Last 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?