I have a confession, I love meetings. I love real meetings. Real meetings are when things are discussed, dissected, torn down, built up, and planned. Real meetings lead to great outcomes. I have no problem attending meetings all day long. I enjoy it, if they’re real. I’m in the minority, though. Most people don’t like meetings, even if the meetings are productive. Most people are tired of having to meet over every little thing. Therefore, the last thing one of your volunteers wants to do after being at work in pointless meetings all day is then go to a ministry meeting at your church.
These 10 ways to make meetings better are specific to your volunteers. After-hours meetings with volunteers have specific needs. People will come to your meetings at work because they’re being paid to do so. So don’t think that just because employees attend meetings all day at with you at work means you know what makes a meeting with volunteers bearable. On the contrary, I often find the opposite true. The more accustomed you are to work meetings, the more likely you are to think that everyone is accustomed to (often pointless) meetings. Still, if you have a large amount of volunteers, organized meetings are necessary.
1. Have a plan
Don’t wing it. You’re dealing with people who have worked all day long and now are sitting in your conference room at 6pm or 7pm in the evening. You owe them the responsibility of being prepared. Have an outline ready, talking points, and questions. Always be ready to alter your outline, but you need to have one and think through things. You should always go through a dry run before and if you have someone calling or Skyping in, you should never assume that technology will just work.
2. Communicate before and after
Make sure your people know, well in advance, where the meting is, what time it will start, when it’ll end, and what will be covered in the meeting. Also make sure that they have any notes or important information that was spoken of or presented.
3. Always have caffeine
For morning, afternoon, and evening meetings, caffeine is a requirement. Coffee always and soda for lunch and dinnertime meetings. Don’t be stingy with the caffeine. If you’re going to have a morning meeting and NOT going to have coffee, say so upfront (and shame on you). I shouldn’t have to elaborate any further.
4. Always have food
Again, this is self explanatory. This is particularly true if you have an evening meeting. We ran our Children’s Ministry leader meetings on Wednesday evenings before service. Guess what, we ALWAYS had food available. You can’t expect your team to go from work to your meeting without food. Same goes for morning meetings, have coffee and bagels/donuts available (at least). It’s one less thing your leaders will have to think about and it shows appreciation.
5. Have the right people there
There are two things that can really stall a meeting. The first is when there are people there speaking into something that they’re not really involved with. The second is when you need to make a decision and the decision maker isn’t there. If you know you’re going to need your accountant’s OK for an event that you’re discussing, have your account there or get parameters from him/her before the meeting. Also, it’s a smart move to bring someone into a meeting for a specific reason, and then have them exit. If you’re going to do that, start the meeting with the individual sitting in and then release them when they’re done.
6. Think convenience
Don’t plan meetings at your convenience, unless you’re the boss and your paying people to show up. Not a good strategy but permissible. When it comes to your volunteers, plan it for their convenience. Tuesday at 2pm is probably a terrible time for a volunteer team meeting. Tuesday at 7pm is probably much better, even if it’s inconvenient for you.
7. Think consistency
If you have a regular leadership meeting, make it consistent. That means having it in the same time and place every month or every week. Most people appreciate consistency, especially if their life is already crazy. It’s ok to switch it up, but it’s not OK to keep your volunteers on their toes when it comes to meetings. Also, just because you’re not there doesn’t mean the meeting should be cancelled. You should always have someone that is ready to take on the leadership of the meeting.
8. Think time
Please, for the love of everything that is good, start on time and end on time. Nothing makes me zone out more than a meeting that goes needlessly long. Sometimes you have to go long. Most of the time, though, you can cut a meeting by 15%-20% and be just as productive.
9. Don’t meet to just give information
If the purpose of the meeting is only to communicate information, you don’t need to meet. That’s not a meeting, it’s a speech. We have enough speeches available and can always pull up an incredible TED Talk on YouTube. The benefit of a meeting is the interaction that can take place. Take advantage of having people there to interact with.
10. Start with relationships
Always be ready to start a few minutes early and socially engage those that arrive early. When the meeting starts, kick it off by asking people to share something that happened within the ministry since the last meeting. Some people think this is time wasted, no way! Connecting with your team is never time wasted. This is also an opportunity for everyone to gain a deeper understanding of what happens in the ministry. Here’s an example. If you’re a Children’s Ministry Pastor, it’s fine to share how many kids attended the weekend services, but it’s great for one of your leaders to share how a new volunteer took a step of faith by teaching a class by themselves. Get it?
Following these 10 steps won’t give you great meetings, but it’ll set you on the right path to productive (and bearable) meetings with your volunteers.