The Problem With Meetings

The most generalized common complaint I hear about church operations from staff and pastors is: “I hate meetings.”

Especially those who consider themselves leaders along the “driven”-spectrum or who are more task-focused. Let’s be honest: most of us really don’t like meetings. But perhaps it’s less about the meetings themselves and more specifically about two typically unspoken questions: Why are we meeting?” and “Why am I in this meeting?” I believe the problem is more about organizational inefficiencies than “people avoidance”. At least I hope so! Truth is: meetings are critical. You can’t lead people without being with people. And because team-based leadership is much more effective than the CEO-centered “my-way-or-the-highway” leader (see last week’s post), meetings are indispensable. So let’s talk about the efficiency-factors...


1. Purpose

Before any meeting happens—and even repetitive ongoing meetings—define what outcome you really want from this time. And you can’t define the outcome until you determine the reason why you’re having the meeting. Sometimes it’s helpful to ask yourself in decision-making contexts, “What is the big question we need answered?” Would everyone around the table be able to answer that? Clarity around the purpose and the agenda itself is crucial. And more about that in the last point. Keep in mind, also, that the relationship-side of the meeting is vital and more-than-likely part of the purpose. The scope of that, though, needs to be determined and understood by all the team members.

2. Participants

Are the right people in the room? No wonder some might wonder, “Why am I in this meeting?”–maybe they don’t need to be. I’m not talking about a team member’s competencies, as in: they don’t know how to work in a team context (perhaps an emotional intelligence issue) or their gifts or capacity doesn’t match what’s needed with this particular team. That’s an issue for another article. I’m thinking more about the idea that the information shared in this time or the questions/answers raised are not critical to their particular role.

3. Facilitation

Who should be driving this meeting? When I was pastoring, my meetings with the executive team were not facilitated by me. There was a reason why: I sucked at it. I could go off on “possibility” tangents…and other times drill down on topics that were near and dear to me for way too long. We had a facilitator on the team who knew how to keep us on track, knew when to offload issues to another time or team, and with an eye on the agenda and clock.That was a Godsend, believe me. Of course not all the meetings were perfect and in sync, but they were certainly more focused. A good facilitator will build an agenda with you prior to the meeting and, even better, have it distributed to everyone before, so the more process-oriented people can ruminate on it. Yep, all of this requires more prep. And time. Plus, it may actually be that you simply have too many meetings. Can the above questions be raised for each one of your meetings…and answered honestly? But keep this in mind: the mission of your church or organization and the people you lead deserve to have their time honored and have clarity on how to accomplish what God has given them—and you—to do. Dave Workman | ELEMENTAL CHURCHES