Only YOU Can Prevent Chicken-Eatin’, Do-Nothin’ Meetings

Platter-of-Spicy-Chicken“Chicken-eatin’, do-nothin’ meetings.”

That’s how my urban ministry friends refers to the kind of church meetings we’re all familiar with that are an absolute waste of time.  If you’ve ever left a meeting frustrated, wondering whether it accomplished anything more than scheduling another meeting, read on.

As crazy as it sounds, I love meetings.  I’m a fan of meetings that move a team toward a shared vision, that build collaborative energy, that solve problems that can never be solved without all the parties at the table.

But great meetings don’t happen by accident.  They happen, among other things, because a leader invests in the uncommon practice of creating a well-prepared, results-oriented agenda.

Sadly, most “professional” youth workers are notorious for unclear, rambling, agenda-less meetings, the kind that leave high-commitment volunteers looking for the door.  Even the few youth pastors who actually do prepare written agendas simply amplify their unfocused thinking by what they put in writing.

As a veteran of thousands of meetings, let me share a few secrets for productive, momentum-building agendas that will leave your team eager for the next meeting.

1)    Spend Time on Your Agenda: The longer you spend drafting your agenda, the shorter the meeting will be!  When you throw an agenda together at the last minute, you are much more likely to inflict every participant with a wasted hour or two.

2)    Foreshadow Excellence: The look of your agenda can instill or erode the confidence of your team.  Poorly spaced, amateurish, grammatically bumbling agendas almost never save time and communicate to your team that yours is an operation that embraces mediocrity.

3)    Know Your “Nevers”:

  • Never “Discuss.”  Most agendas have two or three items that say something like “Discuss the upcoming mission trip.”  This approach guarantees fuzzy, distracting rambling.  Instead try something like “Make the Following Mission Trip Decisions: Cost, Location, Target Number.”
  • Never save the most important piece of business to the end of the agenda.  Too many meetings run out of time just about the time you need to talk about the most important item.  Save your updates and secondary discussions until after you’ve addressed your Focus Topic for the meeting.
  • Never just go around the table for an update from each person in the meeting.  This produces unnecessary filler in which committee members or staff members feel inclined to say something, even if it’s exactly what they’ve said for the past three weeks.

If you want first-rate volunteers, prepare a first-rate agenda.  With it, you’re much more likely to accomplish your mission, and you’ll make clear that you value your team’s investment enough not to waste their time.

Go ahead.  Eat some chicken.  But no more do-nothin’ meetings.

First published in The Youth Ministry Consultant Column of Group Magazine Sept/Oct 2013