If you lead a team of staff or volunteer leaders in a church, good meetings are essential to the health of your organization. Good meetings lead to better communication, coordination, alignment, encouragement, and accountability.
One of my main responsibilities in my role as Pastor for Vision and Purpose is to schedule and lead meetings. Until recently, I led a weekly catch-all staff meeting. While this meeting had been effective, I sensed that members of our staff were no longer excited about attending. This meeting was getting in their way rather than helping them to do their work. Therefore, we have adopted and are implementing an entirely new format.
After reading Patrick Lencioni's book, Death by Meeting: A Leadership Fable about Solving the Most Painful Problem in Business, I realized that we were trying to solve several different types of problems and attempting to deal with a broad range of needs during our weekly meeting. Applying Lencioni’s meeting principles to our situation, we found that we should meet for the following reasons:
- Gather information and understand each staff member's daily activities.
- Make tactical (immediate) decisions. We need to communicate, coordinate, collaborate, and decide on issues to keep things moving.
- Deal with strategic issues. We need discuss, plan, and promote new events and emphases. We also need to find solutions to major problems and opportunities.
- Re-vision plan for the long term. We need to get away to look back, look around, and look ahead.
We have addressed the first three of these with the following meeting structure.
1. The check-in meeting
Five minutes or less, twice a week
On Mondays and Thursdays, our entire staff gathers in a big circle at the reception area for a stand-up meeting. Everyone attends unless on vacation, sick, or otherwise away from the office. At precisely 9:00 a.m. I invite the person next to me to share what he or she will work on that day, (in 30 seconds or under).
For example, I might say, "I am working on revising the Vision 2020 document, and contacting our graphic designer about updating signs. I'm available to help with anything until 1:00 p.m. I will meet with Bruce, Michael, and Phillip from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m." Our senior administrative assistant might say, "I'm working on pulling together our key weekly reports, and spending all day and the rest of the week on church conference materials that must be copied by the end of the week."
2. The tactical meeting
1-2 hours, once a week
We block out two hours for this meeting but often use only one. The group creates the agenda. We begin by reviewing our participation levels (this week, last week, and one year ago) and financial reports. We briefly review our vision and purpose to be reminded why we are here.
Next, each staff member briefly shares key projects and pressing issues. If there is a snag in a project because of a lack of resources, ideas, or decisions, the staff member asks for help. These become agenda items for our meeting. If something strategic comes up during the discussion, I list it as a subject for a potential ad-hoc meeting. There are days when we have only one agenda item, and others days when we will have 10. It is my job as the meeting leader to keep the meeting moving, seek engagement and agreement, and communicate the next actions from our decisions.
I prepare a three-page document for this meeting (see sample handout download). Page 1 is my worksheet for taking notes. Page 2 includes space for staff to take notes, a section to record decisions and next actions, and space to record what we need to communicate to other staff, church leaders, and the congregation. Page 3 is a list of upcoming events for the next three months and their key decision-makers.
3. The ad-hoc strategic meeting
1-3 hours as needed
These are periodic meetings with select staff members that deal with one strategic issue. For example, we have recently called ad-hoc strategic meetings for the following.
- Creative promotion planning / social media campaign for a worship event.
- How to handle Halloween falling on a Wednesday night.
- Setting our Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year Schedule.
- Agreeing on the language of our "Levels of Engagement" guide document.
For your strategic meetings you will need a combination of creative thinkers, stakeholders, decision-makers, and implementers. Take time to think through the issue as it relates to fulfilling your purpose as a church. Be sure you have good information ahead of time. Guide the group to an agreed-upon solution, a set of next steps, and assent from those responsible for decisions.
As we implement this new meeting model, we are becoming more efficient, increasing engagement in our meetings, and building a stronger team. For more help with this particular model, Patrick Lencioni’s Table Group offers free downloads of his meetings model and tips for better meetings.