Let’s get to the point by naming the problem: Many church committee meetings don’t need to take place. Often, we leave a meeting, see a bumper sticker in front of us and think, “Yep, I’d rather be fishing, too.” I don’t even like fishing, but that would be better than some of these meetings.

People are gathering in the parking lot. Some are sharing the finer points of what they brought up during the committee meeting and others have the attention of the pastors or staff and are talking about things they didn’t get a chance to bring up. And what was gained? People shared the things that already taken place in the past. Committee members were invited to dedicate even more time to the ministry in multiple ways. And the person in charge of the meeting was the only one leaving with a bigger task list. 

It was you. You left with a bigger task list.

This occurs in all denominations in churches of all sizes with leaders of all skill levels. 

If this sounds familiar what follows might be of use to you. There is another way, a better way, that will allow each member of the team to value the time of the meeting, to be effective with their work, and to work in partnership with each other to accomplish something more than any one member could on their own. 

It starts with our approach. Approach your church committee meetings with these three things in mind: Take responsibility. Take charge. Ensure success. 

Take Responsibility

Meetings are most effective when we understand why we are meeting. What is each person’s role on the team or committee? What’s expected of those who are involved in the meeting? This means that there are a few things that need to happen before the meeting takes place.

The members of the team need to have:

  1. A clear job description or list of tasks that they are responsible for.
  2. A reason or purpose that the team has been established.
    • Is the team responsible for dreaming, goal-setting, and the future of the ministry?
      • If so, let’s be clear and state that that’s the reason the team is gathering.
  3. A detailed agenda that you follow for each meeting that will help create rhythm and set expectations for the meeting.

Need an agenda for your church committee meetings?
Check out this one.

When each of these is in place, you’ve taken responsibility. 

Take Charge

Most of the meeting should take place outside of the meeting rather than during. Here’s what that means. Between the meetings, there are a few things that need to happen: 

  1. Tasks Under Way: The chairperson should check in on each member of the team. Did they accomplish their task? If so, add that note to the agenda in a section called “Updates.” If they didn’t, still note the the current progress in updates. Do they have a question that needs to be answered? Whatever the response is, add it to the agenda.
  2. Completed Tasks: If their task is complete, then we’re asking if they’re ready to take on the next thing (whatever that might be…). Add the new task to the agenda in a section titled “Assignments.” By avoiding having these discussions during the meeting, you reserve time for the things that need the attention of the whole team. 
  3. Incomplete Tasks: If the task has not yet been started, keep it in the assignments section of the agenda. When there’s no progress, there’s no update, and there are no questions to answer. 

With this check-in taking place between the meetings, the chairperson is building the agenda along the way. They’re keeping in touch with what’s being accomplished and what’s stuck. And they’re in the position to help with the task that’s most in need. This is the chairperson’s job description. 

Ensure Success

Success will largely be dependent on the two practices above. By taking responsibility and taking charge, the others on the committee will begin to arrive prepared and ready to discuss what’s already on the agenda. Here are a few additional tips that will help ensure the success of the meetings, and of the ministry, as a result. 

  1. Send out the agenda at least 48 hours in advance and ask everyone to come prepared to discuss the input and decisions. 
  2. Focus the meeting on collecting input and answering questions that are specific to the tasks at hand and minimize the time spent on any of the other items.
  3. Include only task-oriented items on the agenda.
  4. Ask each member of the team to solve the problems, complete the task, or devise the plan between the meeting and bring those recommendations to the following meeting. You’ll check in with them along the way. 
  5. As the chairperson, spend time each month supporting the members of the team and their success and avoid taking on additional tasks. They’ll feel supported and equipped to accomplish their tasks. 

Moving from minimally productive meeting practices to something that is more rhythmic, predictable, and task-oriented can take some time to see the new results. You’re creating a culture shift and that can sometimes be slow. Give yourself and the team three to six months to really get in the groove of operating in this form. It might mean there are changes to the makeup of your team, but it will also mean you begin seeing the results you’re hoping for from this group of partners in your ministry.  

Finally, here’s the agenda template mentioned above. If you have questions about moving your committee culture from stuck to effective, contact Bryant Johnson.

Photo Above: CC BY 3.0 US Mapbox Uncharted ERG

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