Just saying the word causes some to sigh in gut-wrenching agony. Meetings. Our schedules are filled with them. Meetings to plan, pray, counsel, or be told how we have let someone down—or perhaps I am the only one who has had those. They may not be our favorite thing, but they are inevitable and necessary, and if done right, can be highly productive and create results.
One of the most important meetings you can have is a staff meeting. If you do not have a staff, it would be your leadership team, elders, or deacons. Meeting with the team that is responsible for vision, making decisions, planning events, and executing ministries is vital to the health and success of the church. In these meetings, the future and direction is decided, plans are made for ministries that will affect people’s lives, and tasks are assigned to assure everyone is using their gifts and strengths to execute the mission. These meetings are vital.
After ten years of pastoring, I am starting to learn the importance of having clear expectations and aims for meetings. I have found four clear purposes for a meeting: Evaluation, Clarity, Alignment, and Accountability.
- Evaluation — Are we achieving what we set out to achieve? Did we accomplish our goals? What went well? What went wrong? Why did it go wrong? How did each person on the team perform? Is there anything we need to do to follow-up? Should we do this again? Do we need to write a note, call, or meet with anyone to thank/commend them? These are the types of questions you ask when you are evaluating something.
- Clarity — What do we need to be running after this week, month, season, long-term? What does a win look like for us in this area/event/project? What issues are we anticipating? How do we plan to overcome those? Who needs to be involved? What elements will lead to success? These are the types of questions that bring clarity. A lack of clarity will always lead to mixed results.
- Alignment — After, or during, a meeting, does everyone know what THEY SPECIFICALLY need to do? Is anyone writing down those tasks or projects that affect them and their areas? Does everyone know how they are specifically supposed to be assisting in the overall direction? These are the questions that help bring alignment between individual schedules and task lists and the church’s mission and big picture objectives. Without alignment, lots of plans can be discussed, but nothing gets done, because nobody aligned their schedule and work to the discussed plan.
- Accountability — Many people consider accountability reactive instead proactive, but that is not the case. There is reactive accountability and making people take responsibility for their actions, but proactive accountability helps minimize the need for reactive accountably. When you align people’s schedules to the work, set deadlines, expectations, mile-markers, and track progress, accountability makes productivity soar.
At The Journey Church, where I pastor, we meet on Mondays and Wednesdays. Monday meetings are all-staff meetings and one-on-one meetings. I lead the all-staff meeting and seek to achieve two things: Evaluation and Clarity. We evaluate any events or ministry objectives that have taken place since our last meeting. These include a Saturday outreach, Sunday services, and other similar things. We ask what went well, what wins and stories we heard or witnessed, corrections that need to be made, and follow-ups that need to occur. Evaluation is vital to assess whether our goals were achieved. These staff meetings also give us clarity. We look at what things are coming, projects, evaluate progress, and clarify vision and goals for events. We discuss needs that exist and prioritize the objectives we need to be running after. The length of the meeting is one hour.
After our staff meetings, we (myself and/or our Executive Pastor) have one-on-one meetings with staff members. They are typically 15-20 minutes long. There are two goals for the meeting: Alignment and Accountability. We want each staff member to align their schedule, tasks, and priorities to fit the priorities of the team. This prevents silos from developing or people running after tasks that do not ultimately help us achieve our mission. These meetings also bring accountability. We set deadlines and insure ownership of a task or particular objective. This becomes a great management tool. If everyone has agreed upon where we’re going, who is responsible for each thing, and deadlines for achieving the tasks and goals, our productivity not only increases, but we quit dropping balls and goals get achieved due to everyone moving in the same direction.
We have all these meetings accomplished before lunch. This insures maximum time to get after our work. This requires me as the leader of the meeting to be clear about what I want to achieve in the meeting and prevent rabbit trails from extending our meeting. When someone brings up a valid question or important issue, but is not a subject to hash out in the staff meeting, I make a note and table the discussion. This allows for me to figure out who needs to be at a meeting around that subject at a later time.
This brings me to Wednesdays. Our first hour in the office is prayer time and leadership development. Following that time, we dedicate until lunch to have any extended planning time. If there is an event that needs to be planned, we do it then. If there is a leader presenting something he/she has been working on, they present it there. This Wednesday meeting does not involve every staff member, only those needed for the subject being discussed.
Evaluation, clarity, alignment, and accountability are crucial elements that keep meetings productive and increase results of the team. I have shared the days and times I meet with my staff, but I do not suggest copying our schedule. Adopt the principles and apply them to your church and/or ministry. Tell your team about these purposes. There is not valor or advantage in secrecy. Share these four things and clarify in your meetings which purposes you are aiming to fulfill. As a leader, fight to make sure you know which of these elements you are seeking to achieve when you meet with your teams. It may be the difference between success and frustration.