It’s hard to make ministry meetings exciting. But they are necessary and there are ways to make them more effective. Here are some thoughts on effective ministry oriented staff meetings.
Prayer is essential. It helps us stay dependent on God! Charles Spurgeon taught, “Sometimes we think we are too busy to pray. That is a great mistake, for praying is a savings of time.” Martin Luther said, “The less I pray, the harder it gets; the more I pray the better it goes.” E. M. Bounds said, “Prayer is our most formidable weapon; the thing which makes all else we do efficient.” The absence of prayer likely means and absence of power. Prayer is the most effective weapon we have as leaders. Yet, it is often the one thing we neglect. Give prayer it’s proper time in all of your meetings. It’s hard to have effective meetings if we don’t have a foundation of prayer!
Use an Agenda
I know it’s boring, but sometimes the most boring things are the things that help us see the holes in the way we are doing things. I actually have a google docs template called Staff Meetings. All of the mundane things you find on a typical agenda are there. Date, attendees, ongoing discussion items, new discussion items, and action steps.
I don’t know what prompted me to start using an agenda for our staff meetings, but I do know our meetings have been more effective than they use to be. Some weeks are awesome! Some weeks are just OK. But at least we have a running agenda of things we have been and are talking about.
Invite the Right People
Every church is different. Each churches staff has different needs. Large churches might need multiple staff meetings for each department. Smaller churches may have a pastor and a few volunteers. Every church has to adapt to their situation and needs. Really small churches may only meet monthly. Larger churches may meet in a weekly staff meeting and daily check-ins. Our staff meeting consists of the Pastoral Staff, our resident in training, our primary secretary, and our facilities director. We meet each Monday for our regular staff meeting and the first Monday of every month for a longer Strategic Meeting.
Review the Previous Week
I know it might seem obvious because it is. There’s nothing sophisticated about these meetings. We tend to begin asking questions at this point. Example questions are:
- What went well last week?
- What needs attention?
- What was missed?
- What didn’t get done?
- What was the best part of your last week?
Prepare for the Week Ahead
Everyone should have a clear direction for what the week ahead looks like. This is an opportunity to share goals for the week ahead with the rest of the staff. Nitty gritty isn’t the goal here. Big Picture is. Questions can help each person identify what needs to be shared.
- Think about your area of influence:
- What’s going well?
- What’s not?
- What is confusing?
- What is missing?
- What’s one thing you absolutely have to get done this week?
- Is there anything the rest of us need to know?
Address Big Picture Ministry Items
This is where we address ministry items that affect the entire church. The most recent items we discussed in our staff meeting were our ministry check-in process, our Sunday morning facilities checklist and technology checklist.
These may not seem like big items. They do, however, affect our ministries in significant ways. Our check-in process helps us identify attendance trends and connect new people to the ministries of the church. The facilities and technology checklists help us train people on every step of getting ready for a service. Checklists make it possible for everyone to know exactly what needs to happen to get ready for a service. If our pastors or key people are gone, everything is more likely to move along without hiccups.
Actions items usually happen outside of the meeting. These are the things people commit to doing between now and the next meeting. Action items should focus on what needs to be done, who is going to do it and by when.
If a meeting is going to be effective then we should spend more time praying about what needs to be discussed and acted upon. Coming up with an agenda 5 minutes before a meeting is bound to be ineffective. Planning for the next meeting begins on the day your most recent meeting is finished. I usually start putting things on our next meeting agenda right away. I review my notes from the meeting, identify items that we need to continue thinking about, and make some notes for our next meeting.
Planning for the next meeting begins on the day your most recent meeting is finished. I usually start putting things on our next meeting agenda right away. I review my notes from the meeting, identify items that we need to continue thinking about, and make some notes for our next meeting.
Here are some resources that can help you think more about good meetings:
The Best Books on How to Have Effective Meetings
Death by Meeting by Patrick Lencioni is one of the most recommended books on this subject. It’s an enjoyable read because it’s a fable that is enthralling and full of instruction all at the same time. It provides a framework for great meetings that is applicable to ministry and life. It also focusses in on a cure for bad meetings.
