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Tag Archives | meetings

Help Me Understand…

As I am getting settled in my new house, new city and getting to know my new staff I still have been meeting with people. I technically do not start my new position for another 10 days, but as of last week I still have been hanging out with my direct supervisor and every single person on the team in which I will be overseeing, as well as some great key volunteers. One, because there is only so much I can organize the house and sit at home and two, because I think it is important to get to know, see how people feel and ask them certain questions so I do not go into this new position blind. I want to be able to have somewhat of a pulse on the team and the ministry in which I am joining.

I think one of the most important things any leader will ever do is ask questions. Not only ask questions, but know how to ask good questions. Whether you are hanging out with a student, with a leader or joining a new team, asking questions allows for you to know them and them to know you. It gives them a sense that you care about what they have to say and that you are listening to them. Who doesn’t want to feel like they are being heard?

So here are the questions I have been asking everyone I meet with in some way, shape or form:

  • How are you doing right now? (Are they tired, excited, nervous, anxious, overwhelmed?)
  • What are you most nervous about the future?
  • What are you most excited about?
  • If there was only one thing you could change right away what would it be?
  • If there was one thing you think should not change because it’s really effective what would it be?
  • Can you please help me understand _________ (In conversation if there is something that does not make sense or catches you off-guard you can clarify. I always want to give the benefit of the doubt).

I’m sure there are more, but these seem to be the go-to ones for me at this point in time. Now don’t just ask the questions and that’s it. Take value, take notes and engage in conversation so when time does come for change, you know, value and understand where people are coming from.

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When to Cancel a Meeting

What would it look like if you actually (gasp!) cancelled a meeting. There are certainly times when a meeting should be canceled. Here’s a few of the good ones:


When the information you have to share is irrelevant/old
There are clear times you should cancel your meeting – like when the information you were planning on sharing is now out of date or irrelevant. Cancel quick and retool with the new information.

When the right people can’t be there

If the players can’t make the game, you don’t play. Sometimes the forfeit if the right call, even though it is sure to bum out you as a leader. The problem is you view the meeting as a single step in a long process, and have already made plans well down the line. So when the step can’t be taken, you see a whole future falling apart before your very eyes. Take heart, a canceled meeting is better than a meeting with half your players. Be sure to reschedule quickly or you won’t recover.

When something else trumps it
Sometimes, the day just isn’t right for an important meeting like the one you have planned. Ripples run through organizations and become waves that can come crashing down at just the wrong time. Yes, there are times to fight through the ups and downs of a work day, and other times to just let it go. Don’t wuss out when you should be strong, but be sensitive to waves in your professional culture.

When you could just email everything
Sometimes, you may plan a meeting thinking you would have something to say … but you don’t. As you look over your notes and agenda you realize that maybe you should just email the details to people. If you ever think that … cancel the meeting and email out the details. Time is ultra valuable to people, one less meeting, as long as you can still maintain effectiveness is the way to go.

If you’re burned out on meetings
Meetings on top of meetings are pointless. Less meetings are better – if you are keeping your volunteers out too many nights a week or feel your own ineffectiveness, perhaps you should consider meeting less often. Could we meet with our volunteers quarterly instead of monthly? Twice a year? Maybe leverage technology a little more with an MP3 via email or dropping some thoughts on YouTube? Just because you’ve always had that meeting doesn’t mean it still needs to live under your leadership.

Share another reason to cancel in the comments!


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5 Steps To Highly Effective Meetings

There was a meeting I used to attend that consistently went over it’s designated time.  It was frustrating and I found myself resenting the leader.  I was not alone so we addressed them.  They had not been aware of the issue and were thankful for the feedback.  That very next meeting…we still went over.

Running a meeting is difficult because the amount of pressure people put on you for using their time.  If you waste it  people are not going to be happy.  To avoid wasting people’s time and energy in a meeting you need the right steps to run it effectively.

Here are five steps I use to make sure tasks are accomplished and people feel like I’ve used their time wisely:

STEP 1: Set an Agenda

Meetings that have no direction are the most painful ones to sit through.  By creating an agenda you give people a framework of what to expect.  If the conversation goes off on a tangent you have a path to get people back on task.  Before your next meeting:

  • Take a few minutes to develop one.
  • Share it ahead of the meeting with the attendees. 
  • Ask for their feedback (i.e. what they would like to add).

