There is an art to leading a meeting. We all know when we have experienced a good, bad, great or just downright-awful meeting. It takes intentionality and preparation on behalf of the leaders and participants for a meeting to fulfill its intended purpose.

In the work of the church, the trend is that our communities are demanding fewer meetings. So if we are to have fewer meetings, then we better make sure that every minute of that meeting time is engaged with meaningful work.

1. Prepare and communicate the agenda in advance

For all the participants to be prepared and engaged, the convener of the meeting must communicate in advance the items that are going to be discussed. Yes, there may be some new business that pops up within the discussion of the meeting, but for the most part, the bulk of the business items can be communicated in advance. Your team might surprise you with the materials and ideas they bring when you give them a few days to ponder what is going to be discussed.

2. Past reporting should be kept to a minimum

Yes, we want to celebrate what we did last month, but meeting time is precious and should not be spent talking about what we did but rather about what we are going to do. If there are reports to share, encourage team members to email those in advance so everyone has plenty of time to read them. Then, you can celebrate the accomplishments of the previous time period in a quick moment in the meeting, without having to rehash the details of the reports.

3. Start with the stuff you don't want to do

If you begin with the items you are excited about, you will spend all your time on those pieces of your ministry and never give the time and attention to the other details and issues that need your attention. Start with the items that may not be your favorite, give them the appropriate attention, and then move on to the issues that energize your team.

4. Keep the clock in mind, but don't let it run your meeting

You want to be mindful of your team members' time, but you don't want to cut off a great conversation just because your meeting is at its hour limit. Don't set limits on your meeting, but set a reasonable agenda and inform your team members that you are going to finish your agenda giving it the attention it deserves.

5. Leave with action items

Every participant gathered should leave with an action item. Whether that is to read, pray, listen, do, organize or other, no one should come and go from a meeting without an assignment. This will give every member of your team connection to the greater purpose of the ministry and engagement in the work of the team.

These are basic practices you can incorporate into any ministry structure to help meetings find purpose and engage their members. Let's make sure we have meetings with purpose, because no one likes going to a meeting just to have a meeting.