Instead of thinking that meetings are drudgery, consider them like football huddles, planning the action of the game. Then implementing that action that Christ has given!
Every church has meetings. So how should we do them? Some are formal. Others are leisurely and informal. Some are very skilled, with strict rules of order and procedures laid out so specifically that the meeting is the ministry. Other churches just may meet on a whim, ignoring procedures, trying to do damage control, and finding their way through the chaos.
In order to cultivate a living, growing church that is poured out to His purpose, there must be regular, organized planning times. These meetings are essential as are the reasons to have them. If you have them for the wrong reasons, strife and confusion will occur. If you have them for the right reasons, community and action will synergistically combine to serve the Lord!
Your church must never have meetings only for the sake of the meeting. For example, if you are on the evangelism committee, when you serve on that committee, you are doing evangelism. The meeting becomes the ministry, thus, no actual real ministry such as evangelism is done. Your focus as the leader is to realize and teach that the committee is like using a football huddle to plan the game. The game is the task that the committee is assigned to do. If you just meet in the huddle and then sit down afterwards with a satisfaction that you planned the game, but then forgot to play it, you will lose! It is the same with a committee. The committee is strategy and brainstorming in session to get the work done. It does not exist in of, or just for, itself! Therefore, when the evangelism committee meets, plan strategies of how to do and implement evangelism, and then go out to do it!
To prevent this "the committee is the ministry" mentality from strangling your church, there must be a clear and effective mission statement, clear on goals and duties. Training and encouragement, as well as supervision and accountability, need to be provided. (Ephesians 1:21-23; 3:10; 4:15; 5:23; Hebrews 10:19-25)
Have the meeting focused on the mission of the church, along with the meeting agenda. In addition, be in prayer for at least one-third of the time! It may be rough in the beginning, but the more it is done, the easier it becomes!
A typical meeting is an hour and a half a month. As additional focus and organizing occur, your meeting time will be shorter! This time should be reserved for most committees and teams. Some will need to meet more often and others, less often. Reserve a half-day per quarter for training and prayer, and a two or three day retreat each year to seek the Lord's Will in life and ministry. Consequently, the focus can be on God's Will, setting goals, and strategizing for the year. Your efforts will comply with His, and the goals of your call can be accomplished.
Meeting times are often wasted by not following agendas and by needless arguments. As a solution, have the agenda made out a week in advance and given to each member. Encourage members to consider what they will say along with their feedback and ideas before coming, and to be in prayer about it. Do not allow interruptions among the members. Insist on raised hands if necessary. Listen and encourage. When the mission and purpose of the church is clear in an atmosphere of prayer, most meeting problems are muted, and the meeting goes faster!
Principle Scriptures: Proverbs 11:27; Isaiah 23:3; 1 Corinthians 1:10; Philippians 1:3-7; 27; 2:20-21; 3:1-16; James 1:8.
Typical Meeting Schedule
3. Opener, statement of the church/ program from the pastor/ leader.
4. Mission: Spend a few moments going over the mission of the church and any denominational articles you have for the elders / goals/ team building/ vision & mission discussion, if you have not done it for the program meetings. Use this time for teaching leadership principles, and challenging one another in spiritual growth. Concentrate on how you can inspire one another, instruct one another, and build better relationships with one another!
5. Reports: First, briefly review notes of the last meeting. Then, have each team leader, and/or elder, give a report on his area of ministry. Keep it short--how it is going, the needs, what to pray for, any problems, and if they are brainstorming with the team on how to solve them.
6. Principle agenda and feedback: What needs to be accomplished. Do it orderly, and be prayerful as to how this will honor Christ and fulfill the objectives of the church!
7. Set goals: Once a quarter and on your retreats set goals and prioritize them. Brainstorm your thoughts and ideas of where you and your church will be in three to five years. Write them in each category and assign each a priority number of 1-10 for relative importance, then give them a target date to start.
8. Brainstorm and dream: In your regular planning and strategy meetings, brainstorm and dream about the future. Where are you and where do you need to go?
9. Learn to think big! Yet, be wise, patient, and except His timing. It is the nature of God to bless His people (I Chronicles 4:10; Ephesians 3:20-21)! Ask this question at least once a month:" If you knew for certain you would not fail, what would you do for the Kingdom of God and His service?"
10. Incorporate the feedback of others into your planning process. Make sure you are listening to the needs of the church and community while staying on a Biblical approach and course.
11. Close in Prayer: Spend one-third of your time here!
Other things to consider in your programs and meetings for effective planning before making major decisions: (1 Corinthians 14:40; Titus 3:2b)
1. Visualizing where you need to be, praying and searching the Scriptures for your answers.
2. What are you in faith, prayer, and worship?
3. Evaluate your present spiritual condition!
4. Determine appropriate faith goals for yourself, and keep one another accountable.
5. Have a clear sense of purpose for the meeting and the goals of the church accordance to Scriptural precepts!
6. Do not have a meeting unless you have a good reason or an agenda to cover, unless you are meeting for prayer. Remember, during the summer months, people are gone, so you may need to meet less often or not at all.
7. Follow the rules. Most meetings in the church and community in the US are run by Robert's Rules of Order (see our article on it or go to www.rulesonline.com). You should make this book your second best friend! Make sure everyone has a good working knowledge of these rules. They are simple and you can type out a condensed list that reflects your needs.
