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Being Prepared, But Saying The Least — Meetings

boy covering mouth

Recently I attended a meeting with our church’s leadership, and as I drove home from it, two thoughts kept bothering me: I wasn’t prepared enough for the meeting, and I said too much in it.

The following week, I set up an appointment with an advisor for input on my meeting contribution. (The role of the advisor is captured well by Michael Hyatt in his post “Who Are Your ‘Trusted Advisors’?”.)

This advisor had heard me present in several meeting environments (including the most recent one), and had watched me interact with church staff and members. He recommended several points of improvement for me, but the one that was most impactful was this:

Be the most prepared guy (gal) at the meeting, with a plan to say the least.

We’ve all been in meetings with people who weren’t prepared to speak authoritatively on a subject, but did it anyway. They spouted content without substance. And even if spouting is done well, waxing eloquently doesn’t equate meaningful content.

We’ve also been in meetings with well-prepared people, who because they were so prepared, subsequently chose to take over a meeting with incessant talk. Again, filibustering doesn’t equate to quality content provider.

What’s the best mix of preparation and spoken contribution in a meeting?

Specifically, what’s the best plan of action when you’re a participant in the meeting, but not facilitating it?

On Being Prepared… a few reminders, for prior to the meeting

  • Have I gathered all my facts?
  • What questions can I anticipate on this agenda topic?
  • Have I searched my paper files and e-mail for all correspondence which may be relative to the meeting topic?
  • Have I studied enough that I have key information and metrics in my head?

On Saying Little… a few reminders, for during the meeting

  • Only speak to a topic after you’ve answered this question to yourself:

Am I speaking to bring value to the conversation, or for some other less worthy reason?

  • Resist the urge to control the output or concerns of others.
  • Listen reflectively.
  • Don’t formulate rebuttal comments while others are speaking.

I’ve by no means got all this down. After most meetings I lead or participate in, I feel there’s ways I can improve.

Wouldn’t it be nice if people said about this about us after they left a meeting…

“They don’t talk a lot, but when they do, they bring a lot of value”?


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My 6 Go-To Interview Questions for Church Staff

Whether interviewing a candidate for a teaching pastor position or an administrative support position, these are my go-to questions that continue to give me insight into the person during my initial interviews. Maybe they can help you in your selection process…

  1. You have several strengths (and I would name some), but tell me what the “shadow side” to these are. Tell me about how you’ve seen a strength of yours come out as a negative in certain settings.
  2. Which of the nine “fruit of the Spirit” is most evident in your life currently, and which “fruit” is least evident in this season of your life?
  3. When you’ve had a hard day or a hard month, how do you typically re-energize?
  4. Thinking about supervisors you’ve had in the past, tell me a supervising-characteristic one of them had that really was good for you to work under. Next, tell me a supervising-characteristic that really bugged you at times.
  5. What does self-development look like for you? If you have intentional practices, please describe.
  6. What is the greatest joy and greatest challenge in your current position?

These aren’t original. They don’t always provide significant insight. But for me, more often than not, I learn something valuable from the person’s response.

In the selection process for my church, we have a robust Selection Tool Kit (this is where some of the above questions came from). And these six questions represent a small fraction of the questions we ask. These six are typically asked in the first couple of interviews (discovery phase), and as we move along, they get more in depth. But as I’ve written about before, you need to model transparency in your interviewing exchange, and when possible, ask open-ended questions that provide an opportunity for you to see them in reality and not in an aspirational version of themselves.

Happy interviewing–

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Before Moving to a New Place: Understand its change readiness

“If you’re considering coming here and joining our staff and are thinking to yourself, ‘When I get there, I’m okay with some things, but I’ve got to change…’ then you probably shouldn’t come at all.”

That statement is a standard talking point I use in our minister selection process during our “cultural call.”

I received similar advice in premarital counselling. If when choosing a spouse you’re thinking to yourself, “I like Jane quite a bit, but once we’re married, I’ll change this or that about her,” you’ve got a problem.

One reason to hire staff from outside your church is to gain a fresh perspective. You want them to impact your culture in a new way. But there’s a difference between a new staff member adding perspective and influencing your culture, and one forcing their perspective in efforts to overhaul your culture.

Even if your church wants significant perspective and method changes, it’s rare they’ll accept those changes quickly.

I would assume some churches really want and need the changes brought on by new staff. If there’s something going on at a prospective church that isn’t great, and the leadership tells you in their recruitment, “It’s that way now, but we’ll change that if you come,” or worse yet, “It’s that way now, but when you come, you can change it!”… Run! Or at least deal with the reality of the present circumstances and determine if God is calling you to minister in them. If you’re only willing to go for the post-change version of them (a preferred version of them), then I would urge you to reconsider.

While I’ve seen a trend in churches of being more change-ready, they still move slowly. Churches are made up of people, and most people are change averse. Churches will talk change all day long, but know this: most churches are only aspirational-changers.

If there are clearly changes needed, and the church acknowledges them but haven’t yet changed it, then it’s probably not going to change (at least soon or easily). Churches will present you with the idea you can come in on a white horse and have free reign to modify, manipulate, and overhaul their church (and while on said horse, you can chase down a Pokémon too) –  but I contend that rarely happens quickly or without trouble.

So does that mean you shouldn’t go to a church who needs change?

Nope, but do make your church-going decision based on reality, not only on your idea (or theirs) of the preferred future for their church. You need to pull back the change curtain.

Can you handle a change-free church for a while? Here’s a litmus test if you’re considering a new church opportunity:

If X doesn’t change within my first two years, is it going to cause me significant frustration?

If you can’t live with a church’s present reality and still minister well for at least 12-24 months, then I caution you about choosing that church. When you’re new to a church, before you’ve built up relational equity, it’s hard to minster well and also affect change simultaneously. If you’re changing a lot early on, you’re likely making a bad first impression, and worse, you’re spending too much of your energy on change and not on the people who need ministry from you.

Another test question: If when describing the new church opportunity to trusted friends, do you begin with, “They have a lot of things that aren’t right, but once there, I’ll change them”?

Even if you believe God and the church has called you as a change-agent for a new church, please know:

  • Ministry needs to happen in the meantime (before change)
  • Change will cause friction
  • Change will occur slower than you want it to

Churches that need change also need great ministry leadership. Churches that are change averse also need great ministry leadership. So don’t not go because there are changes to me made, but do go with the reality in mind that you’ll need to be comfortable in a primarily unchanged environment, and you’ll need to find ways to thrive in ministry (in the meantime).

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