Saturday, March 24, 2012

I Wuv Meetings

This last Wednesday night, I cranked out a nice solid eleven hours of work for my wee kirk, culminating in the monthly meeting of my Session.   Here's the thing, though.  I must confess it.

I like meetings.  I do.  I...I almost wuv them.

Being Presbyterian, I suppose this shouldn't come as a surprise.   But here, I think it's important to insert a couple of important caveats.

I love short meetings.  I'm getting something of a reputation on that front at my congregation.  I do not like long meetings.   I do not like them, Sam I Am, though I'm perfectly comfortable with Green Eggs and Ham.

The fact of the matter is that I find long, convoluted meetings to be a waste of the precious time God's given us on this beautiful little planet.  Meetings are not, as I see it, the place to hash things out.  That's what conversations are for, between two or three or four souls.  You do that FTF or virtually with the folks you're working with.   Need to really hash it out?  Long conversations are great.  They're awesome.   Can't reach resolution?  Well, table it, and work it out in the interstitial spaces between meetings.  But if you're gathered to make a final decision or get feedback, it's not the time for exhaustive deconstructing.  It's not time to explore all possibilities.  If you get that done on the front end, then all rolls smoothly later.

I love efficient meetings.  That means that meetings don't try to be worship.  They don't try to be bible study, or leadership training.   There are other places to do that.  Meetings are business.  A faith community just has to get that work done.  I always and without fail begin and end with prayer, because church meetings serve the purposes of the Body.   But I ditched the long meditation at the beginning of a meeting many a moon ago in my first call.   After a year or so of it, I realized: I don't really want to do this.  My session really doesn't want to do this.  God will shed no tears if I stop doing this.  So I just plain stopped.

The whole thing is God's work, if it's church, right?  So why not just get right to it?

The two rules of thumb, for a working meeting, is that it shouldn't:

1) Ever run more than two hours.  Ever.   After two hours of focus, our brains are jello.   We lose productivity.  We stop gettin' 'er done.  And so I make that a clear goal.  Don't pack an agenda so it runs past two hours.  That makes folks sad.  So I keep an air horn in my bag, and when the meeting hits two hours, I sound it, and I keep sounding it until everyone leaves the room.

Well, that, and I try to moderate effectively.  As of yet, I've not used my air horn.  Don't believe I have it?  Sigh.  Ye of little faith.   By that, I mean letting folks run a little bit if they want to, but calling it back after it's rambled a little bit.   Here, it helps to have a small church with a right-sized leadership cadre.   I also try...not always with success...not to yammer on too much myself.   Outside of a sermon, I prefer not to get caught monologuing.

2) Ever run past nine o'clock at night.  Every minute you go past Nineteen hunnred hours, you lose one percent of processing capacity.  So at ten, you're at forty percent.  By eleven, you're operating at a deficit.

OK, I totally made that up.  But when you're running meetings of volunteers with jobs and kids and spouses that they haven't seen all day, cranking into the late evening just isn't respectful of the lives they're leading.  How can I preach about living a life in balance if I don't model that value in my expectations of my Session?

It also doesn't help with decision making.  I get sloppy at the end of a full day.  So does everyone else.  Sloppy is bad.

But efficiency is satisfying.  It feels good.  It feels right.  Making that an operating norm for leadership teams takes some the dread out of being a part of such a team.

I love being around empowered teams.   If a leadership team is operating well, every member of the group has a clearly delineated role, and respects and supports the roles of others.  If a leadership group is big into second guessing and wordsmithing and trying to take control of the work of others, well, that's not so much fun.  Things bog down, and meetings become endless slogs.

But if everyone basically trusts and empowers each other, the meeting hums along.  Everyone reports in.  People notice stuff, sure, and ask for clarification.  But it's the clarification that comes from mutual accountability and support.

And it's not just the meeting that hums along.  It's the organization.  Being part of something like that is

Few things are more satisfying...even wuvable...than a good meeting.