I am involved in many different types of meeting. Not all have the same structure or importance but listing them may give you a point of identity from your own scene, so I will discuss them briefly in the next blog.
First, however, all need to have certain characteristics or questions answered.
1. What is the purpose?
2. What are the expected outcomes?
3. What is the status e.g. does it have a legal standing as part of the management of the church/charity?
This defines the structure on which to hang topics to be handled. So, the purpose of one group could be ‘to govern the church’ (i.e. elders’ meetings), ‘to organise a conference’ (e.g. the annual Newfrontiers conference ‘Together on a Mission’) or ‘to manage and strategise for the family of Newfrontiers churches worldwide’ (a group we call the Core Team).
Every meeting must be seeking to achieve certain outcomes. This will include decisions that will need to be made and actions agreed. These can often be brought into focus through a well constructed agenda, which I shall discuss in due course, where the expectations should be clearly specified.
In some churches the high value of relationship can lead to some inefficiency, so this potential weakness needs to be monitored carefully. In the UK, a church has to be a charity and the elders meetings, for instance, have legal ramifications. If decisions are being made about money, say, these need to be carefully recorded together with the reasons for the decisions; the minutes are legal documents to be available at the financial audit. If, for instance, there were any mismanagement of funds an investigative team would expect to see the minutes of meetings in which decisions and procedures had been made. So it is essential to avoid decisions being made in an informal and relational way at the expense of appropriate records being kept – it is possible to achieve both relationship and efficiency!
These decisions and procedures are the sole domain of trustees in other charities – and in a church the trustees do still have that legal responsibility. But in churches the spiritual leadership, the elders, do much of the work. Technically they are a group delegated by the trustees and, in law, accountable to them.
In the next blog I will describe some of the meetings in which I am involved to help demonstrate the wide variety of meetings that are possible and the importance of recognising the differences.