By Brian Boyles
There is nothing quite like sitting through a horrible meeting. Like me, you’ve likely wasted hours sitting around a conference table when you could easily could have been doing something much more productive.
Serving in ministry usually requires time spent in meetings. If you’re the one expected to lead the meeting, the pressure is on you to make it productive and efficient. While there are a number of ways to make a meeting productive and efficient, there are also a number of ways to ensure that you actually ruin a meeting.
It doesn’t matter if you’re leading a meeting filled with paid staff members, or one filled with volunteers. A meeting can be ruined no matter who is in it, because a bad meeting is the fault of the one who leads it.
Avoid these five failures, and you give yourself a better chance of success as you lead your team to greater productivity and efficiency.
1. Show up without an agenda.
This will communicate to the people you’re leading that you’ve put little to no thought into the meeting. This means that the conversation is almost guaranteed to meander, wasting everyone’s time and possibly never coming to any sort of conclusion.
This will be worse if people on your team know what a well-run meeting looks like. Some of the teams you lead are likely to include people who work in highly productive organizations. They may work in the secular field and they understand the value of time.
An agenda communicates the purpose and goals of the meeting. If you show up without an agenda that has been thought out, written out, and printed out, your team is wise enough to know that the meeting has likely been ruined before it even started.
2. Cover too many topics in a single sitting.
It’s understandable to want to accomplish a lot in one meeting. You may tell yourself that one meeting is better than two, so you become tempted to cram twice as much content or discussion into the meeting as you should.
But if you do this, the meeting will be ruined. A well-run meeting keeps a certain pace that allows each topic to be covered without rushing through it too quickly. The goal of a meeting is not to see how much can be covered; rather, the goal is to actually accomplish something.
It’s much better to only cover one topic if, at the end of the meeting, you can all agree that you accomplished something as a result of the meeting. If you want to ruin a meeting, try to cover too many topics.
3. Focus only on the past.
This happens a lot in ministry meetings when you spend the entire time discussing reports of what happened in the past—even as recently as the previous weekend activities. This is a common type of meeting where each person shares a report of how many people attended last Sunday, how many volunteers showed up, and how many spots need to be filled.
It’s not that this information isn’t helpful; it’s that this type of meeting does nothing to improve the culture of the ministry, or achieve any sort of goal. Instead, send out that information the day before the meeting in an email.
Then, spend the time around the table discussing solutions to improve the ministry, or how to improve the culture of the ministry, or how to better disciple the people in the ministry.
However, if your goal is to ruin the meeting, just spend the whole time discussing what happened last week.
4. Don’t focus on individual contributions.
If a meeting and no one knows what he or she is supposed to do as a result of the meeting, then it will probably result in a waste of time. Instead, each time you come to the end a meeting, make it personal. Each attender needs to be personally involved in the solution.
Assign each person a task to accomplish. I like to do a sort of “pop-quiz” at the end of each meeting where I ask each person to explain what we are going to do and why we are going to do it.
Clarity and purpose are powerful tools for an effective ministry. Until these two are clearly articulated by each person, the meeting is not over. Otherwise, the meeting will be ruined.
5. Disregard the budget.
A fifth way to ruin a meeting is to give no thought to a budget amount that can be dedicated to the solution. I call this the price tag. Most solutions come with a price tag, so it is always better to know up front how much can be spent.
In ministry, few things are more frustrating than being over budget. God has given each ministry an amount of money to steward. If you consistently spend more than the ministry has, people will begin to think you can’t be trusted with a budget and they will be less likely to give to that ministry in the future.
I once worked in a ministry that seemed never to have any money to put toward any problem. However, we found that if we put enough thought into it, God would lead us to a solution within the budget we had.
Whenever we identified a problem to solve, one of the first questions we would ask in the meeting is what budget we could put toward the solution. But, if you want to ruin a meeting, and a ministry, ignore your budget and spend money frivolously.
To make your ministry meetings more meaningful and effective, there are some simple words to remember. You’ve likely noticed throughout this article I emphasized a key word under each of the five items: purpose, pace, past, personal and price tag.
Next time you’re planning time with your ministry staff or volunteers, remember the five p’s—you’ll be far less likely to ruin the meeting.
BRIAN BOYLES (@brian_boyles) is the Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church of Snellville, Georgia and serves as a consultant for Revitalized Churches.