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Meetings.

Oh the word itself unleashes a torrent of reactions.  I don’t think I need to even list them here.

I have met very few people who love to go to meetings.  Most people hate them with a vengeance.  I suspect there have been thousands of articles and books written on how to have an effective meeting, or why meetings are important, or some other thing on the mechanics of meetings.

Here’s a pretty good article on why the workday is full of meetings.  The author seems to be on target.

But what about meetings at church?  I haven’t seen too many article about this.  Maybe I haven’t been looking hard enough, or maybe it’s just a topic no one wants to deal with.  Regardless, I thought I would tackle it here today.  I can hear your reaction now – “Oh boy, this sounds like a thriller article, can’t wait!!!”

And that right there gets at the heart of the whole issue.  Meetings have become a burden on organizations and especially churches.  Very few people enjoy them or even look forward to them.

Here’s a few things that we need to weigh into the conversation.  1. Information has to be passed to other people in the organization.  Meetings have been the “traditional” avenue that this has happened for quite some time.  2. Decisions have to be made and usually a bunch of people need to be/should be involved in the decision-making and the decision-making process.  3. Most people hate going to meetings because the “right” information doesn’t get shared and decisions are typically put off because no one wants to take the risk and all of the this takes a really, really, long time.

Now, of course I’m speaking in generalities here.

So what’s a church to do?  You’ve got options, believe it or not.

1. Fiddle with the length of time of the meeting – Someone wrote a comment on another article about meetings that read –

I always liked Jimmy Carville and Paul Begala’s take from Buck Up, Suck Up… and Come Back When You Foul Up:

“Absent a major peace negotiation, a complicated merger or a complex legal settlement, there is no reason on earth to have any meeting last more than thirty minutes. (James would say ten, but he has a chronically short attention span.)”

You know the idea behind this – people will fill the time allowed.  So if an hour is allotted, the meeting will last an hour, but it may not have useful parts.  This may prove useful to a church, but it can also come with its own challenges – try to get volunteers to committees whose meetings are very short. The perception is that they are not needed because the meetings are short.  “Why drive all the way in to church if the meeting is so short.”  It’s a valid concern if the definition of getting stuff done is attached to the word meeting.

2. Have a clear agenda.  Again, nothing new here.  If you are leading a meeting, then have an agenda and stick to it.  It keeps things focused.  The challenge here is whose agenda is it, what about new ideas?  Who is involved?  Etc.  Again, the idea of an agenda=work done is key here.

3. Redefine terms – like meeting, work, getting stuff done.  Why do we equate getting stuff done with meetings when hardly anyone actually buys into that notion?  I’m not talking about fiddling with words or coming up with new words for the same thing – like saying we’re going to have a huddle when what you really mean is a meeting.  No, I’m talking about being honest about your situation.  If something needs to be done, but it sucks, then be honest about it.  Not everything has to be fun and games.  Then again, also be honest with yourself in examining if there are better ways to do things than going to the old standby – holding a meeting.  You might want to ask yourself this question – what are we trying to accomplish here?  What’s the bottom line?  Maybe the bottom line is that a decision needs to me made about something in worship.  Great.  First, you’ve identified what the whole thing is about.

Next step, what and who are necessary and sufficient to make this decision.  Maybe it doesn’t require a meeting.  Why would a meeting be necessary?  Discussion?  Are we just delaying and hoping that someone else will stick their neck out and take the risk of making a decision?  Sharing reports?  Could the reports be shared some other way?  If no one reads the reports, then why is the organization doing them?  Could they be done differently so that they are actually useful?  Who would they be useful to and in what way?

I’ll be honest, I don’t like meetings.  I have led meetings.  Some have been good and some have sucked big time.  Some times I was restricted in how to run the meeting too – that’s a whole other challenge.

I also recognize that sometimes a meeting is essential.  But in most cases it’s not.  It’s something that we have resigned ourselves to doing routinely whether it is needed or not.  It becomes a part of the schedule.

What I’m doing is to challenge you, dear reader.  Instead of starting with the meeting as the foundation, change the foundation to something different – Answer these simple questions – What’s important to accomplish?  What’s the appropriate tool to accomplish it right now?  A meeting is a tool.  It’s not the foundation.  It’s a tool, just like e-mails, reports, phone calls, social media, snail mail, advertising, paper, pens, computers, etc.  Use the right tool for the right job and it works well.

Churches are in a unique position and can remember that they are a bit unique and different from other organizations because they are about communicating God’s grace and love to people.  Jesus did this in a variety of ways.  He used a variety of tools to accomplish this.  And sometimes he even had meetings to do this. But many times, it wasn’t through meetings.