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Meetings that Matter

By Renee Ruchotzke

I have a love-hate relationship with meetings.  Some of my best experiences have been when I was in a room with engaged, creative people doing important work or solving a difficult challenge.  Some of my worst experiences have been when I was in a room where people talked at--or over--each other with no real connection, purpose or effectiveness. As leaders, we know that our time is valuable.  We hold a shared value as Unitarian Universalists that implicitly and explicitly calls us to honor the worth and dignity--and I would add time--of others, in a way where we honor the value of their time spent in meetings. Here are some suggestions about how to plan meetings that are engaging and invite creativity:

  • Send out the monthly reports and minutes a week ahead of time, then create a "consent agenda" to accept and/or approve the reports, thus eliminating one of the most potentially tedious parts of a meeting, i.e. people using the meeting time to read aloud material that folks can review at their own pace and schedule.  If there is an item that merits discussion or needs a decision, it can be moved from the consent agenda to the scheduled agenda.
  • Keep meetings to 90 minutes.   If you congregation is in the middle of a situation of project where you need to meet for longer periods of time or more often, consider adopting a model similar to that suggested by Patrick Lencioni in his book Death by Meeting, modified for volunteers boards and/or committees:
  • A weekly check-in/tactical meeting (which could be by phone or web conference) for updates, scheduling, and other items that need timely decisions or coordination.
  • A monthly strategic meeting where you can discuss your alignment with your mission and strategic plan, to introduce new initiatives or brainstorm new  ideas.
  • A longer retreat 2-3 times a year to "get on the balcony" about the how the team is working together and how they are helping the congregation serve its mission.
  • Assign start and end times to each agenda item. Appoint and empower a time-keeper to help keep the meeting on track.
  • Consider putting the more juicy, even controversial issues at the beginning of the meeting when energy is high.
  • Encourage your committee members to use some of tips in the book Serving with Grace:  Lay Leadership as a Spiritual Practice.

About the Author

Renee Ruchotzke

Rev. Renee Ruchotzke (ruh-HUT-skee) has served as a Congregational Life Consultant in the Central East Region since September of 2010. As program manager for Leadership Development, she is responsible for providing consultation, programming and training material (including webinars and videos) on...

For more information contact conglife@uua.org.

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