How to lead a meeting

It’s June, annual conference has come and gone, and programming is winding down in many of our churches.  You know what I think people like most about the summer?  Less church meetings!  This is the complaint I hear most frequently from lay people:  

I hate to attend meetings because it’s a waste of time.
Leaders aren’t prepared, and we never get anything done!

If there is one area where pastors have experience, it’s in attending meetings.  When my kids were young, they’d ask Gary and me every day, “Do you have a meeting tonight?”  If we said “yes,” which, admittedly, was more often than not, they’d sigh, roll their eyes and beg, “Can you last least come home before I go to bed?” 

I am convinced that we could vastly improve the quality of our church life and programming if we taught our leaders how to conduct a quality meeting, not to mention the fact that we’d all get home before our kids went to bed.  So here goes.

20 Ways to Lead a Great Meeting!

  1. Know the purpose of your committee.  If your committee does not have a formal mission statement, that should be your first item of business at your first meeting.
  2. Set goals and actions plans each year for your committee.  Know where you are going and how you are going to get there.   
  3. Prepare an agenda.  A meeting without an agenda is a recipe for disaster.  I hope I never have to attend another meeting where the leader says at the outset, “What do you want to do tonight?”
  4. Send the agenda out ahead of time.  If you can’t think of any agenda items, then cancel the meeting until you have business to discuss.  Ask committee members to send you agenda items at least a week ahead of time.
  5. Start and stop on time.  Getting out a little early is a gift.  Never go over the stated time!  If you do, no one will remember any of the good things that happened at the meeting.  
  6. Open the meeting with prayer and a brief devotion.  This will help committee members make the transition from the busyness of their day to the worshipful work of your committee.  Don’t forget to ask members to share prayer concerns before doing any business. 
  7. Let go of your biases.  Your job as a leader is to seek God’s will, not to inject your own opinions, predetermine the outcome of decisions, or lead the discussion in a certain direction. 
  8. Make sure someone is taking notes of the meeting.  It’s good practice to send out the minutes from the previous meeting as soon as possible after the meeting and then approve the minutes at the beginning of the next meeting. 
  9. Decide how decisions will be made.  Will you use Robert’s Rules of Order, informal voting, or discernment? 
  10. Communicate the importance of respectful conversation, careful listening and an open mind.
  11. If you are chairing a complex committee, put together notebooks for the members, complete with policies, procedures and past minutes.
  12. Encourage all members to give input.  Introverts don’t often think out loud, so they tend to speak last.  Be mindful of those who have not spoken, and do not allow certain people to dominate the conversation. 
  13. It’s your job to regulate the flow of the meeting.  Keep one eye on the agenda, the other eye on the clock, and the eye in the back of your head on the pulse of the group.
  14. No surprises!  Do not expect committee members to make a decision on an important item the first time they ever see it.  If you must make a decision that night, at least get the information to people ahead of time so they are prepared to discuss and discern wisely.
  15. Don’t let the agenda lead you.  You don’t always have to get everything done – use your intuition to change agenda items around to capitalize on interest, enthusiasm, and ebb and flow of energy.
  16. If things get tense, don’t hesitate to pause, take time for silent meditation, have a brief prayer, then resume conversation.
  17. Before finishing the meeting, review exactly what needs to be done by whom.
  18. Evaluate the effectiveness of your committee’s ministries regularly.  If you have programs that are no longer working, consider what might need to die in order for something new to emerge.

What Committee Members Want the Most

  1. Committee members want to know that their presence is valued.  That means that community building is more important than getting work done.  Get to know the people on your committee.  Find out what their hopes and dreams are.  Build a team.  Express gratitude and show appreciation continually.
  2. Committee members want to engage in transformative ministry and contribute in meaningful ways.   When we give committee members the opportunity to do great things, we unleash incredible energy and Holy Spirit power as people offer their gifts in amazing fashion.

I will continue to spend much of life in committee meetings.  Believing that committee work provides the avenue for synergistic, collaborative, courageous and inventive ministry, I will keep stressing the importance of good leadership, bold decision-making and caring fellowship in meetings.  And when I die, it’s okay to allow my children to put these words on my gravestone, “She’s at another meeting.”  I just hope it’s a good one! 



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