The following article is reprinted with permission from the author Tom Sweetser SJ who operates a parish revitalization activity in the Diocese of Milwaukee. The article was taken from the PEP Newsletter for Parishes at firstname.lastname@example.org. The author asks us to mention his new book that will be forthcoming this summer “Keeping the Covenant: Taking Parish to the Next Level” by Crossroads Publishers
A Checklist For Quality Meetings
Meetings are the stuff of parish life. Some are to be relished and others to be avoided. What follows is a menu for changing the latter into the former.
Don’t Go It Alone:Consider finding a co-chair or partner to help lead the meeting. This not only takes the load off of your shoulders, it also offers a variety of skills and styles from which to draw. Sharing the running of the meeting with another provides checks and balances to the leadership.
Come Prepared:Make up an agenda and get it around to the participants beforehand. If the group is small, set up a table with enough chairs for all to sit around it comfortably but close enough so that it is a conducive atmosphere for working together and accomplishing tasks. If it is a large group, fifteen or more people, set up the chairs as a semi-circle with a focal point in front. This suggests intimacy and sharing even though the group may be large.
Begin With RebondingIf this is a meeting of people who come together regularly, allow a few moments for people to check in and to identify those not present. Make sure the absentees are linked up with someone who will connect with them personally soon after the meeting. If it is a large gathering of people who don’t know one another, spend a brief period helping people feel included.
Stay FocusedIn conducting a meeting, while allowing adequate time for questioning, airing of feelings and discussing the topic, keep moving the group toward accomplishing the purpose of the gathering within the time allotted. Staying on course and well-focused is the hallmark of a quality meeting.
Everyone Is A PlayerHelp people realize that everyone present has an insight or a piece of wisdom to share but that they do it in different ways. Extroverts need to interact with others and voice their opinions to feel they are participating. Introverts need time in the meeting to do quiet reflection. Allow room for both. During the discussion give people time to do some quiet reflection, giving them index cards to write on. Follow this with sharing in twos or threes and then bring the results to the large group.
Attend To The TimingKnow when to give the group some slack and when to press forward to a conclusion, when to foster humor and when to get serious, when to invite the group to quiet reflection and when to allow an outburst of ideas and suggestions. Setting a reasonable pace to a meeting assures the participants that tasks will be accomplished but they will have fun arriving at the desired outcome.
Move To A DecisionStay with the sharing of ideas and discussion until it becomes clear a consensus has been reached or a compromise forged. Arriving at a decision gives people a sense of accomplishment. “We got something done; we all agreed and came to a good decision,” is a statement every leader loves to hear as people are leaving.
Pin Down Next StepsDon’t let people escape without a plan of action. This includes a time and place for the next meeting, assignment of tasks with clear deadlines and target dates, knowing who will hold people accountable for what they said they would accomplish.
Bring It In For A LandingTry to end ahead of schedule so people are rewarded for their attendance. In closing, reiterate what was on the agenda as an indication of all that was achieved. Have an ending ready that will bring the meeting to a close, such as a short prayer or asking for a one-word summary or reaction from each person.
Check It Out“How did it go? Is there anything we could do to make it better?” These questions should end every meeting in order to assure growth and improvement for the next gathering.