Why Do We Have So Many Meetings?
If you are in a church leadership position you probably have to attend meetings. One of the most common complaints that I hear among ministry co-workers is that there are too many meetings, that they last too long, and that they are boring. Why do we have so many meetings?
First of all I want to point out that there are plenty of meetings in the business world as well, and many people there have the same complaints. Some companies do a better job than others of holding effective meetings. But why are meetings necessary?
Here are some of the reasons that I can think of for having meetings:
- to communicate information
- to gather input or brainstorm
- to make decisions
- to provide accountability
Some of these things can be done in other ways, at least to a certain extent. One-way communication of information can often be done by email, provided that everyone on the leadership team is committed to reading their emails. Minor decisions can also be made by email. But there is a limit to what can be done electronically. Lengthy discussions on important issues don’t work as well on email, in part because some people can respond several times a day and have a lot to say, while others might only check their email every other day. Controversial or highly emotionally charged issues are almost always better discussed face to face. Brainstorming sessions work best in real time rather than by an exchange of emails.
Another reason that we have lots of meetings is our desire for consensus. We want to be sure that everyone is on the same page, and that everyone is heard. A dictatorship doesn’t need any meetings, unless the dictator wants them. Fewer meetings require greater delegation and a high degree of mutual trust among the leadership team. With fewer meetings, the top leaders will need to make more decisions on their own and in informal one-on-one conversations with other leaders. Each church and ministry organization will have to find its own balance between independent action and group decisions.
The reasons for meetings discussed so far are mostly task oriented, but there are also important relational reasons to meet together:
- to build deeper relationships among the team
- to care for one another
- to learn to work together as a team
- to inspire and encourage
It is a mistake to focus our church leadership meetings only on “getting the job done.” The command to love one another applies to leaders as well, and we have an obligation to nurture healthy, loving relationships among the leadership team. The love and mutual respect among the leaders will help things to go more smoothly when difficult issues must be faced.
In his book The Unity Factor: Developing a Healthy Church Leadership Team, Larry Osborn recommends two meetings each month for the church board. One is a business meeting similar to those in most churches, and the other is a fellowship meeting focused on relationship building and caring for each other. When members of the leadership team form deep, caring relationships with one another it transforms the group.
Osborn shares an incident in which a young father needed to step down from the board due to his family schedule: “As he told me his decision, his eyes began to fill with tears. I knew him well, but I had never seen him cry before. He wasn’t the type. When he finally spoke, he said simply, ‘I’m going to miss the guys'” (p. 31). Is that what happens when someone steps down from your church board or leadership team? Or do they rejoice that their term is complete?
In a future post I will share some thoughts about the effective use of meeting, but for now I wonder how you feel about the meetings that you attend at your church. Do you feel that there are too many meetings, or that they are ineffective? Do you have some insights on effective meetings that you would like to share? Please leave a comment to share your thoughts.
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