When I was in local government, it probably won’t surprise you to learn one of my biggest challenges was fighting bureaucracy. There were rules for everything. In one of the cities, the fire department actually thought it was a good idea to have rules for creating rules. Some rules are good, but too many rules prevent us from getting things done.
As I’ve worked with the local church, I’ve found it’s not typically the rules that create burdens in organizations. Instead, it’s meetings. In my consultations with churches across the country, I’m more and more convinced that churches have to be one of the most “over-meetinged” organizations around. Some meetings are good, but too many meetings prevent us getting things done.
I’ve started to list some ideas to help you. The great news is that these ideas can really apply to any church of any size. Now is the best time to create a healthy balance between meetings and ministry. With that in mind, here are…
10 Strategies to Spend Less Time in Meetings and More Time in Ministry
- Simplify your structure. Fewer board and committees mean fewer meetings. Ironically, I’ve found there’s an inverse relationship between the complexity of the structure and the size of the church.
- Reduce your span of care. The more people you are trying to directly supervise, the more people will need your time. That means more one-on-one meetings. A healthy span of care will benefit you and the people you are leading.
- Make sure every meeting has an intended outcome. If the meeting doesn’t help you move the ball down the field, cancel the meeting. Don’t meet because it’s Monday, and it’s 9:00. Meet for a purpose.
- End every meeting with action. Use the last 15 minutes to define what needs to get done, who is going to do it and what needs to be communicated to the rest of the team.
- Don’t meet to share information. That’s the purpose of email. Meetings are for decisions and actions. Don’t waste people’s time by gathering them to share information that should have been shared in writing.
- Invite fewer people to the meeting. First, only invite the people that need to be there. Then make sure you have less than eight people. When you get more than that, it becomes almost impossible for everyone to engage in the conversation, ask questions, and make decisions.
- Stop meeting every week. There’s no rule that says a team has to meet every week. Test drive meeting every other week. If it works, you’ve given everyone half their time back to get more work done.
- Create “no meetings” days. Just start with one day a week. Ban meetings on that day across your organization. If it works, try two days a week. Be disciplined about creating space to get things done.
- Don’t meet to talk about the past. The only reason to do this is if you’re engaging in an intentional, honest debrief that is going to lead to change. The more you talk about the future, the more you’re going to want to focus on action.
- Clarify the win. Without clear vision, strategy and initiatives, people are waiting around for decisions and direction. And that, of course, leads to more meetings. Clear direction increases the bias for action.
Don’t feel like you have to implement all of these recommendations today. Start with one or two. Over time, you can implement more. If they don’t work, figure out what works for you.
The objective is to get more ministry done. Let me know what you find works to shift your time investment from meetings to ministry.