Two questions to help your meetings work


22/01/2019 by Chris Green

A pastor I know had a great idea to add a ministry assistant to the team.  He talked to the senior lay leaders, found a suitable candidate, interviewed, and offered the role.


But he hadn’t actually asked the elders, as a whole, formally, and – understandably, they hit the roof.  The result was an embarrassing climb down, the ministry role was never filled, and one the elders had a permanent question mark over the pastor’s judgement. Quite rightly.

Lots of things go wrong in meetings. Fuzzy agenda, poor leadership, multiple realtime conversations, or no-one actively watching the clock, all contribute, all too often, to the sense of meeting-failure.

But two issues dominate when meetings don’t act on the good intentions in the room. One is not having the action points noted and named, the other is working out the communication strategy.

Or, to put it as questions:

1 What’s the next action? The question of clarity

The simple question, ‘What’s the next action?’ can transform a pointless meeting into a purposeful one.

Getting clarity on this is so important, but so hard.  And it’s frustrating because the next action doesn’t need to be that difficult.

The next action isn’t ‘build a house.’  It’s ‘Fred will buy some screws on Thursday, and Marie will bring her screwdriver on Friday, and screw the thing to the other thing.’

X will do Y, by Z (day). And it’s usually best if that action is really, really easy. Especially if it’s to be done by tomorrow at the latest.

A simple way to get that clarity is that, at the end of the meeting, the chair checks that everyone agrees what needs to happen, by when, done by whom, together. That means that there is progress, because you’ve identified a next step, and it’s the right progress, because it’s the right next step. 

Even better, the minutes state the action points, and the person who will act.

For really complex meetings or long minutes, put them at the end, by name.

But that simple question, ‘What’s the next action?’ can transform a pointless meeting into a purposeful one.

That pastor blew it because he wasn’t thinking in a connected, public way, and so no-one else was able to see the gaps in his thinking. His co-elders needed to challenge him to find the right next step.

2 Who else needs to know? The question ofcommunication

The people in the room may be the right people to take the decision, but they’re not the only people affected by the decision.

We had a spectacular fail recently, in a meeting I chaired, because we didn’t ask that question.  And a critical person wasn’t in the loop, and – when she discovered – was rightly cross with me.

Now I think about it, that has happened too many times for comfort.

The people in the room may be the right people to take the decision, but they’re not the only people affected by the decision.  Two different groups want to use the same kitchen.  Two different groups plan to spend the same money.

Someone pitched a ministry idea to me this morning, and I’ve learnt to say, ‘I’m not saying ‘no’ – I think it’s a great proposal.  But other people need to be consulted before we say ‘yes.’ 

And that pastor blew it because – in his desire to get the team he felt he needed, he short-circuited the decision making process.

With long term consequences.

And, yes, I was that pastor…

4 thoughts on “Two questions to help your meetings work

  1. I made a very similar mistake early on in my ministry: I wanted to have a prayer ministry team, so I talked some of the obvious candidates and explained my vision, we had a meeting and decided when to get started – and only then did I realise that I hadn’t mentioned this to the deacons – at all…
    But they graciously accepted my apology, the team got started (and eventually stopped), and I’m still the pastor of the church…

  2. stevewalton2014 says:

    Thanks! Michael Hyatt has recently done a very good podcast on questions to ask:

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Shortlisted for “Most Inspiring Leadership Blog, 2018”

New resource

Pastors are busy, and leading a church is a demanding task.  That’s why I wrote this e-bookchecklist: The Pastor’s Checkup – The Top 10 Questions every pastor needs to answer (and helpful stuff if you can’t)

There’s only way to get it is by subscribing to my  (occasional) email newsletter here.


God, Suffering and Joy

A conversation between me (with cancer) and Michael (with Multiple Sclerosis)

Legal stuff

This blog does not share personal information with third parties nor do I store any information about your visit to this blog other than to analyse and optimise your content and reading experience. I am not responsible for republished content from this blog on other blogs or websites without my permission. This privacy policy is subject to change without notice.

I welcome your participation on the Ministrynutsandbolts site, and invite you to share ideas elsewhere on what you learn and read here. At the same time, I ask that you respect my intellectual property rights in the process.

You are welcome to link to my site or any specific post on my site, extract and re-post less than 200 words on any other site, provided you link back to my original post, or print my posts in any non-commercial publication (e.g., company newsletter, class syllabus, church newsletter, etc.), provided you include this copyright notice: “© 2017 Chris Green. All rights reserved. Originally published at”

Please do not do the following without written consent: Re-post one of my posts in its entirety anywhere else on the Internet, use this content for commercial purposes, including selling or licensing printed or digital versions of my content, or alter, transform, or build upon this work.

If you have some use for my content that is not covered here, please contact me. If you would like me to do a guest post on your blog, email me at

Copyright does not apply to the titles of books, but transparency means I should own that the title of the blog is taken from the excellent ‘Ministry Nuts and Bolts: What They Don’t Teach Pastors in Seminary ‘ by Aubrey Malphurs (Kregel: 2nd edn. 2009)

© 2018 Chris Green

%d bloggers like this: