How to have a good members' meeting

Last night we had our latest members’ meeting. No doubt, writing this the day before it’s happened, any of my people might look back and say, ‘well, that’s not how it went!’ That’s the danger of writing these things before the event.

But, leaving myself a hostage to fortune, let me offer principles by which we try to run our meetings. These things tend to mean we have more helpful meetings than not.

Stick to the agenda

There’s nothing more annoying than random items suddenly cropping up. Things that we can’t properly discuss because we haven’t been given any advanced warning about them. In the end, sticking to the agenda is key.

Front the best person for the item

It makes sense for the finances to be presented by the treasurer and any stuff to do with the building by the deacon who deals with fabric matters. They know what is going on day by day and recognise the key things that need to be said. They know what is and isn’t relevant and so it is best for them to present those items.

Limit reports to essential information

There are lots of things elders discuss (we do have weekly meetings, after all) that don’t make it to the quarterly members’ meeting. That is mainly because most of those things are not pertinent for the membership. Should it become important, something they need to action or an issue they ought to be aware of, we might raise it then. But filtering information is really important. The same goes for all the other people doing reports. It helps if they limit their information to the stuff we need to know, not necessarily all the nuts and bolts of everything they are dealing with.

Prepare people for what is coming up beforehand

The more information people have before the meeting, the less likely you are going to have to spend lots of time explaining each thing. If you are voting on something, the groundwork should have taken place beforehand (documents circulated or announcements made so people can do what they need) such that that point in the meeting needs no more than a statement that you are now going to vote followed by a show of hands. Failing to do this means things drag out as you explain, listen to feedback and then take votes. It all becomes very long. But if you let people digest the documents, reflecting on anything they need to consider before the meeting, there is less need for lengthy explanations and times of feedback. The essential groundwork will have been done already.

Get feedback outside the meeting

Sometimes, if you are about to vote on a specific thing, it is important for feedback to be given there and then. But, more often than not, feedback doesn’t need to happen right away. Opening up the floor to everyone to say whatever they want, ask lots of questions, suddenly drags the meeting out longer still. Of course, we want our people to tell us what they think (especially if they’re going to have to vote on a matter in time). But that feedback doesn’t necessarily need to happen in that very meeting. Instead, provide opportunities for people to feedback in other forums outside of the meeting so the meeting itself doesn’t feel like it is stretching on into eternity.