One task that anyone in church operations deals with involves meetings. There are meetings for the entire staff, to coordinate details for an event, discuss a new project, and more. The challenge with meetings is that they’re often unproductive. To have productive meetings, you need a strategy.
After facilitating or sitting in more meetings than I care to count, here’s what makes them worth having:
Tip #1: Assign someone to facilitate the meeting
An effective meeting facilitator can do the following with ease:
Prepare for a productive meeting:
- Identify the purpose of the meeting
- Create and distribute an agenda beforehand (whether electronically or on paper)
- Determine who needs to attend the meeting based on the agenda
- Reserve a meeting room (whether that’s a physical location or a virtual one)
- Email out meeting invites
- Develop and obtain any materials needed to review with the attendees
Help participants stay on-topic.
It’s easy to talk about the stage décor needed for an event, then have that conversation drift into how the carpet on the stage should be replaced. While that issue might be valid, that’s not a topic for this meeting.
An excellent facilitator can quickly rein in the conversation and get the team back on track.
Ensure the meeting stays on schedule.
- Begin the meeting on time (don’t wait for latecomers).
- When latecomers arrive, don’t take extra time to fill them in on what they missed (that’s what meeting notes are for).
- Stick to the topics on the agenda, but be aware of when to be flexible.
- Respect everyone’s schedule and end the meeting on time.
Tip #2: There must be an agenda
No agenda = no meeting.
There are too many tasks with too few hours to waste on meetings without an agenda. Don’t get several people in a meeting only to spend 20 minutes on small talk, try to figure out why you’re meeting for 10 minutes, then have to quickly wrap things up so a key decision-maker can leave for her next meeting. That’s a waste of time and money.
By the way, there are real dollars wasted in unproductive meetings. Take the average salary of the attendees and divide that by 2,040 (that’s the average number of hours worked in a year). Multiply that hourly rate by the number of attendees and the amount of time spent in the meeting. That amount is what an unproductive meeting costs the church.
Include these in each meeting agenda:
- Purpose – A brief description of why this meeting is necessary
- Date, Time, & Location of the meeting
- A list of meeting invitees
- Agenda items
- Action Items from previous meetings related to the same topic
Tip #3: Someone must take notes
Here’s why meeting notes are important:
- There’s always somebody who is late or who doesn’t make the meeting. Detailed notes help those individuals get up to speed quickly.
- Someone may misinterpret a decision made during the meeting. Documented decisions that everyone can read helps reduce confusion.
- A participant might forget about an action item. Therefore, including a list of action items with the meeting notes helps everyone see what’s assigned to him/her.
The challenging aspect of meeting notes is two-fold:
- Good note-taking is an acquired skill. Depending on the person’s experience handling this task, the notes may not be great at first. Learn more about taking meeting notes here.
- Few people read meeting notes. Combat this issue by sending an email to each attendee with action items assigned to him/her plus any decisions that impact that person. While sending individual emails to each person takes time in the short run, it increases the likelihood that people will read the message and will notice the action items assigned to them.
There you have it – my secret sauce for a productive and more efficient meeting.
If your church staff isn’t used to structured meetings, this will be an adjustment. Get buy-in from senior leaders and talk with anyone you think may resist this new approach before making any changes. Once they agree, start small and change gradually. Let people know you’re trying to make the best use of everyone’s time and productivity. They may not like a more structured approach initially. However, as they experience more effective (and less time-consuming) meetings, they’ll likely become raving fans.