teams cram everything into one meeting is because of time.

Just pick a night and grind it out and then you won't have to take another night away from family.

But, again, you simply cannot have a great meeting when your meeting is an attempt to do everything all at once.

But time is a real problem.

And I'm advocating that you move from one meeting to four meetings?

That sounds...unreasonable.

And I agree. 

If you meet weekly, it's crazy to do four meetings in a week instead of one meeting.

If you meet monthly, it's bananas to meet four times a month instead of once a month.

So here's a solution.

A Great Plan For Great Meetings

1. Status Updates

If your team works together on a daily basis, have a 15-minute status update each day. Have everyone stand up and each person shares what they're doing today that is significant ('doing this today pays off big tomorrow'). You will keep everyone focused on what matters most, and it opens up opportunities for follow-up conversations after the meeting. 

If your team does not work together on a daily basis, use an online tool like Slack, create a channel called Status Update, and have each person share what they're doing today that is significant at the start of their work day.

For a team that meets monthly instead of weekly, provide status updates once per week rather than every day.

2. Decision Making

Once a week, get your entire team together for an hour.

Ask each team member if they have anything that the entire team needs to decide.

Write those down and then prioritize the list based on significance ('deciding this today pays off big down the road').

The decision-making meeting is not the place to introduce things for the first time - that needs to happen off-line in conversations or through writing.

The focus here is on making decisions. 

And if you're looking for a healthy decision-making process to incorporate into your team, take a look at this from Chip and Dan Heath's book, Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work.

There will be some weeks where you will not need an entire hour for your team to make all the decisions they need to make. Don't use the remaining time to do other work. 

For teams that meet monthly, schedule a decision-making meeting once per month. 

3. Strategic Planning

When you face questions or challenges related to the long-term development of your area of ministry, get your team together to discuss the options in front of you. Invite others from outside of your team if their perspective adds value to the conversation.

Because of the significance of these types of issues, you cannot rush the conversation.

Schedule a 2-3 hour meeting and expect proposals to be submitted at least one week before the meeting.

The goal in a strategic planning meeting is not to make decisions; the goal is to understand the issue well enough to determine the decisions that need to be made by the appropriate parties.

Strategic planning meetings happen on an 'as needed' basis. They should happen at least once per quarter and no more than once per month.

4. 'Pastoral' Care

Your team should intentionally and proactively care for one another and for the people you are collectively responsible for.

Much of that care should be demonstrated outside of team meetings. Create a culture where your team interacts off-line and intentionally expresses care and concern for the people you serve.

Determine how rigorous of a system of care you need to create for everyone to be treated responsibly. 

Once a month, get your team together to pray for each other and for the people you serve.

Don't use this time to gather information about people's lives who are not on the team. Show up with that information already in the hands of your team members.

And because your team interacts on a consistent basis, you should not have to catch up on everything that is happening in the lives of individual team members during the meeting. Leave room for critical updates but don't make this the only place where your team cares for each other.

For teams that meet once per month, make sure you have this kind of meeting at least once per quarter.

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