I attend a lot of meetings. And the thing is, I don’t mind most of them. I won’t call them a joy, but I wouldn’t call them a “necessary evil” either. The truth is somewhere in the middle.
But…there are some meetings that really suck the life out of me. Please don’t hold one of these and ask me to come. And please, please, please, don’t hold one of these on a recurring basis and make me feel guilty when I don’t come regularly.
There are three things that will keep me engaged during your meeting and make me more likely to come back to the next one. I will stay engaged in your meeting if I can experience significant connection, learn something useful or contribute something meaningful.
I’m an introvert. A lot of pastors are, especially if they have the gift of teaching. But being an introvert doesn’t mean that I don’t want or can’t enjoy significant connection with others. But it does mean that I’m not going to be energized just by being around other people. There has to be some intentional effort made to create an opportunity for significant connection. And here’s an important tip: serial sharing is not connecting. Most meetings that try to facilitate connection just go around the table, asking each person to share something like “biggest prayer request” or “what you’re going through right now.” The only people I really “connect” with in this are the people who keep it super-brief; I really like those people a lot!
Learning Something Useful
I don’t know it all and I like learning useful things I didn’t know: new information, new ways of thinking about something, new ideas to try out on existing challenges, etc. Now, I know that not everything I want to learn is going to be useful to everybody else, but at least ask yourself this question when you’re planning an agenda: is there a good chance that everyone at this meeting is going to be interested in at least a few of these items? If the answer is “no”, then you either need to shorten the time spent on the existing agenda items so you can add another one or two with broader appeal or you need to hold a different meeting where you only expect attendance from those interested in that particular topic.
Contributing Something Meaningful
I like to make meaningful contributions to discussions. Who doesn’t? And human nature is such that, the more opportunity we have for making meaningful contributions, the more engaged we’ll be in a meeting. Meetings that exist primarily for the sake of disseminating information to me rather than soliciting insights from me aren’t engaging. Now, if the information being disseminated is useful, then I’ll be engaged even if I don’t have a chance to contribute (see above), but if the information isn’t useful and you don’t want to get any contributions from me…then I don’t really need to be there, do I?