Guest post by Robert Harvey

This article will offer a few clues on how to have productive meetings–meetings that will help you and your center prepare to meet the needs of your community.


We are attending more meetings than ever.  The average business person spends 25% of his time in meetings; senior executives a staggering 80%.  What is worse, half of every meeting hour is wasted due to inefficiency and ineffectiveness of the participants.

This article will offer a few clues on how to have productive meetings–meetings that will help you and your center prepare to meet the needs of your community.

Let’s begin by defining a meeting.  A meeting is the primary forum in which team members conduct business and communicate with each other.  There are three key words in the definition:

Team:  meeting participants are working together for a common goal.  There may be times of adversity, but don’t forget you are a team.  You have a common Coach; and you all have the desire to serve Him as you serve others.

Conduct: management of the matters at hand maneuvering toward a desired result.  This is an action verb.

Communicate: the conveyance of information, of whatever form.


Identifying the Problems

So why do so many meetings go awry, ending in confusing and wasted time?  The following are a few reasons, with suggestions on how these potholes can be avoided:

  • Too Many Meetings Take Place:

Sometimes we are lulled into the routine of unnecessary regularity.  Most centers have monthly board meetings, which is good.  But, there may be seasons when that frequency is not necessary.  Allow yourselves the freedom to schedule meetings not so much by what the calendar indicates, but by the actual need of the center business at hand.  

  • Attendees Are Unprepared:

Too frequently, people come to meetings as if invited to a feast.  They show up on time and are expecting to be waited upon and fed.  Successful meetings do not depend on the chairperson or staff to do all the work.  It is more like a pot-luck dinner: everyone should be prepared with their contribution to the meeting.  Success can be insured by distributing an agenda far enough in advance of the meeting so that preparation can be done.

  • Certain Individuals Dominate the Proceedings:

The Chairperson must recognize this potential problem area (even to the degree the chair may be the culprit).  A benevolent dictator is the best type of chair for insuring that all can be heard.  When one person is taking up too much time, gently ask them to succinctly summarize their position and after a couple of minutes ask for other input.

  • They Last Too Long:

Meetings should not have indefinite time frames.  Set a specific limit on the meeting as a whole and the time to be spent on each topic.  If you can’t finish the matter that meeting, table the issue for the next time you get together.  This helps you from getting bogged down.  However, make sure time is allocated for fellowship and prayer.  As we minister together, relationship development is an important component of the team.

  • The Meeting Has No Focus:

Many pressures work against keeping meetings on track and on topic, especially in ministries!  The result is the proliferation of personal agendas, digressions, diversions, off-topic tangents and the like.  The chairperson needs to keep constantly asking himself if the direction of the discussion at hand is on the topic being discussed.  If not, simply say, “Let’s get back to the subject we were discussing.”  Then remind the group what that subject was and renew the discussion.

Implementing Solutions

There is hope, fortunately.  Your meetings can be efficient, effective and enjoyable.  Try following these eight keys to great meetings:

  • Be Prepared:  

Take the time to prayerfully come before the Lord, asking Him to show you what needs to be covered, the order the topics should have in priority of importance and time sensitivity, and how to allocate the amount of time each topic will take.  Your preparation will yield results as soon as the meeting starts.  This is true whether you are leading the meeting or are a participant–be prepared first through prayer, then through understanding and thinking through issues before the meeting.

  • Have an Agenda:

This is your road map; your meeting plan; your target.  With it, you and your colleagues recognize the goals and know what is going to be dealt with.  If the agenda is distributed before the meeting, preparation can take place.  Remember that you will never hit your target if there is no target to hit.

  • Start on Time and End on Time (Or Sooner):

Respect your participants by keeping to the promised time frame.  The focus will be greater if people are not constantly looking at their watches wondering how late the meeting is going to last.  Also, having an ending time forces issues to be dealt with during a prescribed period, rather than an open-ended discussion.  

  • Have Fewer but Better Meetings:

A meeting should only happen when absolutely necessary.  Can a conference call deal with the issue just as efficiently?  Whenever you’re tempted to call a meeting, make sure there is a good reason for doing so.

  • Maintain the Focus:

Keep your meeting on topic at all times.  Stick to the topic.  If participants want to talk about issues other than the agenda items, let them do it after the official business has been concluded.

  • Capture Action Items:

Flip charts or white boards are great tools for this purpose.  Then, either type the notes from the meeting up and send them to everyone or take a picture of the chart or white board and share the action items as concrete steps and hold people accountable to do them.

  • Encourage Flexibility:
Too many times, meetings end in hard feelings when something important to a participant is not viewed as very important by everyone else.  Team members need to recognize that passion, especially in this work, is charge and Spirit given.  Different members of the Body will have different passions, usually reflective of their differing spiritual gifts.  When others do not embrace a certain issue, it should be accepted as an expression of differences in the Body, not a personal affront.
  • Get Feedback:
This is a terrific way to measure the effectiveness of the meeting.  Ask participants to give honest and open verbal or written feedback on what is right and what is wrong with the meeting.  Then use it.

Productive, efficient meetings are possible.  Try incorporating some of these suggestions over the next few sessions and you may be surprised by the great results.  Not only will the work before you get done in a more orderly and timely fashion, but it will be a lot more enjoyable process.

Robert Harvey is the former Executive Vice President of Care Net, and is currently a consultant for the Free Wheelchair Mission, as well as part of the ownership team of a manufacturing company. 

In 2015, Care Net is celebrating 40 years of offering compassion, hope, and help to people making pregnancy decisions through the Care Net ministry family. This post is part of “From the Archives,” a series of articles curruntly running on the private, affiliate-access section of Care Net’s website. It is adapted from an article originally offered in “Effective Leadership” A Care Net Board Publication, Volume Four, Winter 1998.