The 7 habits of effective meetings

[This post is part of the series on Time Management in Youth Ministry]. Meetings have gotten a bit of a bad reputation. That’s because a lot of them are bad. They’re too long, unfocused, have way too many attendees and afterwards no one really knows what the point was. For many people, meetings feel like a complete waste of time.

But when meetings are done the right way, they cannot only become effective, they can actually become something to look forward to. Meetings are actually a very practical and good way of getting things done, especially in youth ministry where it’s always about people first. So how do you transform meetings into effective, something your leaders actually look forward to?

Here are the 7 habits of effective meetings in your church or youth ministry:

1. Always start and end with prayer

You’re not the local hockey club, you’re the church. That means that God should always be front and center whenever you meet. Never run a meeting without taking the time to pray, ask for His blessing and guidance. Always communicate your dependence on God. In fact, I think a whole lot of Christian meetings could benefit from less talk and more prayer!

It's not always possible of course, but sharing a meal together as part of your meeting is a great idea if you want to add some fun, community and sharing to your meetings.

2. Start on time, stop on time

Be respectful of people’s time and run a strict schedule. Don’t wait for latecomers and don’t repeat what’s been said already when people do come in late. You’re only rewarding them for being late that way. Just start on time and end when it’s time, regardless of whether you’re ready or not. If you always run half an hour over, people will come to distrust your meetings.

3. Appoint a chairman

Let it be very clear who’s leading the meeting. This ‘chairman’ (obviously it could also be a woman) is not only responsible for conducting the meeting in a friendly and timely manner, but also for the follow up. That means whoever is leading the meeting, has to check whether the minutes have been distributed and if everyone is indeed executing his or her actionable items.

4. Have a clear goal

This is something that goes wrong often: every meeting has to have a clear goal. ‘Discussing how it’s going in youth ministry’ is not a clear goal. ‘Evaluating the execution of the strategic youth ministry plan and when necessary, making adjustments’ is. Make sure everyone not only know what the meeting is about, but what you want to have accomplished at the end of the meeting.

5. Make a realistic agenda

Do you ever go to meetings where either the agenda is the same every time, or always has twice as many items as end up being discussed? Good agenda’s are crucial to good meetings. Make sure the agenda is comprehensive (refer to documents where necessary so people can prepare), but also realistic. Don’t just make a whole list of items you want to discuss, but also plan allocated time per item so people know what to expect.

6. Prepare

Make sure everyone prepares the meeting. You can facilitate this by emailing necessary documents ahead of time and by referring to these in the agenda. If people need to do anything else to prepare (for instance brainstorm about possible names for the new Youth room), let them know in advance.

It’s important to create a culture where it’s ‘normal’ to come to a meeting prepared. That means you have to expect people to prepare and during the meeting act as if people have prepared. You may be tempted to give time to read certain documents for instance during the meeting because it turns out few have read them, but by doing that you reward those who haven’t done their homework.

7. Create a positive atmosphere

Meetings can be productive and fun at the same time. You can be efficient and still take time for personal matters. The most important thing is that you keep the atmosphere positive. Don’t allow interruptions, make sure people respect each other’s opinions and take care to avoid criticizing each other publicly. If necessary, address issues in private with ‘offenders’.

Another thing you can do is to set some time in the meeting apart for personal things. Take for instance one minute per person at the start to tell how you’re doing. Or take two minutes for people to pray for each other in pairs. Ask everyone to talk briefly about a book they’re reading or share a favorite Bible verse. I’ve also had great ‘results’ with asking awareness questions in meetings. And obviously, sharing a meal together also greatly impacts the overall atmosphere! When done consistently, these small actions will help develop a stronger bond between attendees, helping create a positive atmosphere.

 How do you run your meetings? Are they effective or just something you and your leaders endure?

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