STEP 2: Stay True To The Time

If a meeting starts late you will rush through important material.  To make sure you maximize your time, start when promised (even if everyone isn’t there) and be prepared.  If you promise people an end time then keep to it.  If you start to go over make a plan to continue at another time or ask people if it’s okay to go over.  When people see that you use their time wisely, they’ll trust your leadership.

STEP 3: Allow Conflict

In order for a meeting to be productive their needs to be conflict.  That does not mean fighting and yelling; however, tension can be good.  It allows people to express their thoughts which could lead to better ideas and outcomes.  If someone disagrees with you and holds that back they are doing you a disservice.  Also, unaddressed conflict can turn into resentment.  In the end it might feel uncomfortable, but it will allow everyone to be honest and authentic.

STEP 4: Conclude With A Plan

Your team needs to know what’s next at the end of a meeting.  If you do not develop action steps to take care of the topics of discussion your meetings will become repetitive and redundant.  Delegate responsibilities with tangible steps.  Write them down and review them at the conclusion of your meeting.

STEP 5: Follow Up

Doesn’t matter if it’s in an email or with another meeting, follow up is important.  It’s a way of holding other accountable and making sure deadlines are reached.  If your team accomplishes the goals that you have set forth then morale will increase.  Everyone loves being set up for success.

Make meetings worth it by putting effort and energy into the preparation.  Communicate the meeting’s expectations and allow feedback.  When people see that you care about their time, they’ll give you grace when you mess up.  They’ll also honor the time and energy you pour into becoming a leader.

What other steps would add to creating a highly effective meeting?

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Meeting With Parents (and enjoying it)

Courtesy of Congressman George Miller/Creative Commons License

Courtesy of Congressman George Miller/Creative Commons License

I used to hate meeting with parents because it meant another night away from home dealing with people I didn’t understand.  When I became a parent I saw the importance; but the annoyance was still there.  That’s because my experience of parent meetings were miserable.  They were filled with lecturing, and were highly disorganized.  Then I realized parent meetings didn’t need to stink.  They can be engaging and should be approached as a big opportunity.

Communicating with parents is essential to what you do.  There will be times when you need to connect with one and then other times with all of them.  Instead of reluctantly gathering parents together on a weeknight when no one wants to be there, turn it into one of your greatest features as a youth ministry.  The topic might not matter, all you need to do is make it a worth while experience.  Which means you need to:

  • Give Plenty Of Notice: Parent’s might not come to your meetings because you are throwing the event on them last minute.  If the topic is engaging (i.e. How to talk to my kid about sex and dating) it might not matter.  If it’s something slightly less attractive (i.e. Mission trip logistics meeting) you need plenty of time to inform, remind and compel them to come.  Plus the more notice you give them, the more time you have to prepare.
  • Have Someone At The Door: Make your meeting an experience where everyone is welcomed by standing at the door as parents come in.  You don’t know what their day is like and having someone greet them with love and show them where to go is key.  They might be anxious, nervous or reluctant to go.  Starting the evening with hospitality will combat any negative feelings and show that you are hospitable.
  • Keep To The Time: Start on time and end on time.  It not only shows you are organized but conscious of other people’s schedules.  Set an agenda and find someone to hold you accountable.  People will appreciate you more when you do not waste their time.
  • Cast Vision: You might be discussing policy in the student ministry; however, this is also a great time to share why you exist.  Parent’s might not get to hear the vision of your ministry in other capacities.  Make sure you do not miss out on this time to let them know how your ministry is more than babysitting teens.
  • Leave Room For Connecting: Make sure you give yourself time at the end of the meeting to hang around and chat with parents.  They might have been anticipating this as a moment to speak with you about their teen.  This gives you the opportunity to recruit, and grow more leaders and advocates for the ministry.

If you can create effective and engaging parent meetings then you will build community with parents.  If you value the relationship you have with parents they’ll trust you with their child that much more.  Do not waste the opportunity of a meeting, embrace it and be intentional.

How do you make parent meetings worth your while and theirs?

