Meet with a Purpose

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Leadership Consultant Mike Bonem suggests strategies for making meetings more productive. The first step is to be clear about the purpose for convening a meeting.


How often have you thought to yourself, “Why are we having this meeting?” or “This meeting is a waste of time.” A significant amount of time in church and ministry leadership is spent in meetings. And yet, complaints about unproductive meetings are common.

What is the purpose of this meeting?

When this frustration is expressed, my response is to ask, “What is the purpose for this meeting?” If you can’t give a one sentence answer, there’s a good chance that the meeting will not be productive. Having a well-defined purpose should drive what is discussed in the meeting and who participates.

For example, there is a big difference between a meeting to work out the details for next week’s worship service and one to brainstorm about sermon themes for the next 12 months. The people that should be in the room to give input in the selection of long-term mission partners are not the same people that need to plan the details for each of those partnerships.

Meeting stew

Patrick Lencioni has a helpful term — “meeting stew” — to describe the tendency to dump all sorts of different items into one meeting. He points out the difficulty of jumping from a short-term tactical discussion to a long-term strategic one. (His book, Death by Meeting, is a helpful and enjoyable resource. He also addresses the subject in one section in another one of his books, The Advantage.)

I know the counterargument: “There are a variety of things to discuss, so let’s do it while we’re all together.” If that’s working well for you, and you’re not frustrated with your meetings, then keep doing it. But you probably wouldn’t have read this far if that were the case.

Who owns the meeting?

One important implication of more purposeful meetings is that someone needs to “own” each meeting. That doesn’t have to be the most senior person in the room. But someone needs to be clear about the purpose, shape the agenda beforehand, and keep the discussion from veering far off track.

Please don’t hear this as a recommendation that every meeting should be tightly scripted. Some breathing room — for sharing personal concerns or just light moments together — is a valuable part of being together. But even that can be purposeful.

You’ll never reach a point where everyone in your church or ministry looks forward to every meeting. But as a first step, make a list of all your regular meetings and rate the effectiveness of each. If your assessment reveals a pattern of lackluster meetings, you may need to be more purposeful.


This article appears originally on mikebonem.com. Used by permission.

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About Author

Mike Bonem is a facilitator and consultant with Texas Methodist Foundation (TMF). Previously, he was Executive Pastor of West University Baptist Church in Houston. He recently wrote Thriving in the Second Chair: Ten Practices for Robust Ministry (When You're Not in Charge). He blogs at mikebonem.com.


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