Woman Sitting with a Bored ExpressionI have a love-hate relationship with meetings.  Some of my best experiences have been when I was in a room with engaged, creative people doing important work or solving a difficult challenge.  Some of my worst experiences have been when I was in a room where people talked at–or over–each other with no real connection, purpose or effectiveness.

As leaders, we know that our time is valuable.  We hold a shared value as Unitarian Universalists that implicitly and explicitly calls us to honor the worth and dignity–and I would add time–of others, in a way where we honor the value of their time spent in meetings.

Here are some suggestions about how to plan meetings that are engaging and invite creativity:

  • Send out the monthly reports and minutes a week ahead of time, then create a “consent agenda” to accept and/or approve the reports, thus eliminating one of the most potentially tedious parts of a meeting, i.e. people using the meeting time to read aloud material that folks can review at their own pace and schedule.  If there is an item that merits discussion or needs a decision, it can be moved from the consent agenda to the scheduled agenda.
  • Keep meetings to 90 minutes.   If you congregation is in the middle of a situation of project where you need to meet for longer periods of time or more often, consider adopting a model similar to that suggested by Patrick Lencioni in his book Death by Meeting, modified for volunteers boards and/or committees:

♦ A weekly check-in/tactical meeting (which could be by phone or web conference) for updates, scheduling, and other items that need timely decisions or coordination.

♦ A monthly strategic meeting where you can discuss your alignment with your mission and strategic plan, to introduce new initiatives or brainstorm new  ideas.

♦ A longer retreat 2-3 times a year to “get on the balcony” about the how the team is working together and how they are helping the congregation serve its mission.

  • Assign start and end times to each agenda item. Appoint and empower a time-keeper to help keep the meeting on track.
  • Consider putting the more juicy, even controversial issues at the beginning of the meeting when energy is high.
  • Encourage your committee members to use some of tips in the book Serving with Grace:  Lay Leadership as a Spiritual Practice.


About the Author
Rev. Renee Ruchotzke
Leadership Development Consultant, Central East Regional Group (CERG) of the UUA. I have a vision of Unitarian Universalist congregations being led by thousands of diverse, spiritually mature and passionate people ready and willing to spread the good news of liberal religion.  I believe ministry is best when shared between lay and professional leaders. More information about me can be found on the UUA website.