In Death by Meeting Lencioni makes a case for good meetings and how they can invigorate an organization and eliminate wasted time and energy.
1. Block Time
Set aside a certain amount of uninterrupted time every day. This is important because every interruption takes time. It takes an average of thirteen minutes to get back to what we were doing before the interruption. Ten interruptions is over two hours of unplanned time.
There are 1440 minutes in a day and we should manage ever minute. Schedule interruptions. I know it sounds cheesy but what if you were to have a specific time when you check your email, return phone calls, check in with your secretary and or whoever else helps you stay on track. Most interruptions don’t have to interrupt you when they do.
We need at least 10 hour workdays in part because of the number of interruptions we deal with.
2. Batch Time
Batching like tasks together can help save time and energy and help you get more done. What if you were to return phone calls at 11:00am and 4:30pm? What if you were to handle email 2 times a day?
Keep a list of tasks and then batch like tasks together. David Allen in his book Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity
recommends something similar. He recommends keeping a task list in a way that allows you to get specific thing done when you are in a place where you can do them. For instance, some tasks should just be marked “@ computer” or “@ phone”. Because I live in a small town and have to travel to run most errands I have an “@ Billings/Bozeman” list. Going to Billings or Bozeman is a 3-5 hour commitment so batching errands is really important. Forgetting something costs a lot in time and money.
3. Keep a Priority List
A priority list allows you to get the most important things done. The rest either gets done or it doesn’t. Keep a list and then prioritize it from the most to least important using numbers or letters to indicate the importance.
It’s also important to set a time frame for each item. Why would setting a time frame be important?
Consider this. During a given day you might three projects that take thirty minutes and one that takes 3 hours. By setting a time frame you can schedule each project in an appropriate spot that allows for uninterrupted time. If you have a dentist appointment in the morning a clear afternoon you can schedule the three 30 minute projects around the appointment and leave the afternoon for the larger project. Besides, there’s something about setting a time frame that makes us want to beat our own projections.
A priority list should take no more than ten minutes a day. Consider using the last ten minutes of every day to prioritize the next day.
This is the second article about the Strength’s Finder. If you didn’t get a chance to read my first post you can find it here.
Tom Rath, Strengths Finder author write’s “From the cradle to the cubicle, we devote more time to our shortcomings than our strengths.” Gallup, the organization behind Strengths Finder, has spent thousands of hours interviewing people. They have found that everyone has more potential for success if they focus on their strengths.
I don’t know exactly how this works in ministry but I do know that the greatest leaders often find themselves bogged down in things that wear them out. For instance, think about Moses. When Moses father-in-law Jethro visited he found Moses doing everything. Literally. Moses was everyone’s only leader. And it wasn’t healthy for Moses or the people. Interestingly, Jethro blamed Moses. “What are you doing to these people?” and, “What you are doing is not good?” (Exodus 18:13-24) Jethro then gave Moses some advice which Moses implemented it immediately to great success. He didn’t have to be everything to everyone.
I don’t know what your situation is but Jethro’s words still speak today. In fact, I would encourage you take a moment right now to make a list of the things you are doing. How many of those things can you equip and hand off to others?
A leader doing everything hurts everyone. Ministry leaders need to think about this. What are the 2 or 3 things that God has for you to do and how can you clear away the clutter that destroys your focus?
Strengths Finder may help you clarify areas of strength and focus. It helped me immensely!
How it helped Me
The Strengths Finder is targeted enough to identify specific areas of strength but general enough to be of use to you in your role as a ministry leader. It groups your strengths or talents into themes without emphasizing knowledge or skills. Knowledge and skills amplify strengths and while important aren’t the emphasis.
The online assessment is a series of questions. You only get 20 seconds to respond. It’s quick for a reason. Instinctual responses are an important part of accuracy.
