You can lead a ministry team meeting at church that people love to come to.
You scoff? You doubt that people would ever love a board meeting or a committee meeting?
Granted, we’re not usually eager meeting-goers. Meetings at church, like in the business world, have a bad reputation. They can be the archetypal waste of time.
People may show up at your meetings because they love Jesus and they are committed to ministry. Then again, they’re volunteers, and they can skip it if it’s not worth their time.
So what’s a church leader to do? How can you lead successful meetings?
I have good news for you. Leading a good meeting is a leadership skill and you can get good at it.
You can be the leader who leads meetings that people don’t skip. Your meetings can build enthusiasm and momentum. Things get done and things get better after your meetings.
Now pick a meeting that you lead to have in mind as you read this article.
Here are 9 things you need to know about leading a fantastic ministry team meeting.
Let’s break it down into three chunks: preparing for the meeting, leading the meeting, and following up after the meeting.
A good meeting begins with good preparation.
1. Decide on the purpose for your meeting and the desired outcomes.
If you have in mind a meeting that’s been on the calendar since Noah built the ark, you may think the purpose is to keep the deacons at the same table and the desired outcome is to avoid bloodshed.
But I know you can do better than that.
Having a clear purpose sets you up for a productive meeting. Knowing your desired outcomes shows you the decisions you must make and the action items that will need follow through.
2.Write an agenda.
An agenda format is pretty standard, but I like the words Michael Hyatt & Company use for their agenda headlines.
The first section is Basic Information.
This includes the meeting title, the date and time, meeting participants, and key roles like meeting leader, timekeeper, note taker, or admin facilitator.
The next section is the Meeting Purpose.
This is where you write down why you have invited this group of people to this place for this allotted time.
Hyatt reminds us to be thoughtful and specific because this is how you measure the success of your meeting.
Thomas Kayser, in his book Mining Group Gold, recommends that a regular staff meeting always has the same purpose: “to share and process information on topics of mutual interest to the entire staff.”
The third, and biggest, section of your agenda is the Program.
This is where you list the agenda items and budget your time.
Don’t be sloppy and scratch out a few topics with a name jotted next to each. That’s not enough preparation to be truly productive.
Instead, you want to think through the flow of your meeting, give the players time to prepare, and know what you want to accomplish.
1. Start by grouping items that are just about sharing information people need to know. Give enough time to run through those items quickly.
You may want to start the meeting with a section called “Around the Table”. It’s a chance for each person to engage by saying what they’re doing as it pertains to the whole group.
2. Then move to items that will require some discussion, but no decision-making. Give each item 5 or 10 minutes, then move on.
3. Then tackle a few bigger topics that need some time for the group to process the information. Each of these topics should have a Desired Outcome.
For example, think about the Board talking about the budget. There may be some lively discussion as they process the pros and cons. The Desired Outcome is that the budget is improved and approved.
3. Send the agenda to the attendees at least two days before the meeting.
I used to hesitate to send the agenda ahead of time because I was afraid it made it easier for people to decide not to come.
That’s just chicken.
Seeing the agenda early shows people they can trust that the meeting will be a valuable use of their time. It builds anticipation, shows them what they’ll miss if they don’t come, and gives introverts time to think about what they think about it.
Besides, it’s unprofessional not to send an agenda beforehand. Your volunteers get meeting agendas ahead of time for their meetings at work. Your early agenda will impress them and make them love being on your team even more.
4. Set the table for your meeting.
Pick the best room in the church for your meeting. The surroundings matter.
Set up the right size table. You want everyone seated around one table.
- One large round table seats 6-8.
- Two 8′ table pushed together seat 10-12.
- Three 8′ tables pushed together seat 14-16. If you have more than that, it’s not a meeting, it’s an event.
(Side note: For every person over 7 at your meeting, your productivity goes down 10%. It’s called the Rule of 7. Think about that for a minute: 8 people are 90% as effective as 7; 9 people are 80% as effective. By the time you’ve got 15 people at your meeting, the outcome is predicted to be 20% as effective as convening a table of 7.)
Set a place for each person with the agenda, a church pen, and a bottle of water before the meeting begins.
If you can, ask an admin to set up for your meeting. According to Michael Hyatt, it’s better for you to separate your role as leader from the role of meeting admin.
