The first principle of the modern meeting is to meet only to support a decision already made. Within a church setting this presupposes a couple of situations:
1. There is a church polity in place that has some semblance of distributed authority. A meeting of “decision-makers” is quite difficult if there is only one true decision-maker. Without distributed authority, meetings consist primarily of proposals through which the one decision maker solicits opinions, but ultimately must make the final decision. Such meetings tend toward long, drawn-out auditions of ideas that routinely “die” waiting in queue to be processed by a one-man bottleneck.
2. There is a clear understanding of roles within the organization. Even if more authority is vested in a “senior” pastor, his authority should be delegated clearly among the team that serves with him. This allows the team members to know what decisions are within their purview. Shared authority (fully equal or delegated) allows for meetings to move beyond the infinite exchange of thoughts, wishes and ideas toward a more focused discussion of decisions that have been made.
Assuming the above is in place, decisions may be brought to the meeting to be stopped or to be pushed along. If the decision promotes the mission and philosophy of the church, then allow the decision-maker to proceed with the details of implementation. If a decision is questionable in regard to the mission and philosophy of the church, then the meeting turns to a focused discussion of how the idea misses the mark. Either way, the meeting focuses sharply on implementation or positive conflict rather than spur-of-the-moment thoughts, opinions, or, even worse, lengthy anecdotes.
These decisions, of course, are the result of the decision-maker’s pre-meeting research, conversations, and discussions. The entire staff shouldn’t be called together to do this background work along with the decision-maker. The decision-maker respects the time of the entire staff by bringing the fruits of his labor for a better, focused meeting. In addition, the decision-maker must own his decision while at the same time possessing the humility and corporate vision to adjust his thinking and decision in light of the solid, positive criticism of his peers.
In short, coming to meetings with decisions rather than topics is far more beneficial and respectful of your colleagues’ time. Of course, this whole process is dependent on the formal agenda item being specific and well-written.