Church leadership is important. Incredibly important. It only follows that church leadership meetings—whether it be the meetings of elders, church staff, deacons, or committees—are also highly important. There is no formula, code, or secret for holding amazing church leadership meetings. The success of a meeting, a leadership team, or a church is dependent upon God. There are, of course, common sense measures we can take as we conduct our church leadership meetings. So here, in no particular order are ten things you can do to have the best church leadership meeting.
- Have a really good leadership team. Okay, so this first one is not exactly something that you can easily check off the list as you prepare for the next meeting. But we need to mention it. A meeting is only as good as the people attending it. Realize that a variety of personalities, thinking styles, professions, and backgrounds are important for a good church meeting. If everyone thought the same way, the meeting would be disastrous.
- Have the meeting at the right time. Like it or not, we’re living in a hyper-busy society. We all have places to go, things to do, people to see. A church leadership meeting takes time, so it needs to be at the right time. Try to avoid scheduling meetings during family time, down time, or sleeping time. You may have observed that the later a meeting goes, the more carnal people can become. Define a clear ending time for each meeting, and adhere strictly to that ending time. Meeting regularity is another key factor when considering timing. If you’re asking for a meeting every single week for your lay leadership, you may be asking too much. On the other hand, a monthly meeting may leave you with really long meetings and way too many agenda points. Be creative in how you schedule and structure your meeting. Find the time and regularity that works best for your particular group of people.
- Have a definite agenda. A church leadership meeting will quickly degenerate into a sanctified social session unless you have an agenda. Create a complete meeting agenda with a realistic number of talking points, and distribute that to the meeting attendees ahead of time. That way, each member of the leadership team will have plenty of time to look the agenda over and perhaps give some thought to the items on it.
- Have some food. Food helps. Coffee, too. As totally unspiritual as it sounds, a person’s mood fluctuates (bad or good) based on the amount of food in their system. Maybe it’s just me, but I can think better, talk better, and meet better if there are some refreshments going down. Serve coffee (good, strong coffee). Somehow, it helps improve the atmosphere and amp up the brainpower. Although food is important, don’t go overboard. There is a danger with having meetings at places like all-you-can-eat buffets or other restaurants. A deacon’s meeting at the Golden Corral could be counterproductive.
- Have prayer. Prayer is essential. To neglect the lifeline of communication between our little human meeting and the ultimate Sovereign of the universe is foolish and shortsighted. Prayer not only humbles us into the proper position before our Lord, but it also is the God-appointed means of obtaining wisdom (James 1:5-8). Keep in mind, of course, that a meeting is a meeting, not a prayer meeting. You should definitely schedule leadership prayer meetings during which the majority of the time is devoted to prayer. Never neglect prayer in any of your meetings, but maintain a semblance of your objective for the scheduled time. Keep in mind that we should being praying at all times (1 Thes. 5:17), even during boring discussions of the number of rocking chairs you need for the nursery.
- Have clear leadership in the meeting. Regardless of your church polity, there should be some recognized authority in a meeting, be it a chairperson, a moderator, a pastor, or a president. Someone has to open the meeting, close the meeting, and help the meeting move along. Without the presence of a clear director, a church leadership meeting will easily slip into an aimless jabber session. The leader doesn’t need to be a dictator. He merely needs to open the meeting, move on to agenda items, delegate action items, and close the meeting.
- Have an open playing field for discussion. While recognizing the necessity of leadership, we must also recognize the importance of a level playing field. Meetings are fascinating studies in human behavior. All kinds of intriguing things are going on: body language, tacit power maneuvers, noticeable silence, filibuster attempts, the awkward presence of unstated issues, or someone spilling their coffee. And then there’s the guy that is always falling asleep. Whatever unique dynamic your meeting takes, it is important that people feel free to express their opinions, pose their questions, raise their issues, approach a disagreement, and venture a suggestion. No idea is stupid. No one is a mere silent observer. All should weigh in without feeling the pressure—spoken or unspoken—of censure, judgment, or condescension. Ensure that the atmosphere is positive and edifying.
- Know what is out-of-bounds. A lot goes on in church meetings that is really confidential. A church leadership meeting is often the place to discuss individuals, events, and reports that should never be broached in a public setting. The fact that church leaders are privy to privileged information does not mean that the Bible’s words on gossip don’t apply. Draw the line at unnecessary rumors, slighting speech, malicious stories, or any kind of chatter that denigrates human dignity and disregards biblical guidelines. Nothing kills the atmosphere and effectiveness of a meeting like slipping into the sin of evil speech.
- Have some fun. should not disintegrate into a social party. A meeting can be fun. A meeting should be fun, or at least not dour, oppressive, and depressing. Don’t squelch the occasional humorous comment (appropriately placed, of course). Some church leadership meetings that I was part of had little games and friendly contests among the deacons that helped alleviate the Senate Session atmosphere and infuse the meeting with a bit of laughter and mirth. I’m all about that.
- Make action plans. A meeting is an exercise in wasted time unless something comes of it. A meeting should conclude with more than a stomach full of coffee cake. It should conclude with a clear sense of movement. The way that happens is through action plans. Each agenda item should be accompanied with an obvious decision of some sort. For example, if the agenda item was “Widow Smith’s window is broken,” then the agenda might be, “Deacon Tony will call Widow Smith on Tuesday afternoon, and schedule a time to go and fix it with Carpenter Clark.” Often agenda items are a bit fuzzy or vague. For example, an agenda item may be: “Talk about our lousy sound system.” The action items may be: “Elder Fred will price new speakers. Pastor Aaron will talk to his sound engineer friend to get a price quote for a sound system analysis.” Of course, an action item may very well be: “Wait. Talk about this in our meeting on the 22nd.”
That’s just a starter list of ways that you can improve your church leadership meetings. Have any more suggestions?