Now you’re ready for your meeting to begin.
A good meeting blossoms under good leadership.
5. Start and end with a bang.
If your team is happy and excited at the beginning and the end of the meeting, they will remember an enjoyable meeting.
You can start with a surprise: a small gift sitting on their agenda, or a drawing for a gift card, or an announcement of good news.
The chatting and joking as people arrive makes them feel comfortable.
You can maximize the interpersonal capital by spending a few minutes around the table with each person sharing their high and low since you last met.
Another good opener is for each person to pull out a coin and share two things that happened in their life in the year that coin was minted.
Ask someone to open your meeting in prayer. Choose someone you know will feel comfortable and will invite Jesus to join you at the table.
End your meeting with an extended time of prayer for the topics you discussed, the decisions you made, and for the needs of the people around the table.
6. Lead a Good Discussion
You’re a good discussion leader when you don’t dominate the meeting with your will and presence, but you ask questions, talk less, and listen with curiosity.
You encourage people to say what they’re thinking and add their ideas to the conversation.
Meaningful discussion can come with a little heat because people have different opinions and they care about the outcome. Don’t stifle the heat, but also don’t allow it to blow up into anger. Affirm their passion on the topic and your team’s ability to find the best outcome. Give them space to find the win-win solution.
One more tactic in leading a good discussion is to keep on track when someone starts to lead the conversation over to another topic. Say, “That’s a good observation and we should talk about it, so let’s save it for another time, and stay on track with this topic today. Sound fair?”
Your skill in leading a productive discussion will grow each time you try. Think about the discussion for a minute after the meeting to see what went well and what you want to handle differently next time.
7. Avoid Annoying Meeting Behaviors (AMB)
There is a long list of things people do at meetings that irritate and frustrate others.
Here are a few of the most popular:
- Not showing up
- Coming late
- Taking phone calls
- Checking email
- Side conversations
- Not taking notes
- Over talking
- Being unprepared
- Not engaging
- Getting off track
- Leaving early
You may have others to add to this list.
If these behaviors are evident at your meetings, you need to address them. They drag your meeting, and your team, down.
When you talk about them, you create a better atmosphere in your meetings, and you’ll win the respect of the people in the room who don’t participate in AMBs.
Teach your Team to Avoid AMBs
Just like leading a meeting is a learnable leadership skill, so is attending a meeting.
In a team building agenda item (as opposed to a tell-’em-what-you-really-think rant), you can coach your team to avoid AMBs.
Get the download at the end of this article for a staff training lesson plan on avoiding annoying meeting behaviors.
A good meeting requires follow up.
8. Everyone leaves knowing their action items.
Steve Jobs called it the DRI – the Directly Responsible Individual. It’s the person who is directly responsible for any follow up related to an agenda item.
We like to wrap up our meetings by having each person say what they will do and when it will be done. Everyone has to think it through and own it, and everyone at the table hears what people are committing to do.
Send meeting notes within 24 hours to everyone at the meeting, and others who should know, listing the main points of discussion, the action items and the Directly Responsible Individual.
9. Leave time between meetings to do the work.
I know. Some days are meeting days and you go from one meeting to the next.
You’re smart to group your tasks. That’s what the time management gurus tell us. But did they mention you should allow time to follow up after your meetings?
You need a few minutes to send an email, make a phone call, or put a date on your calendar. You need to block off time to work on a project, or to capture ideas and decisions, or to make a note to follow up on a delegated action item.
Avoid the overwhelm that comes from a day of meetings with no time to work by scheduling a few minutes between meetings, or a chunk of time at the end of the day, to move forward on what happened in your meetings.
You’ll feel on top of your work – and your life – if you spend a few minutes on meeting follow up.
Ready to develop your leadership skill in planning, leading, and following up after meetings? Absolutely!
- Do you Know the 3 Unspoken Promises Church Leaders Make?
- 8 Simple Practices to be a Better Leader and More Successful Pastor
- No Fail Meetings by Michael Hyatt
- Mining Group Gold by Thomas Kayser
Hal Seed is the founding and Lead Pastor of New Song Community Church in Oceanside, CA. Hal mentors pastors to lead healthy, growing churches. He offers resources to help church leaders at www.pastormentor.com.
Start Here to learn more about the resources available for you at PastorMentor.