Lack of Contextual Structure
Most of our meetings accomplish little because we aren’t sure what we are tying to accomplish. It’s not that we have too many meetings. Rather, we try to do too much at any one meeting. “In the end,” writes Lencioni, “little is decided because the participants have a hard time figuring out whether they’re supposed to be debating, voting, brainstorming, weighing in, or just listening.” Ouch. I’ve led a lot of meetings like this where the context is not clear. The urgent crowds out the important. Simple decisions are never voted on and weighty matters are never sufficiently explored. The problem is most of us have one meeting where we are trying to do it all– deal with routine matters, problem solve immediate crises, address long-term strategy, and dream about the future. This just doesn’t work.
Lencioni suggest four regular meetings: a daily check-in (5 minutes), a weekly tactical meeting where present problems are solved (45-90 minutes), a monthly strategic meeting where one or two big topics are analyzed (2-4 hours), and a quarterly off-site review where current priorities can be reviewed and team unity can be developed. Not all of this will work in a church setting, but some of it can and should. We need regular times to take care of the usual business and more extended times to look at the overall ministry. And we probably can’t do both of these at a monthly elders meeting.
I’m not entirely sure what it would look like to implement these two basic suggestions about drama and context at our church. I know that dealing with people and souls is different than inventories and bottom lines. So we don’t want to take all our cues from the business/management section of the bookstore. But I have no doubt I’ve put too many things, and too many disparate things, into our elders agendas. And because there have been too many things we haven’t had time to adequately “fight” over the most important issues (which does not equal every issue). I benefited from this book and I think our meetings will be better for having read it. So after you read Strauch and Witmer and some others, something by Lencioni could serve you well.