There’s a scary 7-letter word that most of us avoid like the plague. It’s a gross, time-sucking, boring word. The word? Meeting. I feel bad even typing it. Because it’s true! There is such a negative connotation toward this word in most of our ministry circles. Personally, I don’t think meetings themselves are bad. It’s how we approach and lead meetings… That’s the part that’s not-so-great most of the time. Here are a few thoughts I have on leading effective meetings…
Meetings should be important.
I realize that this is a subjective statement, because what is important to me is going to be different than what’s important to you. We could get tangled up in that discussion all day. So here’s what I’m trying to say: Make sure there’s a reason behind your meeting. It needs to have a point. A goal. An objective. Most of you reading this are probably thinking that seems obvious – and I would agree, it should be – but how many meetings have you been a part of that seemed completely pointless? That’s what I thought. A lot. If you’re the one calling a meeting, truly ask yourself: Is this necessary? Is it important that we meet? Is there another way we could accomplish the same goal that doesn’t involve a meeting? Be creative. Think through all the possibilities before deciding on the need for a meeting.
Meetings should be scheduled.
Many would argue that some of their best conversations have come out of impromptu meetings. I’m right there with you. But for the sake of this post, I’m going to call those conversations, brainstorming sessions, or discussions – not meetings. So when you determine you’ve got something to discuss that’s important enough to have a meeting about, schedule it. Send out the date, time, and location to the necessary people and then stick to it. Unless there’s an emergency or you later decide that the meeting isn’t necessary after all, be consistent with what you’ve set. Show up on time to your own meeting. People respect leaders who follow through with these things.
Meetings should include necessary people.
I’ve attended many meetings where the leader forgot the “necessary” part of the above phrase. We’ve all been there. And while I understand the tendency to want to communicate with everyone or get input from a lot of different voices, the more people you invite to the meeting, the messier it gets. Perhaps there is some strategy that is missing from this process. When you invite only the necessary people, you can ask them to pass along pertinent and important information to others that may need to know, but don’t need to sit through an entire meeting for just that. It’s also easy to call a follow-up meeting and to invite more or different people to that one if you wish to hear from other voices within your ministry teams.
Meetings should be timely.
Start on time. End a little early. Those are the best meetings. I know it’s hard. But if you’re going to bring a lot of busy people together, you need to respect their time. The best way to ensure this happens is to set an agenda. Sharing the agenda with the rest of the attendees is always a good idea. But even if it’s just an agenda to keep yourself on track, do it anyway. It will help ensure you’re covering the important topics and allow you to gauge what you can skip and come back to at a later date if time is running out.
Meetings should end well.
Few things frustrate me more than walking away from a meeting that ended poorly. No resolution. No clear direction. As people leading those meetings, we should always be giving action points. Now, maybe we didn’t finish what we were talking about. Maybe it’s an ongoing issue or project that can’t be resolved in just one meeting. That’s fine. But every meeting should still end with a clear objective for those in attendance. Give direction with the expectation that they need to bring their assignments to the next meeting, if not before. Don’t end a meeting with people walking out confused and feeling used.
Now, it’s hard to lead good meetings. It’s difficult to change people’s minds and convince them that meetings aren’t inherently evil. But one step at a time, it can be done. If you’re consistently leading meetings in some of these ways, you will quickly establish a new culture. People may not necessarily ever love that pesky 7-letter-word, but they can grow to respect its place and necessity in ministry if it’s done well.