These field-tested principles should work for almost any leadership situation.
The first church where I served as pastor many years ago only had seven regular attending members in the early stages of my ministry there. I still had church staff meetings, even though I had no paid staff, and I was a bi-vocational pastor. At the onset, there were three of us: the lone deacon who served as worship leader; his son, the Sunday school director; and me. We met monthly unless we had a pressing need to meet more often.
I took the principles I learned from the staff meetings of that small church and applied them to future churches where I served as pastor, as well as other places where I had a leadership role. Keep in mind that there is no perfect formula for these meetings. I have, however, found these nine key guidelines to be applicable in almost every leadership situation.
1. Keep a regularly scheduled meeting on the calendar. That meeting may be weekly or less frequently. But let the staff know of its priority. Establish an estimated length of meeting so that time will be on their calendars well in advance.
2. Request all participants to submit agenda items prior to the meeting. Give a specific deadline for the submission of the agenda items. It is helpful for the participants to estimate how long each item will take. That will help the leader know more precisely how long the meeting should be.
3. Begin all meetings with prayer. If God is not leading church staff meetings, they should not be held.
4. Begin on time. End on time. Meetings are subject to scope creep and meandering conversations. The leader should keep the meeting moving. Be committed to beginning on time, even if all participants are not present. And respect each participant's schedule by ending on time.
5. Understand the difference between strategic items and tactical items. A strategic agenda item is a major initiative or direction. A tactical item reflects the details of how we carry out strategies and responsibilities. I like to have separate meetings, if possible, for strategy. I had at least two such meetings a year when I was a pastor. Our weekly staff meetings dealt primarily with tactical issues.
6. Don't let "working the calendar" dominate staff meetings. I have seen too many church staff meetings become simply a review of the church calendar. There is a place to review the calendar, but it should not be the sum and substance of the meeting.
7. Don't meet just to meet. While there should be ample reasons to meet on a regular basis, there may be times when the agenda is light or empty. On those occasions, cancel the meeting and give the team their time back. Hopefully, there won't be too many times when there is really nothing important to discuss.
8. Decide what tactical issues should be on the agenda. There are no template solutions, but here are a few tactical areas often covered by church staff:
Discussion and evaluation of the most recent worship services. Note specific areas to adjust or improve.
Ministry follow-up items. Keep a running list of tasks assigned, to whom they were assigned, and the status of each assignment.
Discussion of Sunday school classes, small groups, or other groups. Healthy churches have healthy groups. Some meetings should discuss attendance, material taught, and opportunities to create more groups.
Areas that need remedial work or adjustments. The possibilities are endless: greeter ministry, sound equipment, preschool and nursery issues, deacon and elder matters, and many more.
Prayer needs of the congregation and community. This item should always be present on the agenda.
Guests to the worship services. Specific attention should be given to follow-up. Make specific assignments with timetables.
9. Conclude the meeting with specific action items. Don't conclude the meetings until there is clarity on what action items need to take place during the week, who is responsible for them, and the timetable to get them done.
This post was adapted from an article that first appeared at ThomRainer.com on June 14, 2014. Used with permission. Thom S. Rainer serves as president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. Among his greatest joys are his family: his wife, Nellie Jo; three sons, Sam, Art, and Jess; and seven grandchildren. Dr. Rainer can be found on Twitter @ThomRainer and at facebook.com/Thom.S.Rainer.
For further help with meetings, see the article "Mastering Minutes for Church Business Meetings"; for help building an effective and successful team, see the downloadMaking Teams Work.