A long while ago I resigned myself to the fact that meetings are necessary to accomplish collaborative work. Virtual or in person, meetings are a vital way to coordinate the common work we endeavor to complete.
This recent article from the Harvard Business Review (HBR), “If You Can’t Say What Your Meeting Will Accomplish, You Shouldn’t Have It” affirmed the importance of being clear on outcomes. Far too often we find ourselves in or at the end of a meeting asking ourselves, “What was the purpose of this meeting?”
In organizations that depend on volunteers to accomplish their ministry we need to make sure that we use our people’s time wisely. There are times in the life of the church where we have a meeting to simply have a meeting. Even monthly board meetings can at times be held only because they are scheduled. Like most areas of our life if we don’t consider the purpose of our activities they become meaningless and might even become a burden.
The HBR article cites a phrase from Stephen Covey, “Begin with the end in mind.” This doesn’t mean that we know the outcome of decisions or control the discussions. Knowing the desired outcome of a meeting means that you can keep all the parties on task. Clearly stating the goal of a meeting to a team also helps everyone know that the meeting actually has a clear purpose. Knowing purpose means that participants can contribute towards that end and gives a sense that actual progress is being made.
Often we believe we have a clear purpose because we have an agenda. A critical question we must as ourselves as a leader is, “Is our agenda moving us towards a purpose, or are we simply checking boxes?” Many church boards use an agenda that looks exactly the same as those used fifty years ago. They may have “changed” the agenda when they substituted teams for committees but substantive change geared towards achieving vision rarely happens . Our meetings need to by focused on the shared mission and vision of our organizations. If a Christian Education committee is looking to strengthen adult classes it is important that the agenda makes that the focus. Making it clear that the purpose of a given months meeting is to focus on looking for ways to make Adult classes stronger will help everyone move towards that goal.
Do you have a meeting this week that lacks purpose?
If so, what can you do to help give it a clear purpose?