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Death By Meetings

Churches are notorious for meetings. We actually have meetings in order to plan meetings!

I am sure this can be true in just about every professional setting. Meetings can be a problematic. Too many meetings. Unproductive meetings. Boring meetings.

People, as busy enough as they are, don't want to go to meetings just for the sake of going to meetings. And since, in the church, most of the people we work with are volunteers, as a leader, you have to work extra hard on making meetings worthwhile when you have them. Because since you don't pay volunteers you can't order them to come to the next meeting you call.

Here are some helpful thoughts and tips that I have discovered to help avoid, "Death by Meetings".

Be judicious with meetings!

I try to only call meetings with my volunteers and leaders only when I have to. And most of the meetings that I do call are well planned and scheduled in advance. Try not to spring too many last minute, emergency meetings on people.

Know why you are meeting.

What do you want to accomplish? What are your anticipated outcomes? If you don't know the answers to those questions, then you don't need to meet! To often we think that if people just meet together than productivity will ignite. Not true! You must plan and prepare before you meet. Review past notes and information before you meet. Don't wing meetings. Have an agenda to guide your time and to forecast for the participants where you are going and what you intend to accomplish.

Infuse value into your meetings.

What you invest into your current meeting opportunities will produce dividends for future meetings. If your meetings are engaging, purposeful and productive then people will see value in them. If your meetings help move the church or organization toward it's greater vision than people will see value in them. And if people see the value of your time together, they are more likely to carve out time and make future investments to meet.

Not all things can be accomplished in meetings.

Meetings don't always produce the best environments for new ideas and creativity!
MSNBC has an interesting article titled “Meetings make us dumber, study shows“. Here’s the point that really deserves to be noticed:
"The researchers speculate that when a group of people receives information, the inclination is to discuss it. The more times one option is said aloud, the harder it is for individuals to recall other options…"
Meetings aren't always the best incubators for new ideas and creative thinking. New ideas and creativity are often cultivated in environments of play or quiet reflection.

Think through creative alternatives to face-to-face meetings.

I have tried different ways to interact with groups of people without necessarily having to set up another face-to-face meeting. Sometimes what you may need to accomplish doesn't require everyone to be in person. You can try to use:

Conference calls

Online chat and web conferencing

Collaboration tools

What you do after the meeting is just as important.

Try padding a meeting with 15 to 30 minutes of follow up time. This means that after a meeting have time blocked out to review your action steps, follow through on quick/easy actions such as email, and plan out your necessary projects and next steps. In order to do this it will mean that you can't allow yourself to schedule back to back meetings throughout your day. You are going to have to allow your schedule the margin to reflect, process and follow-through from your meetings in order for them to be the most effective.


Great post Bill...packed with value

Thanks for the post. My issues with meetings always come back to who the chair is. Is the meeting going on too long? Leader issue. Is it lacking focus? Leader issue. Are decisions not being made? Leader issue. I have experienced few chairs who can balance building a team; attending to the agenda in good time; and moving the items forward all in the one meeting.

It can be done!

With way too much experience with meetings from work, the last thing I want to do is bog my discretional time down with them. I tend to get particularly exasperated when they are run far less efficiently than the work variety too. Without clear agendas, without prep work. They should be a forum for hashing out decisions, not introducing everything under the sun. That can be done via other means. Let's save them for what can't be done any other way.

True, Matt...with so many online collaborative tools and phone, email...meeting should used judiciously.

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