At Celebration Church, we LOVE meetings! Larry and I just don't believe lame meetings have to come with the territory of being a pastor. I figure I never want to have to try to influence people to go to something that I wouldn't want to attend myself. I don't want our leaders to come out of obligation, but out of passion.
So, last evening was our leadership meeting at Celebration. For those who might be church leaders and curious about how this works in our particular situation (if you're like me you are always wanting ideas) I thought I'd share. We have leadership meeting on a monthly basis, with few exceptions like holidays. There's always a purpose and an important agenda for each one that hopefully adds value for each person coming. (Meetings should ALWAYS increase people in some way - otherwise, why attend? In my humble opinion we should never have a meeting just because it's scheduled, if we don't really have a purpose behind that meeting or adequate preparation to ensure a successful meeting.) Our meetings are times of fellowship, bonding, training, encouragement, motivation, inspiration, prayer, and so much more. We used to have all of the meetings in our home but we have really outgrown it so most of the meetings are at the church now except occasional special times where we pack out the house.
We always start with dinner. Most of the time it's a covered dish where everyone brings something but occasionally we do something different. We have had a few times where Larry and I provide the entire dinner as a special appreciation to our team. Christmas time is always one of those times. Last night was one of our standard covered dish times and it's always an amazing buffet! Last night there was everything there from homemade beef stew to fried chicken to southern style banana pudding. The first hour of our meeting is nothing but dinner and fellowship and it's always a fun time around the tables. (We set up the tables on Sunday morning after church in the fellowship hall to get ready for the meeting Sunday night.) After dinner we never really want to have to stop talking but it's time for us to focus in. We usually give everyone a "five minute warning" that the meeting is about to start so they can go up and get coffee and dessert if they haven't already, and to take a restroom break.
After dinner we spend about 30-45 minutes on time of sharing our "wins" from the previous month. We talk about highlights of the past few weeks at the church. It's important to us to give praise for all the people who have come to Jesus in the last month, those whose lives are being transformed in many ways, and specific things happening in our ministries. We also give kudos to team members who have accomplished particularly great things the past month. It's our belief that this is really important. While we do give God the glory for what's going on in our midst, one thing some churches/believers do a poor job at is celebrating wins among the team members or for the church as a whole. Sometimes in a desire to "deflect all the praise to God" we never thank people adequately or celebrate the goodness of God and what He is doing through His people. Obvious the name we have selected for our church, "Celebration" denotes that this is an important core value to us.
After the sharing time we usually have a training that lasts about an hour. These are on a variety of topics that enrich and encourage our leaders and help to support them in the various roles they fulfill at Celebration. Last night I taught on the subject of "Successful Strategies in Team Leading." We had an excellent time of discussion that followed our meeting. Although Larry and I are well prepared with teachings, and sometimes our leaders themselves teach on various topics, we always encourage a lot of group discussion. Like Rick Warren says, "All of us are smarter than one of us," so we place a high priority on input from the entire team. Sometimes when we are planning a big outreach we do not have a training during our meeting but instead we utilize the entire time to brainstorm and plan our strategy for the event. Putting our heads together we come up with some incredible God-ordained ideas that eventually become some of our best days at CC!
Our meetings always end with prayer. Prayer is a very high priority at CC and is "the engine that runs the place" as we like to say.
Our evening starts at 6 pm, and never goes any later than 9 pm, formally. I say formally because although we dismiss by 9 pm most of the people stay later and talk. We've been known to have the last few people leave at 1 or 2 am! It's not that we would ever push anyone to do that as everybody has to get up early for work however, it's just that we love to be together and most people don't want to leave.
These are all the things we "do", and just to share a few "don'ts"...
- We don't handle what we call "housekeeping" matters at leadership meeting. This would be things like saying, "don't leave dirty dishes in the sink if your particular church ministry uses the kitchen" or "remember to not tack anything to the walls in the hallways that's not approved by the church office." Issues like this are addressed in our leadership newsletter. Sometimes meetings can get frittered away worrying about addressing stuff like this and you can quickly go from sharing encouragement and training to focusing on minor issues that don't really move the group forward. We do communicate these important things but choose to do it in writing through our leadership publication. If we have a particular leader who is not adhering to these things even after reading it in the newsletter, we speak to them privately and don't take up valuable group time to handle small matters like that.
- While leaders can share whatever praise reports they want to during the sharing time, it's not a place for grievances. While we don't shy away from handling conflict, leadership training isn't the place we handle those things. This is well established but if we ever had an issue with it we would re-direct. Larry and I always keep the meeting on track and moving along to ensure valuable use of everyone's time.