7 Guidelines for Effective Lay Council Meetings

7 Guidelines For Effective Lay Council Meetings

Effective meetings are essential for an effective lay council in the local church. Participants need to find the meetings to be both meaningful and comfortable. If they are not, they are not likely to return, nor will they encourage others to come. The following are seven guidelines for conducting effective lay council meetings. These ideas are taken from Part 5 of the Connectional Lay Council’s recent publication, An Effective Lay Council in the Local Church: Tips for Lay Council Leaders, which includes suggestions from laity throughout Zion.

#1. Publicize the meeting. In today’s society, people have many options for use of their time; so usually leaders must do some work to get their attention. Also, few people want to attend an event where only a few other members are present. Encourage attendance by distributing letters, flyers, or posters both in hard copy and online. Use email, phone calls, and text messages to remind people about a meeting.

#2. Start the meeting on time. People have lots to do and don’t want to waste time waiting for a meeting to begin. A late start time indicates disregard for the attendees’ valuable time. If a meeting consistently starts on time, the group is more likely to arrive on time for subsequent meetings. To start promptly, the leader should arrive at least 15-20 minutes before the start time to organize self, materials, and the room.

#3. Distribute a carefully developed agenda to each attendee. A good agenda reflects what is to be accomplished during the meeting. A written agenda says to the

participants, “This meeting is about something.” After giving the group a minute or two to review the agenda, carry a motion to approve or revise it. See p. 66 of the CLC Handbook for a sample agenda. Have all necessary handouts (except those for the Lay Academy) clipped to the agenda to avoid using time passing out materials during the meeting.

#4. Assure that Devotions and the Lay Academy are engaging. Minimize use of time on routine business items such as the minutes, treasurer’s report, and membership statistics, which can be communicated quickly and effectively by using handouts or even by notes on the agenda. Assure that devotions are planned and serious though brief. Encourage the chaplain to plan for variety from meeting to meeting. Sometimes such components as choral readings, inspirational poems, or even a 2-3 minute meditation might be included. Make sure songs are enthusiastically sung; maybe even include a solo sometimes if one of the members has this gift. Include a lay academy on the agenda for every meeting. It should be facilitated by a person who plans and communicates well, and is enthusiastic. To be effective, a lay academy during a regular lay council meeting should be no longer than 15-20 minutes. The Facilitator’s Guide for Conducting Thematic Interactive Lay Academies is a source of ideas for lay academies in the local church. For additional ideas, see p., 15 and pp. 21-24 in An Effective Lay Council in the Local Church.

#5. Meet quarterly. The CLC Bylaws stipulates four Lay Council Meetings per year. This interval provides for continuity but not an excessive number of meetings. Encourage fellowship and service among the Lay Council members by working together on ministry projects between meetings...(See Part 6 in An Effective Lay Council in the Local Church for ideas for ministry projects by lay councils in the local church.) A limited number of meetings with meaningful engagement in ministry between meetings increases motivation to engage with the Lay Council and discourages people from developing the negative, unproductive “just another meeting” attitude.

#6. Observe a meeting duration time of 1 ¼ to ½ hours. A sure-fire way to discourage attendance is to convene meetings that last too long. Difficult agenda items and those that require significant discussion and planning should be referred to a committee to make recommendations to the entire group. An alternative is to convene a work session of the total group outside of the regular meeting time. During a work session, only those members interested in the topic would attend. In the absence of an interested group, the officers should develop recommendations regarding complex items after some discussion during a regular meeting.

#7. Serve light refreshments. Have them ready at least 10 minutes before the start time of the meeting to encourage early arrival. After the devotional period and approval of the agenda, provide a brief period when attendees can serve themselves with the treats to enjoy during the meeting. Snacking during meetings helps participants feel more comfortable.


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