Develop a Rhythm and Understand Why
Over the last few weeks the recurring theme of the conversations that I have been having revolves around church staff meetings. Inevitably, when the subject comes up, there is an audible groan along with some weeping and gnashing of teeth. There seems to be a common perception that meetings have to be boring, unproductive, and awkward. This shouldn't be... especially if we are talking about ministry.
If this describes your thoughts on your current meetings, you probably need to stop reading this and go buy a copy of Patrick Lencioni's Death by Meeting. This is a great tool that I have taken my teams through in the past as a way to help us rethink why we meet, what our meetings should be, and to develop a healthy rhythm and structure for our meetings. If you are curious, here is the rhythm that I have used with my teams in the past:
- Daily: Morning Stand-Up: This is a quick meeting, ten minutes tops. Our team would take about a minute each to share the big things that they were working on that day. We would then take a few minutes to pray together before going about our days. This meeting was done standing, in order to encourage brevity. The only deviation to this rhythm was on Monday mornings where we each would share something worth celebrating from Sunday morning. Two very important things to remember about stand up meetings:
- The leader sets the tone: This is an informational meeting. This is not a place to pontificate or correct. Use the time immediately after the gathering to clarify, correct, or critique a teammate's plan. A savvy leader will lead the way in this meeting by keeping their own sharing to 60 seconds or less.
- Attendance is encouraged: This is a daily meeting where attendance is encouraged, but not required. Sometimes a teammate has an overlapping meeting, an issue that needs to be dealt with during that time block. Missing an occasional stand up is not world-ending. However, a regular pattern of skips needs to be addressed.
- Weekly: Tactical Team Meetings: These meetings were specific to the different functional areas of the church: ministry environments, operations, and Sunday morning. In each of these meetings, we would focus on reaching the strategic goals set for each area, identifying trouble spots, and keeping an eye on the metrics that help define whether we are accomplishing our goals or not. These meetings were weekly in rhythm and lasted an hour.
- As Needed: There were two types of meetings that were on an as-needed basis:
- One on One Developmental: Each of my direct reports had a regular rhythm for one on one meetings. The frequency depended on the person and what made the most sense for them. Some of my team met with me weekly, others twice a month, and some once a month. The agenda for these meetings was set by the person that I was meeting with and was sent to me the day before, so that I could be prepared to add value.
- Ad Hoc Tactical: During the course of our weekly tactical meetings it would become apparent that an issue needed to be discussed more in-depth than we had time for in that meeting. The answer was to set another time to have that conversation with all concerned parties. This helped honor the time of everyone in the weekly tactical meetings by ensuring that they were not drug into a discussing that was not relevant to their ministry area.
- Monthly: All-Staff Developmental Meeting: Once a month, our entire team would meet together for an informal lunch, a time of prayer, and staff development. This was typically a discussion based on a book or article that we were reading together. The idea is to think together, develop a common language, and to strengthen the skills and abilities of your team in a safe place. Here are some books that I have used for these in the past.
This isn't a one-size-fits-all blueprint for meeting success. Adapt this as needed for your context, or completely disregard it. Regardless of what you do, there are two things that your team needs in order for any meeting rhythm to be successful:
- A Clear Why: Why does this meeting exist? Clearly articulating the purpose behind a meeting will help your team prepare and actively participate in the meeting. Ambiguous meetings or meetings that regularly veer away from its primary purpose are meetings that help no one.
- Consistency: Regardless of your rhythm, stick to it. Frequent cancellations, disruptions, and a lack of a consistent pattern during the meeting will diminish the meeting's effectiveness.