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How to Have Effective Meetings

As we begin the New Year, many of us will be stepping into new leadership roles within our various ministry contexts. As leaders in just about any context, we influence how well a group of individuals can work together to fulfill the church’s mission. One of the best ways to lead well is to facilitate effective meetings.

Methodists and meetings are virtually synonymous, right? As Methodists, we hold many meetings, so how can we make sure they are effective in helping us achieve meaningful impact through our ministries? The key to having effective meetings is to make sure they begin and end well.

Beginning meetings well involves asking why. It is essential to provide clarity upfront about the purpose of the meeting because there are many different reasons that we have meetings. For example, we might have a meeting to brainstorm ideas, make decisions or for training and orientation around the role the group may play organizationally. Being clear about why we are holding the meeting helps the group know what to expect and helps to prevent chasing rabbit trails that take us off track.

Depending on the type of meeting, it may also be helpful to establish some “ground rules” about how members of the group expect one another to behave. For example, it might be important that we hear and respect differing opinions, that we avoid interrupting one another, or that every person gives input to the discussion. Simply asking the group what ground rules they want to establish and writing them down will go a long way toward setting a positive tone for productive meetings. It is also important for every group member to have a copy of the written ground rules so that everyone can refer back to them if needed for some gentle accountability along the way.
Getting the meeting started well is important to be effective, but even the most productive meetings can fall flat without ending well. The key to ending well is reserving 5-10 minutes at the end of every meeting to ask two questions: What has the group agreed to? And what needs to be communicated to others beyond this group? Asking what the group has agreed to ensures that all decisions or commitments get written down and that there is clarity on follow through and next steps. Sometimes this involves identifying who is doing what by when. The idea is for everyone to walk away from the meeting with the same understanding of what the group just accomplished and what the next steps will be.

Finally, it is important to capture what information or message might need to be shared with others outside of the group. For example, a group may be meeting to plan an upcoming event that involves other groups or volunteers in the church. There may be certain details of what was decided that should be communicated to provide direction and clarity to other individuals involved. This helps to ensure those outside the group are working effectively together around the same understanding and purpose.

Holding effective meetings is mostly about being intentional. The more intentional we are as leaders in providing clarity around the meeting purpose, group expectations, what the group has agreed to and what needs to be communicated, the more effective our meetings will be. And the more effective our meetings are, the more impactful our ministry will be!