Meetings, meetings, meetings

Can someone tell me whether the church is unique in holding meetings in which the amount of time devoted to meeting vastly outweighs the amount of business that is done? I’ve a suspicion that the church is far from unique in this but also that others also must know better how to manage business than we often do.

Of my last working week, I’ve given 11 hours to diocesan meetings and my estimate is that the amount of time needed during them for actual essential business was about 30 minutes – 45 minutes at the most. Even though I’m quite a believer in meetings and like keeping company with people and even though much of that time has been quite convivial, I do find myself questioning whether this was actually necessary. (I’m not including in that time the diocesan theology seminar either, which I think was worthwhile and also allowed me to meet someone interesting from the states for a good discussion about ministry. Curiously, we tend to regard such learning events as optional. The seminar and subsequent meal did take another four hours from the week).

Included within the 30 minutes quoted above is business that I (or as a cathedral, we) generated and I’m grateful for the responses of those with whom that business was discussed. However, I’d go so far as to suggest that the meetings have, generally speaking, neither helped me to run a busy cathedral church nor engage in the business of bringing a kingdom in.

I wonder whether I am mistaken in thinking that this is directly related to our abilities and capacity for mission.


  1. Rosemary Hannah says

    Having spent a lot of time in Voluntary Sector meetings, I would say that, yes, they are JUST like this. Possibly private sector is better.

  2. Does this include travel time to the sort of places that got Thomas Shaffernaker sacked from BBC weather reporting? He famously refferred on air to the Outer Hebrides as being the arse-end of nowhere, or something that sounded a bit like that.

  3. It does include travel time and there has been an unusual amount of that this week.

    I greatly mourn the loss of Tomasz Schafernaker from our common life.

  4. ….waggles fingers under chin, while saying oooh in a silly voice…
    I accept your correction of my Polish spelling graciously. (But my English spelling beats yours)

  5. Oooops, hostage to fortune! Yes I know that referred has only one R, but I can’t find an edit button.

  6. Only hold meetings for (i) things you can’t achieve by email and (ii) when encountering people is part of the game plan. Switch name for event to ‘encounter’ when that is the purpose otherwise call it ‘waste of time’.

  7. And then apply the lessons learned to the running of the General Synod; call it an encounter and don’t let anyone “speak to” (vile phrase) anything we’re supposed to have read before the meeting. Speaking against would be quite another thing …

  8. agatha says

    Standing up meetings seem to be the latest. Can’t agree with Mark though, e-mail correspondence on something usually well exceeds getting people to decide things face to face.

    • I think that there is business which certainly does need a meeting and there is other business that can be done more efficiently by email. The great wisdom is knowing the difference and finding appropriate ways to get things done.

  9. David | Dah•veed says

    It is time to explore web meetings. The resources used to travel, for food and/or accommodations could be saved for other things and folks connect through any number of online services specifically created for meetings.

    You could even invite the participation of folks that could otherwise be very expensive to include. It takes a commitment to devote the time to the meeting and not be multitasking from home dealing with spouses and kids at the time you need to be in the “meeting”.

    I think more and more businesses and organizations will go this route. The rumored new iPad coming the first qtr of 2011 should be perfect to the task with dual cameras like its little brothers the iPod Touch and the iPhone!

    And Kelvin, you could select a nice T with a collar and a tasteful pull over for on camera, but no one needs to know that you are also sitting there in your boxers and bunny slippers!

  10. I used to loathe meetings when I was a lawyer and I still would far rather not go these days, but much as I hate to admit it, they always strengthened understandings and friendships.

  11. Dah.veed, I’m not sure that Fr Kelvin owns a nice ‘T’ and did you know he knits his own pullovers? No end to this man’s talents.

  12. I have thought for some time that meetings are all a conspiracy to keep us off the streets.

    The worst thing, working in the university sector, is when the VC gets over-excited and bans biscuits in a cost-cutting measure. Then meetings are just a bunch of sad folk sitting in a room wishing they didn’t have to resort to the 200 for 29p teabags.

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