4 Ways to Lead Better Meetings at Your Church

It’s a new day! You’ve got a fresh cup of coffee in hand—in your favorite Orange mug, of course—and you sit down to look at your agenda and plan out your day. What do you see staring back at you? That’s right. It’s that dreaded seven-letter word . . . all. over. your. calendar: Meeting.

Even seeing the word gives me that sinking feeling! Why is that? Why do meetings fill us with such stress and anxiety, just by their sheer existence on a page? Even before we’ve gone to the meeting to see what it’s going to be like, we already want to be done with it! Every time.

First of all, I get it. And let me just say—in case no one has told you this before—you’re completely normal for feeling this way. When it comes to meetings, we’ve all had these thoughts at one time or another. But here’s the thing you also need to know: It doesn’t have to be this way

While I’m willing to guess that meetings will never be something everyone loves, you can do your part as a ministry leader to ensure that they aren’t just a dreaded event on the calendar. So, let’s talk about a few ways we can host better meetings for our teams . . .

1. Be selective

Despite what you may think, not everyone needs to be in your meeting. So, start there. Ask yourself (really, truly ask yourself), “Does John really need to be at this meeting?” 

If you have even the slightest hesitation about the answer to that question, please save John the headache and don’t include him! Don’t bother him. Let him have that time for other things. He’ll be so much more likely to say “yes” to your next invite because you’ve not over-included him in the past. Always be selective with your invites. Keep your meeting circle as tight as you possibly can.

Another area in which you need to exercise this muscle of selectivity is when considering your meeting locale. Think about where you’re hosting this meeting, and if that’s going to be the most conducive to what you want to accomplish with your team in the time you have together. 

For example: I always lean towards spaces that feel warmer and more inviting, with dimmer lighting and/or lamps. That tends to invoke more intimate, focused feelings during a meeting. Another option would be to move your meeting outdoors, weather-permitting. 

An outdoor meeting can invite a lot of distractions, but it’s also so nice to get out of the office and have the sun shining on your face as you’re in discussion with your team. Lastly, an off-site meeting option could be a fun alternative too. Take the team to a local coffee shop or a park and get away from the building entirely. This requires a bit more planning on your part, but it’s almost always well-received, and helps people to separate themselves a bit from the place where they spend most of their day.

2. Be prepared

Is there anything worse than an aimless meeting? (Okay, yes there is, but go with me here.) We’re all busy. But if you can’t take the time to prepare for your meeting, don’t have it. Period. Even if you have the best intentions, being unprepared is disrespectful to your team. 

A lack of preparation communicates to them that their time isn’t valuable; that you don’t believe their schedule is as important as yours. And that’s not the kind of leader you want to be! 

Rule one of preparedness is to always have an agenda. I usually recommend that you share this agenda with your team ahead of time so they can prepare too—even if it’s just mentally. Even if you choose not to send it out, you need the agenda for yourself, to keep you on track during what can often be a very hectic and distracting setting. Also consider assigning times to your agenda items too. For example, your welcome/intro might take ten minutes, your overview/recap could take five minutes, etc.

Additionally, if your meeting involves time for brainstorming, for example, that probably means you need to be prepared by bringing the necessary supplies. Trust me when I say that no one wants to wait for you while you go track down a dry-erase marker. There are of course instances where these things happen. But that’s why you show up prepared! 

Check the meeting space beforehand to see what’s already there. Bring an extra dry-erase marker with you when you come. Test the marker to make sure it works! These are easy, simple things to do, and yet they’re often overlooked. Being fully prepared means you’ve thought through everything you possibly can before you show up to your meeting.

3. Be timely

It’s important to honor people’s time—especially when they work with you! If your meeting is scheduled for one hour, then be done in one hour. (Barring any sort of emergency situation, of course.) You don’t want to be known as the person who keeps people stuck in those settings forever. 

And people will remember. Whether it’s right or wrong, I could easily tell you a handful of nightmare meeting stories much quicker than I could recall the good ones I’ve had. Don’t set yourself up for failure and a loss of credibility by simply talking too much. This is an easy one to fix. 

Now, I know we’ve all had times when we’re nearing the end of the allotted time, and we just simply aren’t done yet. Things are moving and grooving and everybody is being really productive and you just opt to keep going. I get why that happens, and why that’s often the first response. But consider this: honor the scheduled time anyways. 

End the meeting on time, and set a new meeting for follow-up and continued discussion. I know that’s probably a different way of thinking, but it could be really helpful for your team to step away. And if that doesn’t sound like something you’d want to do, at the very least, give the option for people to leave once you’ve hit your predetermined end time, so they can duck out if they want to. (Just don’t hold it against them if they do choose to leave!) Trust me when I say: if you’re consistently timely in your meetings, people will remember and they’ll appreciate you for it.

4. Be intentional

None of this happens without intentionality. Selectivity, preparedness, and timeliness are all born out of intention. And that’s why this is the most important piece to remember. 

If you don’t read or like anything else I’ve said, at the very least hear me out here. Think intentionally with your meetings . . . 

  • Always allow time for your team to chat/catch up in your gatherings. Just keep an eye on the clock so it doesn’t take up too much time!
  • Honor new ideas and perspectives, even (and especially!) if they’re different from your own.
  • Don’t expect everything to be a majority; be okay with some dissonance. (Carey Niewhouf says, “If you sit around tables trying to get consensus on ideas, you’ll always produce bad ideas.”)
  • Give people an opportunity to be heard. And then really listen to them.
  • Encourage humor and joy and laughter, always.
  • Lead with your heart.
  • Always, always, always have action points when you leave a meeting. And then follow-up steps for your action points.
  • Care. Really care about your team and their brilliantly unique perspectives.
  • Share the credit. If someone has a bomb idea, make sure they’re the ones who get the applause for it . . . not you.
  • Expect quality. Never settle for anything less than your team’s absolute best, even if less-than-the-best seems easier in the moment.
  • Don’t make people feel uncomfortable. If someone isn’t contributing in a meeting the way you expect them to, tell them . . . privately. Don’t call them out in front of the whole group. This isn’t elementary school! Give them a chance to step up.

You know this stuff. Deep down in your gut, these are all things you know to be true—probably because you’ve experienced some of it before! But sometimes we all need a little shove in the right direction, and a few reminders to keep us going and evaluating and thriving. 

You’re doing great. You really are. Just keep being intentional, especially when it comes to your meetings. John will thank you.