A Church Without Meetings?

meetings-and-emotional-patterns-fania-simonLast night Nadia Bolz-Weber wowed a big crowd in Chicago, promoting Pastrix and, when asked about her home life, she shared that she’s home almost every night when not traveling.  She doesn’t do meetings.

This is not the case for most pastors.

We do council meetings, staff meetings, premarital counseling meetings, family funeral planning meetings, baptism preparation meetings, conflict mediation meetings, deacons meetings, elders meetings, presbytery/association/conference/committee meetings. Meetings R Us.  (I bet Nadia does meetings too; they are simply good meetings and they don’t happen at night.)

My job description literally states that I must be able to sit through long meetings.  Really, it does.

Some of my friends really wanted to join us to hear Nadia speak last, but they couldn’t because they had meetings.  And one of the things they missed was her insight that people who like meetings are the ones who go to meetings which means that decisions are made in our spiritual communities by meeting-lovers which perpetuates the custom of having meetings and more meetings.  Exhausting.

One Lent, the church I was serving gave up all meetings.  All.  Meetings.  It was heavenly . . . except for those for whom it wasn’t.  Several people hated the fact that we weren’t having meetings because they “didn’t know what was going on.”  Looking back, I wonder if meetings, for them, was their opportunity to:

  • Be in charge of something.  (For some church people, it’s their only “power.”)
  • Keep an eye on the pastor.  (What does she do, if she’s not in meetings with us?)

For the record, I am pro-meeting if:

  • Something concrete will accomplished.  (i.e. No talking in circles.)
  • There is a predetermined start time and an end time, and we strictly keep that schedule.
  • Everybody participates and feels heard.
  • We can agree to cancel meetings if there is no reason to meet.  (These are not reasons to meet:  “We always meet on the second Monday.”  “We need to discuss ___ for the third time.”  “___ missed our last meeting and we need to catch him up on our progress.”
  • It’s fun.

Meetings can build community.  Or they can suck out our souls.

It used to be true that pastors were advised to be out at meetings no more than three nights a week.  Actually, three nights out a week is crazy . . . unless you are doing something fun/engaging/nourishing.  Honestly, if we are out more than one night a week – for a meeting –  it’s too much, at least on a regular basis.

There are good meetings and there are not-so-good meetings.  Of the meetings you attended/ran in the past week, how would you rank them?

Me:  In the past seven days, I’ve attended six meetings.  I’d say that five of them were really good.  You?

Image source.


9 responses to “A Church Without Meetings?

  1. I am one of those pastors who doesn’t do very many meetings. In fact, our church voted to eliminate the Board of Deacons several years ago and roll that function back to the Session, which by the way, meets about 6 times a year rather than monthly. The leadership in the church I serve is stretched for time, and we have come to the conclusion that because folks are so exhausted from working, running children around, commuting (it’s LA!), and more that very little creative thinking goes on past 7:30 p.m. I do attend a few meetings during the week, but most of them are for Presbytery.

  2. My most nourishing meeting is our (almost) monthly Ministry Team meeting where we discuss how to minister to people within the congregation and pray for them. Nothing like a good prayer meeting. 🙂 And I agree, one evening meeting a week is plenty.

  3. When I came to my current congregation 12 years ago I said I would not be attending any meetings other than session and deacons, unless there was a specific reason that my input was necessary. I have kept that promise. The congregation knows this and most understand the reasons behind it. If I have a particular interest or energy around a project, idea or vision of a ministry team, then I attend to contribute like any other member. If an elder or deacon or ministry team leader wants my input/advice/counsel they know they come visit with me anytime. I think this is in part why I am still here and we have a vital life together. Perhaps certain committees could be “stronger” or “more focused” if I were present at their meetings. Perhaps not. In any event, I would likely not be here if I had 12 years of constant weeks of 3 or 4 nights out of the home like many pastors.

  4. I have this poster hanging in my office: http://www.startupvitamins.com/products/startup-poster-jason-goldberg-less-meetings-more-doing — Another thing that my earliest mentor wisely reminded me is that, for some people, meetings are a way to be social: see friends, chat, have a cookie, get out of the house. For pastors this is almost never the case. I wonder if, in your congregation, the “I don’t know what’s going *on*” was ever code for “I’m lonely…”

  5. In many instances our structures are hindering not helping our denomination. We were given this incredible freedom in the Book of Order and I would imagine there are more “structures” still doing ministry under the older way than there are “structures” doing ministry out of creativity and imagination.

    I love the idea of taking a sabbatical from committees and using that time to explore what the Spirit may be calling forth. Yes, there would need to be a few mandatory decisions made…but still…I wonder what might spring forth when energy is directed into something new and not maintaining “only what we know”.

  6. Tuesday is my one meeting night, three weeks a month. Session, Deacons, Committees. Most committees meet on that Tuesday, and I move between the committees. If I’m out of town, they meet just fine without me.

    This past week, I walked into Mission Committee as they were figuring out how to implement a new idea from a member of the church who came to them and asked if we could feed people breakfast one Saturday morning a month. They went to the next room to consult with the Building and Grounds Committee to figure out some logistics. So exciting!

    And then one of the committees ended with a prayer time that was sacred and real.

    Our committees only meet if they have work to do, and lately, there’s been a lot of good work being done. I completely agree that meeting for the sake of meeting is not how we are called to live. Forget the pastor–what about the church members who work all day and then have to come to the church? And if they are in choir, there’s another night away from home.

  7. I think this is such an important conversation. (I am a longtime hater of meetings, because they are so often overly long and not very effectual or purposeful.) But mostly I just want to say thank you for your blog and for your efforts to bring things to the table for discussion among your readers – and to speak frankly about the hard stuff. Your blog is among my favorites, and I read quite a few…

  8. I don’t have very many meetings. I don’t need to go to all the meetings that take place in the church. I try to make the primary meeting we have to have – the Vestry meeting – productive, we start on time and end on time (no more than two hours), we have food, I encourage everyone to speak. I think meetings are better than email conversations….that is not an alternate way to make decisions…

  9. Goood post. I learn something totalkly new and challenging on blogs I stumbleupon everyday.
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