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What Really Matters To Students

The grind of youth ministry is unlike most jobs. Late night messages from a student in crisis, overnight events, ski trips, retreats, parties, recruiting and training volunteers to name just a few. For lots of us another part of our work involves connecting with other youth pastors through networking, social media, conferences and speaking events all of which make an already full schedule even busier. It is so easy to get caught up in all sorts of things that are peripheral to the job, and can come at the cost for the students we are entrusted to lead. This fall I have been really focused on being available to connect with as many kids as possible each week. Prioritizing my work in the morning and leaving the last few hours of my day for students has been life giving for myself and I pray, the same for the students.

Those times just sitting with a student, treating them to a coffee, focused on them, hearing their heart, hearing their struggles and encouraging them is powerful and in my mind a large part of what youth ministry it about. I know that an adult taking time out of their busy schedule was a huge moment in my story and I pray that I can create spaces for the same thing to happen in our ministry. Leaving a series of back to back meetings at our local McDonalds  yesterday I was once again reminded of the things that truly matter to our students and reminded of the things that don’t really matter.

What doesn’t matter to students:

1 – Who follows / mentions us on Twitter

2 – What conference or event we spoke at on the weekend.

3 – How many people read the things that we write.

What does matter to them:

1 – That we love Jesus and passionately model that relationship to them.

2 – That we sincerely care about their life and their story. We know their past, but remind them of the future they have in Christ.

3 – That we encourage them and pray for them often, they know we are for them and have their back.

4 – That they don’t feel like a burden and when we meet them, we are focused and nothing else matters.

In the midst of opportunities and distractions, it’s so easy to forget that the students that we lead aren’t very concerned about all the peripheral stuff. These things are important and valuable, but they need to be secondary to our primary call to Pastor our students. What our students need from us is to Pastor and lead them, to accept them and encourage them, be there when we say we will and passionately shepherd them. Our integrity to speak about leadership is rooted in us being healthy, rooted leaders at the local Church level working in the trenches.

Geoff Stewart  – @geoffcstewart

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First 2 Years: Being Completely Right and Totally Wrong

I work on a VERY opinionated team. Now, that can be a totally awesome thing or the absolute worst. We like to operate under the “best idea wins” principal. Ideally, this should cut down on some of the arguing and provide really productive meetings. However, this can lead to pretty lengthy and “passionate” speeches about why their ideas are the best. One of the biggest lessons I have learned from these meetings is that you can be totally right, but if you communicate your idea in a poor or hostile way, you will always be completely wrong. Here are a few tips that will (hopefully) allow you to avoid that mistake in a meeting:

Check your pride at the door. This isn’t the time for you to win. This isn’t the time for you to prove that you are top dog. This is the time for your team to make the best choices to minister to the students in your ministry. Check your motives and maybe even pray for your heart before you enter into a meeting. Pride is one of the biggest things that can prevent you from clearly communicating your ideas.

Don’t take it personally. If someone doesn’t agree with your idea, it doesn’t mean they don’t like you or they think you’re dumb. Well, sometimes that might be the case, but only on an unhealthy team (which is a whole other blog post). Sometimes your idea is just a bad idea. That’s fine, everyone will end up pitching a bad idea. Don’t get emotional. Be a team player and push through. In the nicest way possible—don’t be a baby.

Shoot down ideas, not people. It is so dang important to watch your tone. Brainstorming meetings only work when people feel like it is a safe environment. Make sure the way you challenge someone’s idea promotes that. If you make someone feel dumb, there is no way that they are going to want to keep participating in the discussion.

What are some tips you would you give on the topic?

Colton [Email||Twitter]

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Service Programming: Creative/Brainstorm Meetings 101

Adding creativiity into services is my favorite thing to do. But I cannot do it all by myself. That is why I love the way we do our creative meetings. Everyone by themselves has a good idea, but working through it with others turns that good idea into a GREAT idea and everyone benefits from it. Here are some key things we do for our creative process for HSM.

