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Sunday, November 18, 2012

I used to hate leading meetings...

Many pastors admit that the most draining part of their job is leading administrative meetings with the staff, board, and congregation. Pastors have so much to do. They prepare sermons and lessons, counsel couples and visit the sick. Meetings sometimes seem like a meaningless waste of the pastor’s time. I remember how, for the first 10 years of my pastoral ministry, I complained often about meetings. “I want to impact lives not build budgets and prepare policies. If I only had an executive pastor, who likes these sorts of things, my life would be a whole lot easier and my ministry more fruitful.”

After the first decade of ministry I decided that since there’s no getting around the task of leading meetings, I might as well make the most of them. The following question changed how I approached every meeting I led: What kind of meeting would I and the people I lead most want to attend? The answer to this question changed everything for me and, I hope, for the people I led. The meetings I enjoyed attending included focus, food, fun, and faith. So, I figured it might be wise to let these very elements guide the meetings I lead.

Focus: When I viewed meetings as a necessary evil, I focused on planning an agenda that required limited forethought and early adjournment. We would discuss reports and look at our watches, while the strongest personalities hi-jacked the meeting. At some point I took responsibility for the meeting agenda, making sure we focused our attention on the issues that mattered most. Budgetary adjustments become an opportunity to prioritize the vision God had given us. Ministry reports became an opportunity to praise or petition God. The agenda items we discussed were overtly connected to the values and vision God birthed in our faith community. A focused meeting means keeping the most important thing the most important thing.   

Food: It seems so shallow, I know, but food adds something, other than calories, to a meeting. When people eat together, they are more inclined to view themselves as a team or community, and not merely as a board or committee. Perhaps this is why the Jews, and Scripture, focus on the significance of table fellowship. For some reason, when people start passing, reaching, munching, and sipping, they begin engaging, thinking, listening, and dreaming.

Fun: The fun-factor may seem shallow, but it matters. Local church meetings, if they are focused on the things that matter most, demand the very best from all participants. Fun can make the demands more tolerable. Try some fun ice-breakers that get people sharing and laughing with each other. A low-risk ice-breaker might involve asking the group to respond to questions like: What is your most embarrassing church moment? What volunteer ministry in the church would be most torturous for you? You could also shoot for some high-risk fun by setting up a game of Twister. The point is, invite the participants in the meeting to experience a little fun. Fun opens the doors of the human soul in a way that cultivates deep and honest interaction.  

Faith: This may seem counter-intuitive, but most every local church meeting should lead to decisions and initiatives that leave people convinced that “unless God shows up we are dead meat.” In other words, meetings should lead to action that requires faith. Staff, board, and congregational members want to attend meetings that matter. They are longing for leaders to bring before them a meeting agenda that is God-sized. The local church meeting should not feel like ho-hum “business as usual” when so much is at stake. Will the action steps that flow out of your meeting elicit faith in God from participants? If not, then dream bigger!       

The next time you lead a meeting, remember this: Food and fun can foster the focus and faith that lead to fulfillment and fruitfulness.