Here’s what the assessment did for me.
- It helped me identify my top 5 Themes or areas of strength.
- It broke down each theme and identified personalized strengths insights based on the question, “What makes you stand out?”
The most effective part of the assessment was the ideas for action. There were some very specific recommendations. Here are some.
- Set aside time for thinking. This might include things like prayer, reading, listening to a podcast, etc, but thinking energizes me. An important part of honoring my makeup is finding a coffee shop where I can read, reflect, pray and think.
- Take time to write. Writing helps me to crystallize and integrate my thoughts and is an important part of honoring my strengths.
- A third recommendation was to find opportunities to teach, coach and consult others. I love to learn so it all makes sense.
The whole reason I started Ministry Logistics (the name of this blog) was a result of the Strengths Finder. I followed through on ever suggestion but I continue to go back to it for more application.
For Deeper Engagement
I could say more but I won’t. If you haven’t taken the Strengths Finder
block out a couple of hours of time and do it. I would appreciate it if you would order through my link
which helps me continue to teach and coach others. Here are some recommendations on how to proceed.
- Order Strengths Finder.
- Block out a couple of hours to take the assessment and reflect on the results.
- Spend an hour each day for 5 Days rereading 1 Strengths Theme each day.
- Make some very specific decisions on how you will apply recommendations.
Let me know what you think!
A friend of mine asked me buy the Strength’s Finder and I ignored him. For two years. If I remember right someone even gave me a copy of the book with the code for taking online assessment and it sat on a book shelf. For at least a year. The book was still on my bookshelf when I finally decided to take a look at it. Unfortunately, I was in Houston, Texas and my bookshelf was in Montana so I bought the Kindle version, read it and then took the assessment.
Why the Strengths Finder?
Yes, it’s a tool for assessing your top five areas of strength, but why is it necessary? Tom Rath answers this question at the beginning of the book so I won’t say much. Here’s what is important to understand though. A lot of us fail to manage our time well. Ministry leaders often struggle with balance. We juggle the tyranny of the urgent with administrative needs and daily tasks. We often feel like we have to do everything even if we don’t feel equipped.
Gallup asked people if they agreed with the statement: “At work, I have the opportunity to do what I do best.” Only one-third agreed. Further studies indicated that when people do have the opportunity to focus on what they do best they are six times more likely to be engaged in their job and three times more likely to indicate a better quality of life in general.
If you’re involved in ministry this should be important to you. Most of us go into ministry because of a deep desire to respond to God’s call on our lives. We pray, encourage, teach and care for others day in and day out, all of which can be demanding not to mention disheartening if we’re not careful. Because we care it’s often hard to focus and yet focus is what we need to do. But what we focus on is as important as the act of focusing. And a lot of us focus on our weaknesses.
This is where the Strength’s Finder comes in. Rath argues (and I agree) that we should focus on our strengths. Focusing on our strengths makes a dramatic difference and leads to greater engagement. I can’t think of anything more important in our line of work. Before I continue on though, let me tell you how this has helped me.
Last year the church I pastor gave me a three month sabbatical. Years of abusing myself finally caught up with me. I was exhausted. In ten years of ministry the church had doubled in size, finished a number of major initiatives, hired staff, and completed a building project. Three months of prayer, reading, and seeking God were amazing!
It was also a time of evaluating what wasn’t working. One of the biggest realizations was the amount of time I spent working on things that I don’t necessarily enjoy, things that suck the life out of me. I knew I needed to make some adjustments. The Strength Finder helped. In the next blog post I will tell you more about my assessment and how I am using it.
I would love to hear your thoughts. Also let me know if you’ve already read the book and taken the assessment. If you haven’t, consider buying the book here. Disclaimer: I don’t recommend anything that I haven’t personally used or interacted with. If I am writing about it, I believe in it.
For Deeper Engagement
Christ LoCurto recently interviewed Tom Rath on Dave Ramsey’s EntreLeadership Podcast. You can find the interview on iTunes.