How to Prevent Death by Church Meetings

He calls it “the most painful problem in business.”

Patrick Lencioni, in his book, Death by Meeting, looks at one of the greatest resource wastes in businesses: too much time in meetings.

I have worked with churches for over 30 years. It’s even more painfully true in congregations.

Here is one real example. I worked with a church of 250 in attendance that had a monthly business meeting that lasted at least two hours; weekly deacon meetings that lasted at least two hours; and 13 committee meetings that met at least one hour each month (yes, you read that right—13 committee meetings).

The business meeting averaged about 75 in attendance. The deacon meetings had 11 in attendance, including staff. Each committee had an average of five in attendance.

Oh, I almost forgot. The ministry staff of four met two hours each week for a staff meeting.

Do the math. The total person hours in meetings each month for the church was 335 hours. The total person hours in meetings in a year was 4,020 hours.

Wouldn’t you love to have over 4,000 hours in Great Commission activity each year?

Many of our churches are dying to death due to meetings. While I would not recommend the total eradication of meetings, I do recommend churches conduct a meeting audit. Most churches are in meetings as much as 5 to 10 times more than they need to be.

So, what can we do in our churches to reduce the time in meetings? What can we do to get more time in ministry from our members? Here are five considerations.

1. If you have a monthly business meeting, stop it! Consider a quarterly, semi-annual or even an annual meeting. You can keep the congregation informed on such matters as finances and ministries through digital newsletters. And you can always call a special meeting if you need one.

2. Change most of your committees to task forces. Once the task force completes its work, it ceases to exist. One of the greatest miracles in our churches today is the multiplication of committees. By the way, you don’t need a flower committee; you just need someone to take care of the flowers, real or dusty plastic.

3. Change your longer weekly staff meeting to a 15- to 20-minute stand-up staff meeting. You don’t need a two- to three-hour staff meeting every week. Limit the longer meetings to monthly meetings.

4. Communicate with modern technology. Not every meeting needs to take place. Much of that time can be replaced with emails, texts and communication through software like Slack and Asana.

5. If you must have a meeting, have a clear agenda with a specific time. I am a part of a homeowners’ association that will not cover any items unless they are placed on the agenda. The chairperson sets a time limit for each item with a visible stopwatch. Maybe such rigor is not for churches, but congregations can still follow basic committee time management principles.

How many person hours does your church meet every year? You might be surprised if you did an honest audit. And you might understand more fully why your members don’t have time to do real ministry.

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Thom Rainer
Thom Rainer

Thom S. Rainer serves as president and CEO of Church Answers and executive director of Revitalize Network. He served for 12 years as dean at Southern Seminary and for 13 years as the president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. Also a respected researcher and former pastor, he has written more than 25 books, including many best sellers, such as I Am a Church Member. Rainer and his wife, Nellie Jo, have three grown sons, several grandchildren and live in Nashville, Tennessee.