SCENE: Let’s drop in on a typical congregational business meeting on Main Street USA:
Ralph: “Well, where are the other men? I guess we are in for another boring and none meaningful church business meeting. I always dread these meetings.”
Chuck: “Amen to that! I’d rather go to the dentist than attend one of these meetings. At least the dentist has an objective and time limit and gets with it.”
Bill: “What’s this meeting about? I hope it’s not about the same-old-stuff—the bills, giving, sound doctrine issues, and evaluating the preacher.”
Fred: “I hope this meeting is quick and to the point. I have a lot of work to do in order to prepare for work tomorrow.”
Most of us at one time or another have been in congregational, and other, business meetings that were off target, meaningless, ineffective, and boring. No doubt from time to time we contributed to these negative qualities. In a recent Inc. magazine article a survey was reported in which 47 percent said the meetings they attended were not productive (24 June 2016).
10 Attitudes Toward Business Meetings
There are all kinds of attitudes toward meetings by members of a congregation that contribute to their ineffectiveness. Here are ten:
- Some act as though meetings are “commanded” in Scripture. Must have them.
- Some feel they are a waste of time: never accomplish anything of value.
- Some equate them with periods of fellowship and time for chit chat.
- Some see them as necessary expediencies to stay abreast of what’s happening.
- Some see them as “council meetings” were rules and agendas are created.
- Some see them as authorized in Scriptures (cf. Acts 15); thus essential.
- Some see them as periods of arguments, disagreements, and finger pointing.
- Some see them as a tradition “We’ve always had business meetings.”
- Some see they as an essential tool for communicating with membership.
- Some aren’t sure why business meetings are conducted so frequently.
21 Signs of Ineffective Business Meetings
Business meetings are no more effective than the behavior and attitude of those who attend or don’t attend. If we are going to have business meetings we must do all we can to ensure they are conducted in the best possible way. Effectiveness doesn’t happen by chance. One way to learn and improve is to be aware of what the negatives are that contribute to an issue and then eliminate them. Here are 21 possible signs and contributors to ineffective business meetings:
- There is no clear and specific agenda provided to the attendees before they attend so they will be prepared to engage in discussions and solutions, etc.
- The time of the meeting is not known until a few days or weeks before it is scheduled. Attendees don’t have time to adjust their schedules.
- When attendees are late for the meeting it interrupts the flow of discussion as time is spent trying to bring the late attendee up to date.
- When one attendee dominates the meeting with endless talk, boasting, and non-relevant comments.
- A meeting will start to denigrate or become boring when attendees continually complain over and over in meeting after meeting. Other attendees tune them out.
- A meeting where numerous attendees who should be there are missing—playing hooky—will contribute to a dull, missing strength, and lack-luster meeting.
- A meeting where someone is “showing off” by asking questions that don’t relate, joking, embarrassing someone, etc.
- The physical is stressed far more than the spiritual. Very little time or emphasis is given to Scripture reading, discussion and application; prayers are brief and generic.
- When attendees are playing with their cell phones, iPad, laptops, watches, etc. there isn’t a total group focus on the issues. This creates communication issues.
- When an attendee, or several, continually interrupt the person speaking or won’t let the person finish his thought, the meeting is sidetracked.
- Meetings were arguments, debates, and continual disagreements occur, usually over opinions, the effectiveness of the meeting is lost.
- Meetings where no one is “in charge”—a chairperson—tend to accomplish very little as ideas, pro and cons, etc. are coming from everyone in attendance.
- Meetings where the agenda, if there is one, is diverted by rambling into small talk about current events, items not relevant to the meeting’s agenda. Time is wasted and priorities are neglected or lost.
- Meetings where specific solutions are not outlined with specific timelines and assigned workers, results will be minimum or not at all. Meetings need to produce plans for RESULTS.
- Meetings without time restraints—starting and ending times—as well as time allotments for each agenda item will not be as effective as they should be. Time management is a must for effective meetings.
- Meetings where no records are kept and the minutes from the last meeting aren’t available, contribute to a loss of continuity and effectiveness of a meeting. Time is wasted trying to remember what was said or agreed to in the last meeting.
- Meetings were those in attendance should present written documents of results, questions, and proposal don’t occur as a practice, ineffectiveness will result.
- Meetings where some of the attendees are “silent observers”, never giving comments or jumping into a discussion, reduces the effectiveness of the meeting. Maximum effectiveness occurs if every attendee participates.
- Meetings that are called on the spur of the moment—emergency style—where someone who never attends meetings or participates in any way in congregational activities, presents a problem, challenge, or accusation that requires an immediate response will never be as effective as a well-planned and scheduled meeting. Yes, “life and death” issues are exceptions.
- Those in attendance don’t take notes of what is presented, especially the important points; handouts aren’t provided by presenters. Won’t remember much later.
- Biblically speaking, meetings that don’t have as their number one priority the “glorifying of God” (Ephesians 3:21); the second priority, “seeking the kingdom first” (Matthew 6:33), and the third priority, pursuing the three-fold mission of the church: (1) evangelism, (2) edification, and (3) equipping, will never be totally effective, biblically speaking.
There are other contributors to ineffective congregational business meetings, these 21 are some of the major ones. List three additional things that may contribute to the ineffectiveness of a business meeting?
Personal Preparation to Participate
As noted in the previous 21 observations about contributors to ineffective business meetings, it should be obvious that successful meetings depend on the preparation and participation of each person in attendance. A congregational business meeting is not a theater production where some act and others observe. It is a gathering of servants where all participate.
Here are some suggestions for preparing to attend and participate in a congregational business meeting:
- Study carefully the 21 observations we have noted related to contributors to ineffective meetings. Prayerfully eliminate any that may relate to your participation in a meeting.
- Study carefully the agendas, you have received, that will be followed during future meetings. Write down your observations and questions, and share them at the appropriate time during the meeting.
- Do any research you think may be relevant to the upcoming meeting.
- Search the Scriptures for relevant Bible points on the agenda subject.
- Pray specifically about the upcoming meeting (1 Thessalonians 5:17; James 1:1-5). 6. Set as one of your goals the attending of the meeting with “the attitude of Christ” (Philippines 2:4-9).
- Vow to yourself to be a positive contributor and not a negative inhibitor.
List three (3) additional ways you can prepare to participate in congregational business meetings:
Meetings that are well planned, organized, and efficiently executed are effective tools for a local congregation to pursue the mission given by God. This means leaders must wake up to the value and importance of effective meetings.
How do you intentionally plan to be a more effective attendee to congregational business meetings? ____________________________________