14 September 2007

Friday Five: Meetings, Meetings

Reverend Mother has the RevGalBlogPals Friday Five this week:

In honor of a couple of marathon meetings I attended this week: 1. What's your view of meetings? Choose one or more, or make up your own: a) When they're good, they're good. I love the feeling of people working well together on a common goal. b) I don't seek them out, but I recognize them as a necessary part of life. c) The only good meeting is a canceled meeting.
Generally, it's option a for me. I do think God intends for us to be collaborative in nature - I certainly don't enjoy being a lone ranger on anything. But I DESPISE meetings where no one will contribute, where one person is only out to defend their 'territory,' or where it's just a chance to bitch about the problems that necessitate the meeting in the first place. I'm really not interested in hand-wringing or navel-gazing. If we're going to meet, then let's get to it, and realize that the old saying really is true: if you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem.

2. Do you like some amount of community building or conversation, or are you all business?
In ordained ministry, a fairly sizable percentage of my work is what Martin Luther called "the mutual conversation and consolation of the saints." So community and conversation are an important part of what we do. Were I in a different profession, I suppose I'd still like to have a certain amount of community building, but I would be leery of it devolving into some kind of bizarre "Office Space" corporate clusterf$#k. I do tend to be a fairly businesslike person, even when it comes to the pastoral care I provide (not always a good thing, but it's who I am).

3. How do you feel about leading meetings? Share any particular strengths or weaknesses you have in this area.
I don't mind leading meetings. For me, "the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing." We have a tendency to get sidetracked so easily - riding herd on a bunch of folks is something that I think comes naturally to me.

4. Have you ever participated in a virtual meeting? (conference call, IM, chat, etc.) What do you think of this format?
My friend Nate started an online small group project after we graduated from seminary and at one point, a group of us had a conference call to see where we wanted to go with the project. I thought it was interesting, but not particularly fruitful - I'd much rather meet face to face. (That's not a critique of Nate, but a preference of my own.)

5. Share a story of a memorable meeting you attended.
I spent one year working on the Lutheran Student Center ministry staff at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln before I moved away for seminary. I remember the first ACReW meeting that I attended (the Association of Campus Religious Workers); it was the first time I was involved in a group of people so dedicated to working well together and promoting their own ministries at the same time. There was lots of mutual respect and laughter, even though we came from all over the denominational map: Lutherans, Methodists, Episcopalians, Pentecostals, Charismatics, etc. I remember thinking, "Hey, this is that Body of Christ Larry has talked about before!" It was a great introduction to professional ministry for me.

May I also second Reverend Mother's affinity for Demotivators - there's nothing better than a chance to deflate our own sense of self-importance with a particularly well-aimed joke.


  1. Totally with you on the diversity/unity/Body of Christ piece. The most energizing meetings to me are those with a lot of varied representation "around the table." What better way to be the Body?!

  2. I find your responses to be very much like those of the male leaders of my congregational board. And, by this I do not mean any "critique" but observation. I think men and women do business in very different ways. Most men really do want to get down to business, move through it staying on task, and eliminate as much small talk as possible. Most women find the relationship building component of "small talk" to be useful.

    I find that too much of one or the other, either "all business" or "too much small talk" and the meeting fails. Too much business and we fail to really build relationship and trust, too much small talk and we never get the work done or we take waaay to long to do it.

    I have appreciated my male leaders insistence to stay on task while at the same time hoping they could see the benefit of a little (and I mean a little) relationship building small talk.

    I suspect you do both, with a slightly greater emphasis on staying on task...

  3. For me personally--others' mileage may vary--I have less patience for the relationship building than I used to before I had a family. Every minute of a meeting is a minute away from family, so it had better be worth it. I still think relationship building is important, but I have become much more task-oriented. "I don't have a lot of time to give you, so let's get down to business."

  4. mmm first congrats you early bird! and second love the apathy pic... somehow it's where my current pastoral care level seems to hover...and third totally agree with riding herd. we should get way cool cowboy hats or something... and i think it's more personality driven not gender

  5. The above post confirms my suspicion that I might actually be a man.

    Okay, not really. But your perspective on meetings is very similar to mine. Nice play.

  6. Interesting play- love the posters!