When Meetings Get Stuck

As ministry leaders, we participate in lots of meetings to dream, develop and evaluate opportunities to serve children and families. In most cases, the meetings run smoothly—with a clear agenda, valuable discussion, and well-defined action steps to be taken. Unfortunately, in some meetings, we get stuck and momentum stops. Discussions don’t move forward and very few actions steps are identified. Participants feel deflated and wish the time they’ve spent in the meeting were dedicated to a more worthwhile endeavor.   When momentum halts, try these ideas to move your meeting forward:

  1. Get up and change your meeting space. A new meeting space offers a fresh perspective and stimulates new ways of thinking. If you can’t change your meeting space, change where people are sitting. Ask people to get up and switch places with another person or move tables to another area in the room.
  1. Reexamine the length of your meeting. Is it too short or too long? A meeting that runs too long gets mired in minutia, where people focus on the tiny details without focusing on the big picture or the initial reason for convening the meeting. Interest wanes and progress stops. Oppositely, a meeting that’s too short precludes proper ideation, rich discussion and formation of actionable items. In these brief gatherings, participants may feel a lack of accomplishment, lamenting that the real issue was not addressed or resolved. 
  1. Use the power of two or three. During the meeting break people into subgroups, pairs or trios to focus on the task at hand. Working in smaller groups engages everyone and provides an opportunity for each person to give input and share their thoughts and feelings about the issue being addressed. Additionally, group work fosters ideation. Be sure to bring the small groups back together to share their discoveries.
  1. Go for a walk. A breath of fresh air can invigorate a stalled meeting. Give your team members a question or topic to discuss with a partner and invite the pairs to take a 10-minute walk outside. As people walk and talk, the sights, smells and sounds of nature or an urban street will influence their thinking. Challenge people to make connections from their environment to the problem they’re trying to solve. For example, what might be all the ways a traffic light could be used to assess ministry programs? For added insight and visual imagery, have people use their smart phones to take a photo of something that jumpstarted their thinking. When people return, offer an opportunity from them to recap their discussions and share insights.

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