Many feel Church Leadership Meetings are a waste of time. But if you follow these rules, then you will have more effective Church Leadership Meetings.
Rule 1: Think About the Frequency of Your Meetings
Reflect on how many Church Leadership Meetings your church needs. If you hold them too often, leaders become weary of the time they take up. They stop attending, or at least skip some of them. My experience is that quarterly, rather than monthly, Church Leadership Meetings are enough to meet most church needs.
Rule 2: Practice “Meetings before the Meeting”
Ensure you have discussed major or potentially controversial issues with your key leaders before the Church Leadership Meeting. It gives you time to reflect on the issue and any feedback you receive before the meeting. You have the opportunity to change your actions if necessary, before the meeting.
You should also ask your Church Leaders (and where appropriate, your Church Members) for any agenda items before you issue the agenda. This ensures they own the agenda as much as you do and to avoid hours of Any Other Business (see Rule 6 below).
Rule 3: A Short Devotional
Remember the purpose of your Church Leadership Meeting! Now is not the time to embark on a Bible study, give a sermon or start a prayer meeting! The purpose is to deal with your church business. So, start with a devotional, but keep it short. No more than five minutes. The church leaders around your table should be getting enough time with the Word on Sundays, Bible study and daily devotionals.
Rule 4: Create and Prioritise an Agenda
Don’t have a meeting without an agenda. An agenda is essential for setting out the topics the meeting will cover, the purpose for discussing each of them and the time limit for each item.
One of the most important things you can do towards effective Church Leadership Meetings is to alert attendees in advance about what they should think about before the meeting. Tell them what preparation (e.g. reading) they need to do and what they are going to be asked to consider at the meeting. For meetings I chair I produce an agenda that lists the items for discussion in priority order. For each item, I list the purpose for discussing it (e.g. review, advice, decision), what participants should reflect on before the meeting (e.g. consider the effectiveness of a recent Event), what they will be expected to discuss during that agenda item (e.g. to advise on any changes that should be made to a future, similar Event) and a time limit for the discussion.
Rule 5: Be Disciplined about Time
Speaking of time limits, be disciplined about your time. Nothing turns off participants in a Church Leadership Meeting more than a meeting they presume will take two hours taking three or four! Start on time. It’s the only way to be fair to those who turn up to the meeting on time. If you wait for those who are often late, then you encourage others to turn up late too. They know that you won’t have started at the stated start time.
Finish on time too. Rule 6 below will help a great deal with this. So will sticking to the allotted time for each agenda item. If an issue needs a longer discussion, consider fixing a meeting to discuss just that issue. Or you could postpone completing the discussion to your next meeting. You can give more time on the agenda for it then.
Rule 6: Banish Matters Arising
Although you should review the Minutes of your last meeting and ensure participants completed the Actions Items (see below), do not start your agenda with “Matters Arising from the Meeting on …”. In my experience, that’s a recipe for discussing the same items repeatedly, ad infinitum. You end up postponing the latest items for discussion at the end of the meeting for lack of time.
If you hold over an issue from one meeting to another, list it on the agenda in priority order, as you do for every other agenda item.
Rule 7: Ban Any Other Business
This might just be the most important way of ensuring effective Church Leadership Meetings: do not allow Any Other Business as an agenda item! I have lost count of the number of Church Leadership Meetings that have been productive and helpful. Then, just as the meeting is about to end on time, the Chair says, “is there any other business?”. Suddenly the meeting becomes twice as long as expected!
In my experience Any Other Business is often a lazy way of ensuring participants can discuss issues they feel the Church Leadership should be looking at (see Rule 2 above for an effective alternative). Or AOB is the place for the Chair to include matters they forgot about until after they’d issued the agenda.
If you really must include Any Other Business on your agenda (perhaps because it’s the type of meeting that deals with matters that might crop up between issuing the agenda and the meeting itself) then consider imposing a notice limit on them. For example, items for Any Other Business must be notified to the Chair no later than 24 hours before the meeting. Then have an agenda item at the top of the agenda (perhaps after Devotion and Apologies for Absence) to list the items of Any Other Business that will be discussed at the end of the meeting, along with time limits for each. That way participants know how much longer the meeting will go on for.
Rule 8: Review the Minutes and Action Items
At most Church Leadership Meetings, one of the first things participants do is to review or approve the Minutes of the last meeting. Sending out the Minutes of the last meeting with the agenda for the present one is good practice. This is despite the fact you should send them out shortly after the meeting they record (see Rule 9 below). It allows any participant who filed the copy sent after the last meeting and now can’t find it, the chance to see the wider context around the current meeting. It also ensures they have covered any actions points they were responsible for.
In addition, take time to review the action points agreed at the last meeting. Ensure they have been actioned or discuss the reasons why not, and look to set a date when they will be actioned. I currently sit on a Governing Board for a local junior school. Our clerk produces an Action List after every meeting, listing out the action points agreed. It makes it remarkably easy to tick them off (or otherwise) at the next meeting.
Rule 9: Take Short, Focused Minutes
Minutes are essential in making effective Church Leadership Meetings, even if there are only two participants. Minutes should record key decisions and action items in a short, focused way. This avoids misunderstandings in the future, can hold people accountable both for the decisions made and for the actions agreed, and allow you to track progress on any actions to be taken after the meeting. There is no need to record everything said in a discussion. If you make your Minutes available to the wider church membership, you may sometimes need to include the summary of a discussion so they can see all sides were aired and to provide context for the decisions made and actions agreed.
Rule 10: Agree Focused Action Items
Almost every agenda item in a meeting should lead to at least one action item. Make these as short and focused as possible. Begin with the verb: Decide, call, review, purchase, etc. Beginning with the verb adds an imperative to the action item: “Call Mr. Smith” has more momentum than “Mr. Smith to be called”. Specify exactly what will complete the action point. In the case of “Call Mr. Smith”, everyone can see that action point is completed when person responsible makes the call.
Agree on a due date. If you don’t do this, then more often than we’d like to admit, we postpone action points from one meeting to another. Adding a deadline, adds more imperative. “Call Mr. Smith by 31 January” doesn’t allow the person actioning it to simply put off the action until a few days before the next meeting, or, worse, until they’re reminded about what they agreed to do at the next meeting!
Finally, to avoid any misunderstanding, ensure you assign action points to one person only. Usually, this is obvious. You would ask just one person to call Mr. Smith. But even where you want more than one participant to do something (for example, you would like three of the meeting participants to review some paperwork), make one person responsible for organising and chairing that review. Otherwise, if the action item isn’t actioned, the temptation will be for those three participants to blame each other.
From Frustration to Effective Church Leadership Meetings
Many church leaders are frustrated by Church Leadership Meetings. That’s often because they’re long and unproductive. By following these rules, your Church Leadership meetings can carry out what you set out to do, make effective decisions and set up who is accountable for taking forward what you discussed.
Church Leadership Meetings are essential to the mission and ministry of your church. Effective Church Leadership Meetings go a long way to ensuring that mission and ministry are effective too.
If you want to know more about effective meetings, I highly recommend Michael Hyatt’s book, No-Fail Meetings.