Why staff meetings are mostly a wasteConsider the average staff meeting: some catch up, coordinating of calendars, maybe a bit of support. Usually when you walk away, you haven’t accomplished much, and you’re generally you’re not in a place where the team had enough time for focused thinking about the work. Good thinking usually doesn’t just happen in short bursts here and there– it takes some time to process ideas well.

Now I’m not saying staff teams should never meet. What I’m saying is they should meet in different ways.

When Paul Ford asked me, “What was the single most important thing for your development as a leader?” my response was the 2-day staff retreat overnight we did once a month. In my planning schedule, this gathering was absolutely critical. The overnight nature of the retreat gave us plenty of time to share deeply with each other, pray, listen to God, process a key theme that was necessary (e.g. outreach, discipleship, assimilation).

Yet for day-to-day operations, we had no weekly staff meeting. Sometimes we’d have meetings as-needed for specific purposes (such as worship planning), but in those cases only the staff members who needed to be there would be there. These meetings were working meetings where people came prepared and left having accomplished a specific purpose. This is what I call “a meeting with a purpose.”

Of course, anyone was welcome at any of these meetings, but most staff people preferred to simply get summaries of what was accomplished.

Additionally, everyone was expected to come prepared for whatever the specific agenda was for that meeting. I also used to have board meetings where—if any board members hadn’t read the proposal in advance—they were not allowed to comment on the proposal or chime in with ideas. After I instituted that rule, preparation went up dramatically.

Another rule of thumb: never handle one-on-one scheduling issues during group meetings. Calendar coordination is a big time-waster and can generally be done more efficiently one-on-one, by email, or even a program like Doodle. There’s no reason for others in the meeting to wait around while scheduling is being done by others.

So consider what purpose you’re trying to accomplish, and call a meeting with that specific agenda in mind, inviting only those who need to be there. For most purposes, not everyone needs to be in the room. And when people do need to be in the room, they’ll know the meeting is relevant to them and their ministry.

For those who want to delve deeper into this important topic, I highly recommend Death By Meeting by Patrick Lencioni.