personal productivity

Meetings ≠ Work

This week we’re exploring some organization changes that we’re making around our “meeting culture” at Liquid Church.  We’ve been inspired and motivated largely by the work of Al Pittampalli and his book “Read this Before Our Next Meeting.

Late last year I was having all of my “year end” meetings with my team members and there was a recurring theme . . . we had a problem with our meeting culture.  Being a “matrix” organization my team was in a number of meetings . . . some that I could directly control, some that were headed up by other parts of the organization.  I needed to take some action to change the climate around our meetings to help move the mission forward.

I pulled out our shared calendar and got doing some calculating and found some shocking statistics:

  • our team was meeting in 140 hours of regular meetings every week!
  • that’s about $4,500 in cost to church. (every week!!)

In 2011 . . . we had over 7,000 hours of regular meetings as a team.  Even if we cut those meetings in half we could . . .

  • call every one of the 5,000 first time guests who are going to visit Liquid this year for 15 minutes.
  • have a 1 hour, face to face, meeting with all 750 new folks we want to see get on to teams or into groups.
  • and still have enough time freed up that each staff member would have 2 more weeks worth of time to invest in the mission!

But more than just the amount of time being spent in meetings . . . the tenor and focus of these meetings needed to be changed.  My core conviction is that meetings do not equal work . . . they are a way to organize and coordinate work but meetings aren’t the core of what we are asking people to do.  Helping our people encourage their friends to attend Liquid . . . that’s work.  Getting people connected to groups and teams . . . that’s work.  Developing leaders and our teams . . . that’s work.  Meetings are not work.

We needed to focus our efforts more on this front . . . so we’ve set out on a number of “organization change strategies” to help change the conversation and hopefully the culture around meetings at Liquid.

  • Book Club // In late December I offered to buy a copy of Al’s book if people were willing to read it and come to a “lunch and learn” to talk about it.  The book is a quick read . . . 70 pages.  We had about 50% of our staff take me up on it. I lined up a series of “encouragement emails” that I sent out weekly to the people reading.
  • Lunch & Learn // Al lives in NYC and I contacted him on a whim to see if he would come out for our a 1 hour lunch and learn with our team.  He agreed!  We ended up making this a part of a larger staff training day that we do in January every year.   He stood in a sumo wrestling ring we set up (that’s another story!) and challenged us to think different about meetings.
  • Tools & Encouragement // I’ve been sending out weekly encouragement and equipping emails to our entire team to try to keep the conversation alive.  I’ve been very happy that people are no only talking about meetings differently . . . but we’re seen some actual change within our organization!
  • Signs & Modeling // We’ve put up signs in our meeting spaces that talk about the three “lessons” we’re attempting to live out about meetings.  Signs don’t change anything . . .but they do help to frame people’s thinking as they go about their work.  We’ve also revisited these concepts in our subsequent staff meetings.

So what changes have we seen in the last few month?  We’ve had entire weekly update meetings replaced with more efficient update emails.  I cut a weekly coordination meeting that I host in half . . . and added a monthly “team fun time” to the mix . . . a way better use of time!  People are coming to meetings prepared more . . . leaders are prepping their teams with more information to be able to support (or be critical of) a decision being made.

Meetings aren’t work.  In fact, your meetings might be getting in the way of the work of your church.  [How have you attempted to shape the “meeting culture” at your church? We’d love to hear!]


  1. I think the idea and suggestion of this new model of meetings is a great one, but the habits are hard to break.

    The biggest issue I’m finding personally is the need to *schedule* actual prep time before each meeting that is called. Otherwise, it’s the same old scramble and just default to hoping to roll-up the sleeves and make it a work-meeting.

    And the memo idea is probably the biggest factor in success for the modern meeting. How do we make that happen more often?

    I don’t think I’ve gotten more than 2 agendas in any of the meetings so far. Wonder if an email-based template would help remove some friction in that process?

    I’ve been experimenting with making sure each calendar invite I set-up has the agenda within the notes section. Wonder if that suffices?

    Any great ideas for how to make the agendas happen more frequently?

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