Why you hate your church staff meetings

Boring church meetingsEarlier today I was watching Greg Stier’s free Evangephobia webinar (which was really good and super-fun, by the way — you should definitely register for one of the next ones on June 28 or August 9). In the embedded Facebook chat, one youth worker said, “Love it that this got me out of staff meeting today!” Unfortunately, I totally know that feeling. Why are church staff meetings often so dreaded, especially by youth workers?

As a guy who’s talking with churches about potential youth ministry positions, one question I like to ask is, “Tell me about your staff meetings.” Pastors and search committees usually pause for a second because it’s an unusual question, but I ask it for this reason: how a church spends its time in staff meeting reflects its true values.

The values that are often communicated in staff meeting by calendars and “busyness reports” are not usually values that are shared by youth workers, so we grow to tolerate them as a necessary evil. I’m not convinced it needs to be that way, though.

QUESTION: If you were in charge of your church’s staff meeting each week, how would your values determine how you spend that time together?

Posted on May 17, 2011

  • Ours are good.

  • I felt the same way until I was at my current church. I actually look forward to our leadership staff meetings. To make it short: vision is always a focal point of the meetings. We exist to see people transformed by Jesus, and in staff meetings, that's usually reflected in a tangible way. Of course, some weeks staff meeting isn't much fun, such as dealing with a difficult issue or something, but that's pretty rare.

    Part of what helps is that details are handled "off-line." The only time we talk about details regarding an event is when it's an important event that includes the whole church, and the pastors/directors are directly responsible for different aspects (such as the launch of a new campus, etc.) In addition, while our whole staff gathers for Bible study and prayer once a week, our administrative staff meets separately from our leadership (pastors and directors) team. This is great, because I remember with agony the days (in past churches) of going over the bulletin POINT BY POINT for the following Sunday during staff meeting.

    I realize that this setup might have a bit to do with the size of our staff, but now that I've seen how our lead pastor leads meetings, the same kind of approach would have been possible for smaller churches, even one I worked in that had two full-time staff and a handful of part-time support staff.

    One corollary: Being part of productive and invigorating staff meetings has made me repent for how I have led volunteer meetings in the past. In fact, Tim, I think it was a post by you once that made me remove the handling of minute details within meetings that involve our whole team. Now, a vision team (me, three students, and three adult leaders/parents) does most of the planning, and we handle details for events in smaller settings. If I dislike going through the bulletin point by point, how do I think a volunteer who just wants to show up, love teenagers, and have a great time doing it feels when I make him/her sit through a meeting detailing who's going to order the pizza for next month's event?

    • Yeah, I did post about here in, "How to reduce the number of church meetings by 90%."

      I think how you're using your meetings is indicative of a church who lives by their stated values, not just values written on a piece of paper in a vision statement somewhere.

      • While I've worked with some wonderful people in the past, I have never worked for an organization that took its mission and values so seriously. We don't have "busyness" reports, because our lead pastor tries to keep the focus on what God is doing rather than what we are doing.

        • That's a great distinction! Sounds like you're in a good place.

  • adamwormann

    You need to read "Death by Meeting" by Patrick Lencioni. It's not a "christian" book, but the principles of meetings are awesome. He tells the whole thing via a narrative, but then gives the shorter, point by point version in the last 50 or so pages. You can easily sit down at Borders in an hour with a coffee and get everything you need out of that book, and it is incredibly transforming.

    • Thanks for the recommendation. I'll have to check it out sometime.

  • Joel

    I've experienced EXACTLY what this article Is talking about. I've just started as a full time youth minister at a smaller church, and because of the small size, the senior pastor takes on many roles that he shouldn't have to, such as building manager, accountant, and so much more instead of just "visionary.". On the other hand, I interned at a church that had a larger staff that allowed the pastoral side of the staff to be just that – pastors, teachers, visionaries, and friends. I miss that place every Tuesday at 9am staff meeting =/

    • I'm not sure the role of the pastor needs to change just because of the size of the church. In the case of the smaller church example you cited, it's more the senior pastor accepting misplaced responsibility because "he's the paid guy" instead of helping the congregation accept responsibility that rightfully belongs to them. He unfortunately enables the church to outsource their calling to serve to paid staff. There's nothing that says lay ministers in the church can't serve as the building manager, accountant and all the other roles. In fact, if your pastor is a visionary, other people would probably be better at those roles anyway AND your pastor would be more passionate about his job rather than taking it as "suffering for Jesus."

    • Totally agree with Tim. I'd be interested in any studies regarding leadership in smaller churches; not sure if LifeWay or other research organizations have any insight. I have known a few pastors who are visionaries, even when they're the only full-time staff member. And as Tim has pointed out, staff meeting is probably a great place to peek if we're interested in how a senior pastor (or even solo pastor) leads.

  • I have no complaints about ours to be honest. Maybe that's because the former youth pastor (Shan Smith) is now the lead pastor as well as a good friend. We connect well together and our meetings are productive. Yes, business is discussed but we keep ministry and talking about the families in our church as the main focus. Sometimes I dread the timing of our meetings because of schedules, but as for the meetings themselves I enjoy getting together with our team to hear how God is moving.

    • That's great, Brian! Glad to hear you guys have meaningful staff meetings that reflect your values.

  • most staff meetings I have been to (3 churches) have all be repetitive, not creative, and boring. Most covered the calendar of the church for 85% of the meeting and the rest was lets just stay 2 weeks of ahead of what is coming up on the calendar.

    there was not direction, visioneering, or leading by the senior pastor.

    • Unfortunately, I think that's a little too common.

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