Staff Meetings

It's Tuesday morning, about 6:00 a.m. You wake up in a good mood, wipe the sleep from your eyes and spring out of bed. You are full of energy and ready to take on another day. Then you realize it's staff meeting day, and you secretly wish you had a dentist appointment instead. And you're the leader of the meeting! Ever been there? If you feel that way, can you imagine what the staff who must attend think and feel?

Pastors often describe the staff meeting as a waste of time. One senior pastor described his meetings as "some snacks, a few jokes, and a closing prayer, and the snacks are the best part." Another staff pastor told me he was actually afraid to attend his staff meeting because it was the weekly time when the senior pastor tore into the staff members and ripped them to shreds. Yet another pastor described their meetings as a cross between the World Wrestling Federation and Ringling Brothers Circus. Hopefully, these are the extremes, but nonetheless represent a widespread problem that I will address in this and upcoming The Pastor's Coach articles.

The good news is that staff meetings can and should be not only productive, but also an experience that the team looks forward to attending. Don't get me wrong, no one on your team should look at a staff meeting as the highlight of their life. If the staff meeting is the highlight of their life, they need to get a life. You've heard the old adage, "You can either attend a meeting or get something done." Well, there is some truth to that. This article, however, is dedicated to those of us who understand that church staffs must meet, but insist that the meeting can be something of value and a time the team enjoys.

It's been said that variety is the spice of life. It's true. However, an interesting thing about human nature is that left unchecked we tend to fall into a rut. Dozens and dozens of senior pastors and scores of staff pastors have told me that they can't stand their staff meetings. But when I ask what they've done to change that, the answer is simply, "Well, nothing." I want to encourage you to become more intentional about your staff meetings and make some changes. The first step is to bring variety to the meetings, not for the sake of variety, but to be purposeful in nature.

I have found that the standard weekly staff meeting is only needed once a month. But three other meetings, of a different kind and purpose are needed. Let's walk through the "big four."

In the following four meeting styles, don't lock onto the detail of the examples. Rather, focus on the idea and purpose of each meeting.

The First Tuesday - All Staff Meeting

The first Tuesday is dedicated to the entire staff. This includes all paid employees. The primary purpose is to shape the staff culture and build team morale. The components may consist of food, community building, celebrating organizational victories, training, and communicating of big items. The meeting should last between ninety minutes and two hours. A simple continental breakfast is great.

Community building can be done by things such as highlighting birthdays, prayer for each other, or giving out awards. At Crossroads we give out each month, The Good Bird and The Dirty Bird. Both awards are coveted. The birds are seriously ugly ceramic birds that a beloved saint in the church made as a gift for someone. (Yes, this person knows what we do with them and has a great sense of humor.) The Good Bird is awarded to someone who that month exhibited extraordinary servanthood or just flat hit a home run in their area of ministry. Along with the Good Bird is given a gift certificate of some kind (representing enough cash to be highly desired). The Dirty Bird is given to the person who makes the bone-head move of the month, and the story told is often hysterical. This is not a time to humiliate a staff member but to help the staff not take themselves too seriously and just have some fun as we laugh at mistakes. Sometimes I think the staff try to get the "D" Bird. It's kind of a badge of honor.

Take some time to celebrate big wins for that month. Take a few minutes for people to share some successes that God has helped come to pass for the church.

The Senior Pastor delivers a training lesson that focuses on developing the culture of the staff. These teaching times are usually in the arena of vision, attitude, teamwork, spiritual life, and a heart for people.

The last component of this meeting is a brief time of general communication items. Again, a brief amount of time is given to business and for large items (impact either the entire staff or the entire church only).

Over the course of a year, the "All Staff" meetings are held about 10 times. It is common, but not mandatory, that a summer month and December may be taken off.

The Second Tuesday - Pastoral / Ministry Staff Meeting

This is the meeting that most closely represents the typical weekly staff meeting. Its primary purpose is communication and strategic thinking. The key components are exchange of important information, ministry development and alignment and prayer. (Of course don't forget the snacks.)

There are a number of ways to design this meeting for productivity and high value. The following is one example. (The next article will give more depth on how to conduct an effective meeting.)