8. Be committed to clear and accurate communication, be open and honest, and do not have any hidden agendas or feelings! Your job as a leader is to build solid relationships and a cooperative climate!
9. Make sure everyone understands the importance of listening to one another!
10. Always speak to one another in love. Attack the problem, not the person. Attack the idea, not the motivation!
11. Listen to understand, and speak to be understood!
12. First person communication, not third person!
13. Agree to disagree!
14. Ask questions to clarify so as to better understand!
15. Everyone needs a clear job assignment and boundaries. Do not follow personalities, but rather focus on the issues!
16. Know when to break the rules. There are times when a teachable moment comes, so the pastor can preach a little during a business meeting. Use this only when necessary, and do not overdo it or spend too much time on it!
17. Sometimes, it is not a good idea for the pastor to be the moderator or leader of a meeting. The moderator, by definition, is to be moderate, and not a strong willed, overbearing personality. If you have an intimidating personality, people will be afraid to speak up, and they will lose interest and passion for the church. In addition, by not being the moderator, the pastor will have an extra lair of protection and accountability. The church can be seen as congregationally run and not a dictatorship. Look to your denominational guidelines. The pastor can still speak up and remind people of issues of the Word and issues of the mission of the church and issues of people's feelings. In addition, remember those teachable moments.
18. Have someone record notes/ minutes!
19. Have a clear time, place, and duration for the meeting that that is published at least one week in advance so everyone will know. If the meeting is for an emergency, make every effort to get in touch with everyone on the team/committee!
20. Have a system for positive procedures and decision-making (if you do not use Roberts Rules of Order), focusing on good attitudes. Most meetings will need to have a consensus for the decisions.
21. Stick with the agenda (unless moved by the Spirit and as a group agree to diverge) and keep to the policies and goals of your team. Keep the meetings running and moving and on time.
22. Encourage people to think through the best way to organize their presentations, discussions, and reports, preferably before they come.
23. Your goal is to create a win-win attitude atmosphere. Seek out your decisions with a consensus, not a compromise. Most compromises end up displeasing everyone! The secret of win-win is simply following the order and process, prayer, making clear presentations, and laying out options for a group decision/ consensus. Do not negotiate with one another before meetings for votes (you are not an Olympic French judge). These never lead to win-win scenarios in churches as it did in the Olympics setting.
24. Have people be committed then respect the decisions and do not subvert them later with gossip and in fighting!
25. Clarify needs and listen to as many people as you can.
26. Make sure your own manner is positive, relaxed, and poised!
27. Be committed to God's timing for events to happen. Do not rush people who are not ready.
28. A leader may need to suggest alternative procedures, or to table an item until next time if there is gridlock or lack of consensus.
29. Continue to develop and resource your leaders.
30. Have a system to manage conflict or the potential for conflict when feelings and agendas collide, or when people feel they are not being listened to!
31. Celebrate progress.
32. Be willing to make mid-course corrections.
33. Do not be afraid to revamp or even eliminate ineffective ministries.
34. Monitor church attendance and offerings weekly.
35. Beware of pride and political agendas!
36. Make sure the finances are "above board!"
37. Once a year, review and update your church's philosophy of ministry.
38. Make sure you orient your new leaders and committee people before the first meeting!
39. Publish condensed notes from the meeting for the upper church leadership/ pastors, and make them available for the whole church, and for elder meetings. They should be publicized in the church newsletter or other public forum. There should be no secrets unless when confidentiality is at stake.
40. Be aware that meetings can be the pivotal points in which the course of the church can be pushed in a good Godly direction, or derailed into Satan's meadow. The leader is the key in handling such situations. It is a delicate skill to be firm enough to put down ungodly agendas, pride, gossip, hypocrisy, and strife, while listening with a soft touch. This is what it means to be meek.
41. Evaluate your meetings with other leaders. Ask, "Did we get the results we wanted? Did we get it done the way we wanted to? Are the meetings productive or flat? Do we stray from the purpose?" Always keep in mind Biblical precepts and character!
42. Key words that destroy a meeting's effectiveness are personal attacks, gossip, pride, confusion, manipulation, abuse of power, bad communication, unclear roles, negative attitudes, wheel spinning, poor planning, personal agendas, no minutes, bad, or no procedures, avoiding problems, and refusing to handle conflict Biblically!
43. Key words that build up the effectiveness of a meeting: good agenda and procedures, focus on the issue, building of relationships, Godly direction, encouragement, dealing with problem personalities, setting boundaries, participation from everyone, listening, teamwork, and prayer!
44. Encourage everyone to be in intercessory prayer for one another!
Pastoral and/or Church Staff Meetings
Follow the same formula as above with these additions:
1. Set faith goals and establish priorities. Faith goals include where you need to grow, being sensitive to the supernatural, and being realistic. Make sure that goals are measurable. Prayerfully prioritize goals in accordance with God's will for life and ministry.
2. Challenge each person to read at least one book a month in the area of his or her ministry, along with something in another area of interest.
3. Once a month, challenge one another to consider areas of strengths, of weaknesses, and action steps for growing and/or improving in these areas: Personal, Family, Church, and Vocational. Remember, part of growth is failure, so allow people to fail, but make sure they are repentant, reticent to blame others, and willing to grow and learn from mistakes and setbacks.
4. Follow the procedures in the article, Church/Staff Conflicts.
Make sure you see the other articles following this primer as they all converge and synergistically combine to help you grow your church to glorify our Lord!