Recently I was a member of a delegation who went to present a petition to a city council meeting. I was amazed at the volume of business handled in the two-and-one-half-hour sitting of the council.
As I drove home that evening, I reflected on some of the long and often tedious church board meetings that I have attended over a lifetime of ministry. In contrast, it seemed to me that the city council's secret of success was largely a result of adequate preparation and an orderly presentation and consideration of all matters of business listed for attention.
Two weeks before the meeting, both the council members and the constituency they served had been given the details of the agenda for that meeting. Those who were to present petitions were notified that they would each be allowed five minutes to present their material to the meeting. When the time came for their presentation, they were kept strictly to their allotted time.
The meeting opened with the singing of the national anthem, followed by a prayer offered by a local Baptist minister. Following the reading of the agenda, the council devoted the next 30 minutes to the presentation of six petitions. It was only then, when all matters before the council had been introduced, that the council proceeded to discuss each item and take appropriate action.
What of the church board? What of church board meetings? Paul reminded the Corinthian church, "Let all things be done decently and in order" (1 Cor. 14:40). Along the same line, Ellen White said, "God is a God of order. Everything connected with heaven is in perfect order; subjection and thorough discipline mark the movement of the angelic host. Success can only attend order and harmonious action"1
Recently I was on a committee to review our denominationally accepted rules of order and procedures for committee meetings and councils of the church. From materials already available to the church, we prepared a 27-page document.2 Following is a summary of two areas that may be helpful in your local situation.
To improve efficiency of meetings
- Make adequate preparation for meetings. (For example, make sure every item up for discussion has been processed sufficiently by the relevant persons before placing it on the agenda.)
- Notify all members about the convening of the meeting.
- Adopt objective problem-solving techniques to develop proposals to be submitted for the consideration of meetings.
- Provide an agenda with supporting papers along with the notice of the meeting.
- Where appropriate, brief those who have special considerations to make during the meeting.
- Encourage members to participate in the decision-making processes of meetings, and in the implementation of decisions.
- Transact business by having a clear motion before the meeting (the golden rule of discussion).
- Establish a subcommittee when a matter cannot be conveniently dealt with by the formal procedures of discussion at a regular meeting.
- Keep accurate, concise minutes of meetings.
- Accept the majority decisions in a Christlike manner and implement them.
- Evaluate the success of meetings.
Suggested evaluation questions
- Was notice of the meeting and agenda given?
- Were minutes of the previous meeting available?
- Were supporting papers made available where appropriate?
- Were objective problem-solving processes undertaken before the meeting where necessary?
- Did members arrive on time?
- Were the meeting facilities adequate?
- Was the chairperson able to minimize discussion?
- Were members encouraged to express their views?
- Did most members contribute to discussion?
- Were all contributions relevant?
- Did members discuss the problem thoroughly before making decisions?
- Was a consensus reached?
- Did the meeting make decisions?
- Was it clear who was to implement the decisions?
- Were deadlines set for carrying out resolutions?
- Did the meeting close at the predetermined time?
- Was the meeting short enough?
- Did members do necessary preparatory work?
- Was the meeting necessary?
- Was the meeting worth its cost?
1. Ellen G. White, Patriarchs and Prophets (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1898), p. 376.
2. Procedures for Meetings and Rules of Order (Wahroonga, Australia: South Pacific Division of Seventh-day Adventists, 1993).