Storytelling

Begin the meeting with storytelling. Have several staff members share a story of a changed life, a story of the transforming power of Christ in the life of an individual member in the church. The purpose is to remind the team of why you do what you do. It's a moment to reconnect with the continually unfolding story of God's redemptive work. In contrast to the "organizational wins" celebrated in the "All Staff" meeting, such as a big event, these are stories from the heart about God's work in the lives of people, one person at a time. (The absence of stories to tell is a message in itself and a warning to re-align your ministry to engage in things that really matter.)

Rapid Fire

Though there may be a number of items here, it is a brief part of the meeting. Rapid Fire may include such things as calendar items, quick ministry updates, policy and administrative items, and numerical reports.

Think Tank

This is the bulk of the meeting. It will usually have only one item, and rarely more than three items. This is the time to deal with ministry strategy and design. It's the time for brainstorming and idea exchange. When this time is consistently used wisely, the church will become measurably and noticeably stronger. Often there will be substantial preparation by a single person or a designated task force from the team to enhance the progress and productivity of that portion of the meeting.

From The Heart

This is a brief moment when the team leader can share whatever may be on his or her heart in a personal way. This could be something God has impressed on the leader's heart, or it could be on a purely human level within a large range of possibilities from concerns and significant challenges to warm affirmation.

Leaders With A Shepherd's Heart

This time is reserved for prayer. There is no end to the possibilities from asking for God's favor for a Great Commission harvest to praying for someone to be cured from their cancer. As one unique example, we recently took the most recent list of about 100 visitors and divided the list up among groups of three and prayer for every visitor by name.

The goal is to have 12 of these meetings a year.

[Note: In smaller churches a section would be added for review of the worship services. In larger churches, this is a separate weekly meeting by the worship, music and creative arts staff. ]

The Third Tuesday - Leadership Development Staff Meeting

This purpose of this meeting is dedicated solely to staff training specifically in the arena of leadership. There are components of community and team building, but the focus is leadership development. The Pastoral / Ministry staff attend this meeting. In the case of very large churches, the support staff, led by the Church Business Administrator may lead a similar, though much less intensive, training session.

I strongly recommend that this meeting be held off the church campus in a place free from distraction and conducive to dialogue and learning. This leadership development meeting lasts three to four hours and typically occurs about 10 times a year. A retreat and/or conference is often added to the lineup and placed in the months this meeting isn't held.

The details of this meeting and its desired results are too lengthy to cover now, so I'll save them for another article of The Pastor's Coach. But in concept, this is the time to engage in stimulating and practical dialogue about leadership principles and how they apply to the local church. This can be done through a variety of ways including good leadership books, videos, leadership lessons, and stimulating conversation about how each person is growing as a leader. I personally consider this the most important meeting of all four meetings. It's not that the other three are not important, but if members of the team are not growing as leaders, the other meetings begin to quickly get stale and lose value. This is not the time for church business to be conducted. It is a time to invest in the staff. In very large churches, this meeting is led by the Executive Pastor.

The Fourth Tuesday - War Room Meeting

A selection of ministry and support staff attend this meeting. We call this our "War Room Planning" meeting. ("War Room" because we meet in the War Room, not because there are wars in the room.) It lasts up to one hour and is more informal and less structured than the other three meetings, but is focused on the calendar and a great amount of detail. The free-flow nature of dialogue, even multiple conversations at times is to counter the effect of the intense level of detail, and sometimes challenging calendar crunch issues involved in this meeting. The purpose is master planning, and achievement of a good rhythm and balance of ministry timing.

In the War Room there is a one year calendar (about 14 feet long) that is covered in multiple colors of various events in dry-erase markers. Each color represents a different kind of activity: blue for equipping and development, red for all-church major events, purple for people connecting processes, orange for ministry launch, etc. Each person comes prepared with the changes they need to initiate and to work out the necessary coordination with other staff members as necessary.

This meeting often reveals the condition of teamwork on a staff because of the give and take necessary in the usage of a finite amount of time and physical buildings. It also requires strong strategic thinking to achieve a purposeful and balanced sense of programming for the church as a whole, rather than individual departments just doing their own thing without regard to the overall mission and progress of the church.

Well, there you have it. Simple, right? Wrong. It really isn't simple. It's involved and takes considerable effort. But if you want the results I believe you want, this is what it takes. I challenge you to try it for a period of at least three months and see if you don't notice a significant difference.

This article is used by permission from Dr. John C. Maxwell's free monthly e-newsletter 'Leadership Wired' available at www.MaximumImpact.com.