There comes a point when inviting more people to the meeting isn’t the most optimal solution. Logic might suggest if there’s a communications problem, the best solution is to include more people in the conversation. The problem, though, is that there comes a point in the dynamics of meetings where adding people actually makes communications more difficult.
The break point probably happens when you get more than eight people in a room. Out of necessity, the conversation becomes more one-sided because there’s not enough time to get everyone’s input and questions on every agenda topic.
For churches, the first time you will notice this probably happens when the church hits about 600 to 800 people in attendance. If you’re like the average church, you’ll have more than 8 full-time and part-time staff. Until this point, you might have invited everyone to the weekly staff meeting. If you want to continue growing, you’ll need to begin excluding some people from leadership team meetings.
For most churches, the first transition they embrace to break through this barrier is to only invite ministry leaders to the weekly staff meeting. You need to only include the people who are leading other people. The support staff, the folks that primarily complete tasks, do not attend the leadership team meetings. This allows the leadership team to engage more effectively when it comes to making decisions about the future of the church.
The second point of transition likely happens when the church is running about 1,500 to 1,800 in attendance. At that point, it’s not unusual for the number of ministry pastors, directors and coordinators to exceed eight people. Again, something needs to change or decision-making will come to a grinding halt and growth will stall.
This time the transition is a little more difficult, because you’ll need to remove some ministry leaders from the leadership team conversations. This is when churches learn they only have enough space for the leaders of leaders at the weekly leadership team meetings. That means some pastors, directors and coordinators will have to be excluded for the church to improve decision-making and go to the next level.
Now, to put your minds at ease, these shifts in the leadership team meetings don’t eliminate the opportunity for the remaining staff to be engaged in decision-making. And it certainly doesn’t eliminate the need to communicate with everyone on the staff team.
Ministry Team Meetings
If the leadership team is talking about strategic direction of the ministry, there still need to be many conversations and decisions around execution of that strategy. Those need to happen at the ministry team level rather than the leadership team level. That means each ministry team will need regular meetings that include support staff and other leaders to make execution decisions and then communicate those decisions.
You’ll still need to have regular all-staff meetings to share vision, information and stories with everyone. The difference, though, is that these aren’t decision meetings. Instead, they’re really designed to keep the whole staff team on the inside loop. Some churches do these meetings once a week. Others do them once a month.
Communications After the Meeting
At the conclusion of every meeting, you need to answer two key questions. The first is what are the action steps? As decisions are made, it’s going to generate a list of next steps. Everyone in the room needs to be clear about who’s going to do what by when?
The second key question is what needs to immediately be communicated? Patrick Lencioni calls this “cascading communications.” You need to decide what information needs to be shared with the rest of the team by when? These are two-way conversations, so you can’t do this through email. You have to share the key information and then offer opportunities for people to ask questions and get clarification about the implications of decisions.
Feeling like your team is stuck? It could be because you have the wrong people in the meeting. Are there more than eight people at the table? If so, something needs to change. Are you using ministry team meetings, all-staff meetings and communications after the meeting to close the information loop? If not, it might be time for you to rethink your meeting strategy.
Have you faced similar challenges as your church has grown? If so, we’d love to hear from you. What changes did you have to make? Are there other ideas beyond what we’ve outline above? Join the conversation by sharing your comments below.