By Joy Allmond
Most of us have meetings to attend—at work, at school, and in our communities. Sometimes these meetings are times well spent.
On other occasions, however, meetings—especially ministry-focused meetings—can be a colossal waste of our time and a drain on creativity and productivity.
We took to social media and said, “Based on your personal experience, please identify some ministry or staff meeting time wasters.” Here are some of the responses:
1. Reviewing the same information—over and over
“Constantly rehashing vision (for the ‘new folks’ in the room). Instead, spend time training them and then add them to the rest of the ministry team.”
“There were weeks the agenda didn’t seem to change, but we still met and the meeting still seemed to take forever to talk about the same things.”
“Same meeting every week. There’s next to no reason to have an all-staff meeting each week. This is why each week of the month we have a different kind of meeting in the same time slot.”
2. Discussing irrelevant details of the recent past
“Talking about yesterday is a colossal waste of time. This is the probably the most classic; every church does it. It looks like this: All ministry heads sit around the conference table, they take turns giving an ‘update’ or report about all who attended, visitors, etc. It can take about 20 minutes per person, and it’s a snooze fest. All it tells us is what happened yesterday, and it could be on a piece of paper or an email.”
“We used to have hour-long meetings on the membership roll. I won’t name the denomination. It was such a waste of time and unfair to those who needed pastoral care. I’m all for the business of the church but why hem and haw over people who obviously left the church months ago whether they should be removed from the roll? It was frustrating, especially since there were greater needs in our body.”
3. Ill-focused prayer
“Praying is good. But if we only have about an hour to meet and work on the next event, or debrief the last event, we don’t have time for 30 minutes of prayer. This is why we have separate prayer meetings for this sort of thing. We open in prayer, we close in prayer, but we don’t have a prayer meeting and call it a staff meeting.”
Prayer requests for a person’s grandma’s neighbor’s niece who has a terrible home life and needs her husband to be _____. We have had to ask people to please keep their prayer requests in a reasonable time frame or write them in a notebook that we pass around. It’s not that we don’t care, but we have to have some sort of structure so that the time serves its purpose.”
4. Wandering aimless into minutiae without an agenda
“Most pastors and church leaders know how to sit in a group and talk, but have no idea how to gather people and conduct a productive USEFUL meeting. A meeting should have a point, a purpose, an agenda, etc. And it should END at some point. If you don’t know how to lead a meeting, don’t schedule one and force people to sit through it.”
“I remember being on a board where every month we discussed what toys to purchase for the nursery. I got so tired of it that I finally said, ‘Let the people who work there pick them out and I’ll even buy them myself if we can just stop talking about it.’ I had to apologize for my frustration, but it finally stopped the discussion. Hallelujah!”
“Fielding ‘anonymous’ complaints: ‘So and so said they heard someone was maybe mad about XYZ.’ Huge time waster. And a distraction.”
“Playing catch up. This is when the meeting is supposed to start at 9. Everyone gets their coffee, sits around the table, then at 9 they all start catching up with each other rather than taking care of the meeting that needs to happen. They should just gather five or 10 minutes before or after and use that time to catch up. Or go to lunch. But don’t spend the first 20 minutes of a meeting time doing it.”
“When I was on staff at the two churches, there was constant joking around in meetings from all the pastors. The rest of the staff waited patiently as we got around to the main issues at hand. Drove me insane. Just get to the point.”
“Getting sidetracked by jokes or skits or songs or others’ cultural references that lead someone to pull up a YouTube video.”
6. Showing up unprepared
“People not being prepared with all of the details about what they need to discuss or people who check out of the conversation if it doesn’t apply to them.”
What are some ministry meeting time wasters you’ve experienced?
Joy is the managing editor of LifewayResearch.com.