Sunday, March 20, 2005

The ex-Presbyterian presents:
How to run a Goddamn meeting.

I try not to compare the two faiths I’ve had. (I’m not counting atheism as a faith. The way I practiced it, it wasn’t.) But this afternoon a glaring difference came to light as I sat in a two hour and fifteen minute task force meeting.

Presbyterians can run a meeting. They can raise a point of inquiry, have discussion and call the question like a sumbitch.

Not so for UUs.

So I’m writing up how to run a meeting.

Distribute freely.


1. Have an agenda and for the love of God, stick to it.
And by that I mean an agenda with TIMES. Fifteen minutes is plenty of time to discuss a budget item. If it’s not, assign a budget committee and let them meet about it. If fifteen minutes are up and people are still yakking, make them stop talking. No, really. Do it.

2. If you have two hours and fifteen minutes worth of stuff to say, plan two meetings.

3. If people at the meeting need to have background information, put it in writing and send it to them beforehand.
If a charity’s work can’t be described in one page, I ain’t supporting it. The next time a committee chair makes me sit through a 45-minute DVD on the charity they want to support, I’m sending them an invoice for my time. And my consulting rates are high.

4. If you’re doing something (like watching a DVD) in addition to the business portion of the meeting, do the business portion first. Duh.

5. We aren’t Quakers, consensus is unnecessary
So don’t ask me why I voted against your proposition. I know that an hour and forty five minutes into the meeting is a bad time to explain my nuanced position on the church’s support of social justice groups even if you don’t. I was outvoted anyway, so be happy with that.

6. Once something is voted on, shut up about it.
People who start sentences with “That thing we just voted on is really great because…” should be shot.

7. People who chose to work out things between themselves during the meeting sucketh mightly.
“Can I borrow that DVD to show this other committee?”
“When do they meet? I’m showing it to a different committee on Thursday.”
“They meet Wednesday. I could get it back to you before Thursday.”
“Are you sure they meet Wednesday? I thought the choir was having its special rehearsal Wednesday”
“No, wait, they meet NEXT Wednesday.”
“The choir?”
“No, my committee.”
“So I can take the DVD to my meeting Thursday and give it to you Sunday so you can show it next Wednesday.”
“But I won’t be here next Sunday…”
is what you sound like. So shut the hell up and email each other.

8. Always keep the action in mind. Discussion should be moving toward a vote. Discussion of church history on any committee but the church history committee is punishable by severe beatings.

9. Set a goal for the meeting. Achieve your goal. Adjourn.

10. Lead the meeting, or I will start leading it.
I feel socially awkward asking an old lady “Yes, that thing you’re saying is great, but how does it apply to what we’re doing here?”

But I’d rather be socially awkward than bored.



Steve Caldwell said...

You may want to check out the following resource on the UUA Youth Office web site:

How to Run a Successful Meeting

It overlaps to some degree with your guidelines and mentions a few extra ones.

jfield said...

Some of us are Quakers (though not me personally). The point I would make however, is that in a formal consensus process your points are even more important.

Whats wrong with most concensus decision making has nothing to do with the problems of using concensus and almost everything to do with not running meetings very well.

Both Building United Judgement and the book Meeting Facilitarion: The No Magic Method are both very usefull for this.

Chalicechick said...

Yeah, I was in sort of a pissy mood when I wrote that (don't know if you can tell.)

I don't think my points were worth bringing up in that whether the church should be supporting groups lobbying the government on a specific point of legislation (CC says "no.") is really a decision greater than one task force.

And task forces are made up of people who are to some degree zealous on an issue. They are unlikely to see my point. I'm not certain I belong on that committee at all.

who gets at this view about specific legislation through a mixture of not wanting the church to be too caught up in politics and not trusting that the FEC will side with a religion without dogma if conservatives start seriously questioning our tax-exempt status.

Anonymous said...

I'd also add that committee meetings are not (ordinarily) the proper place for pastoral care. Unless, of course, someone just found out their mother died on their way up the church steps. If you're worried about someone, go visit them or give them a call. Don't hold ten other people hostage.

And. Know that your committee doesn't exist to "approve" the actions of your volunteers. Guide them and lead them. But don't muzzle the ox. If they're taking the initiative, get in line and follow.

Anonymous said...

I posted a response on my blog