We break our creative meetings into 3 parts, but I will just explain the first part for now. Here are some key areas of our big creative meetings:

  • Make them count- We do one big meeting once a month. We want to have ideas for the following month. For example, we will meet in May and think of ideas for services for all of June. We do only one a month because we can get more people, it is an exciting environment to be in because everyone feeds off each other, and all ideas are welcome and developed right then and there and leaves you not being able to wait until the next one.
  • Bring ‘em all in- In this meeting we invite anyone who wants to be involved. It has staff, weekend volunteers, students from all schools and grades (there are usually around 20-30 people). Everyone has good ideas, but with everyone, a good idea can turn into a GREAT idea. It is fun community and team building and the energy is super high.
  • Make it fun- Meetings more the most part are boring, but they dont have to be. We have pizza and drinks all around and spend the first part of the meeting just hanging out. We buy little toys and Play-doh for everyone to play with while we meet. I read somewhere that if your hands have something to do while you are thinking creativly, it allows your mind to be free (I do not know if this is completely true, but it’s fun and it seems to be working). We also have gift cards for the best ideas that we hand out after the meeting to the best ideas, and then one bigger giftcard to the BEST idea of the night voted on by everyone.
  • No dumb ideas- At this point, we just want ideas flowing. If it is in their mind, we want it on the board. This is not the area where we want to stunt any idea flows. Get it up on the board.
  • Be focused- We lay out all of the weekend topics across the entire wall, and then color code the different categories for each week. (Topics include: songs to play, videos, set design, take aways, I can;t believe they did that at church, sermon illustrations, Bible, etc). We give everyone 15 minutes to come up with as many ideas as possible and go and tape them under the right week and category. After time is up, there should be a whole wall filed with ideas, then we go through all of them and start taking down ideas that a majority do not have energy towards, and we keep up the ones everyone is pumped for.

From here there are a few other meetings in which we break down these ideas and start to place them into services on the weekends, but I will post those up next week. For now, I hope a little insight of how we do our big creative meetings helps in any way.

What are some things you do for creative meetings? Who is involved in them? What do you do that we do not?

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Before you even think of meeting

I’m willing to bet that if you are like me, you’ve had your fair share of really bad meetings.  I’m willing to bet that the majority of your meetings has been painful and has irked you to create a small resentment towards them.  But here’s the thing: meetings don’t have to be long, boring, and painful.  In fact, to make sure your team gets the most out of your meetings, just ask yourself the following questions before inviting them to meet with you:

Make sure you prepare your meetings well to ensure efficiency

What’s The Purpose?

In other words, ‘What do you want them to know?’ Before you meet with your leaders, think about the opportunity you are being given. Make sure you name that opportunity. Are you going to invest, cast vision and/or inspire? Whether the meeting is 30 minutes or 3 hours, know what you want your team to learn because of your time together.

What Results Do You Want?

In other words, ‘What do you want them to do?’  If you can’t answer this question, it means your meeting is lacking vision. It might also mean you are meeting out of pride (you just want people to listen to you) or control (you feel the need to micromanage). If there is no tangible takeaway (even team bonding), then why are you meeting?

Those two questions will give your meeting a destination and a path, now it’s about getting people there efficiently. To back up your vision and to send them off motivated make sure you take these three steps in planning your meeting:

Build An Agenda

Create an agenda that puts together a path for the meeting time, even if you are only covering one topic. This way people can come to your meeting with expectations and conversational tangents are less likely. Make it your goal to email out the agenda ahead of time, so that no one is surprised walking into the meeting.

Start With Prayer End With Prayer

This seems like common sense, but it seems that this is commonly forgotten. If the meeting is going to have conflict or tension, if you are going to need creativity and brainstorming, why wouldn’t you want God at the focus of your meeting? Again, it doesn’t have to be anything crazy, just something that honors God and brings Him to the front of people’s minds.

Start On Time End On Time

It’s just common courtesy. Meetings that start late and run long are signs of disorganization and a lack of respect for other people’s time schedule. I know there are situations where you need to wait for someone important to show up, but don’t delay the end because of someone’s error. If the meeting looks or needs to go long, schedule a follow up meeting.

Even if people do not like going to meetings, they’ll appreciate a clear framework. The worst thing we can do is play it by ear and go with the flow. I know it’s a little more work, but you won’t be as worn out or reluctant if you take the time to consider these questions and steps before you invite people to meet.

What’s your biggest pet peeve about meetings?

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