Seven Reasons Why Monthly Church Business Meetings Are Dying

It is almost an unspoken phenomenon in church life.

Three decades ago, over nine of ten churches with a congregational government had a monthly business meeting. Several non-congregational churches had monthly business meetings as well.

Today, less than one-third of American Protestant churches have these monthly meetings. That is an incredible decline hardly noted by many pundits.

The monthly church business meeting is dying.


  1. The meeting often attracts the most negative members in the church. It becomes their place for griping and criticizing. One elder told me his church’s monthly business meeting was “the meeting from hell.”
  2. The negative church members have pushed the positive members out of the meetings. Healthy church members have no desire to be a part of a gripe and complain session. Most of them who do attend do so to protect the pastor and the staff.
  3. The frequency of the meeting leads to micromanagement. There is typically not sufficient major business to discuss every month. So the void is filled with discussions and complaints of minutiae. One monthly church meeting lasted over an hour due to disagreements regarding the quality and cost of toilet tissue in the restrooms.
  4. This meeting has become one of the most dreaded times for many pastors. These pastors certainly do not demonstrate excitement and anticipation in most cases. Church members typically will not follow unless leaders are enthused.
  5. The Millennials abhor contentious meetings. The monthly meeting thus has become one of the ways to drive off many young adults.
  6. The meeting often allows a few naysayers to have inordinate power. Frankly, that’s why many of them attend. A church members seeking power is a church member in need of repentance.
  7. The monthly business meeting is simply not necessary. It is a waste of the precious resource of time. If there is a need for the church to tend to a major issue, special meetings can always be called.

The monthly church meeting is dying.

And few tears are being shed.

Let me hear your thoughts.

Posted on February 29, 2016

With nearly 40 years of ministry experience, Thom Rainer has spent a lifetime committed to the growth and health of local churches across North America.
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  • Amen. I’m now pastoring my first church that doesn’t do monthly meetings. We have them every other month, and that seems to work well for us so far. Thankfully, most of our meetings have been quite pleasant. I would love, however, as I’m here longer to move these meetings to a quarterly basis.

  • Our church still has monthly business meeting, however, our Wednesday night service is dedicated to intercessory prayer. Following our prayer time – where we divide up into small groups and assign each person a group to pray for – we have either a brief devotional or once a month conduct business meeting. Focusing on prayer and prayer needs sets the tone for business meeting. We recently revised our church constitution and the committee overwhelming wanted to keep our monthly business meeting.

  • Rick Mitchell says on

    Thom, I’ll look forward to reading your new work on change. We are just a few weeks out from a series of church wide Sunday evening discussions of Simple Church, and those who have read it are already asking, “how do we navigate the path of change?”

    Regarding business meetings in general, the largest and fastest growing congregation in Alabama (non-denominational, but mostly Baptist in theology) has one annual meeting of the members, and that meeting is scheduled on an afternoon as to not interfere with worship or ministry priorities. Obviously such an approach to the administrative and financial matters of a congregation can’t work – that’s why they have + or – 34,000 people attending 11 campuses around the state.

    Most of the membership of the congregation I serve does not have a pastor’s awareness of what that or other such congregations are doing; that is simply an observation and is not offered as a criticism. However, and with that said, there is a distinct interest within our congregation for doing away with the monthly meeting in favor of a quarterly meeting. Additionally, the leadership structure may end up as something functioning in a manner akin to the way an associational executive board functions. The staff and volunteer leadership will do the bulk of the business management transparently, but with as little bureaucracy as possible. The monthly reports will be available to the membership, but the worship and disciple-making initiatives will not be interrupted. This interest pre-dates my tenure; I’ll be interested to see how it shakes out. Our present meeting is on Sunday evening and takes maybe 10 minutes, so at the bottom line I’m not going to make business meeting or no business meeting a hill to die on, because eventually it will die on the vine by attrition.

  • In some churches, in reaction to the boring troublesome monthly business meetings, the reactive opposite has occurred and now all decisions are made by staff without input from the congregation or they are presented quickly and “rubber stamped”. When staff dominates the decision making process and input, the congregation becomes the “cheering section”. ( “Good luck guys, hope you make it.”) When the congregation is an integral part of the decision making, they buy into the process and will become participants rather than just cheering the staff on. (“Yes, we can do this together.”) Monthly business meetings are far too often and will add to the negative attitudes and lack of attendance. A well planned, well controlled, well publicized quarterly business meeting, planned for the same evening as other church activities for convenience, can become the catalyst for success in driving the church forward.

    A well informed congregation will be the staff’s driving force to accomplish great things for the kingdom.

  • At my current church we have quarterly business meetings where a layman presides. Most of them last ten to fifteen minutes. I think the longest one we’ve had since I’ve been here is maybe 30 minutes. At my last church we had monthly business meetings where I had to preside, and they typically lasted 45 minutes. Needless to say, when I came to my current church, I felt like I had died and gone to heaven!

  • Ed Scully says on

    Tom – Does this article apply to the monthly meeting of a Vestry, Council, or the like in non-congregational churches?


  • Greg Yount says on

    We found changing to quarterly Business Meetings to be effective – and use the Church Council to accomplish monthly decision-making. That’s why we put them in office in the first place – to lead and decide. That filters out a great deal of minutiae . Indeed, we sometimes find getting ANYTHING on a quarterly business meeting agenda to be challenging when the calendar, budget, and officer installation are not concerns. We might even move to a Bi-Annual Business Meeting format in the future.

  • J P Williams says on

    “A church members seeking power is a church member in need of repentance.”

    The #1 reason I have been given for meeting monthly relates to power, although along a spectrum from a sincere concern about cronyism to an insistence that every member should have a say in every decision the church makes.

  • Mark Warren says on

    I usually get a twist in my stomach on the day of a monthly business meeting. I know many pastors, who like me, find it contentious and a source of division within the body. And, that is when there is nothing controversial on the agenda. I am working with our people at my current church to move from a monthly meeting to a semi-annual meeting.

  • The church is not a business, it’s a family. However, there is a business life to the church. When it’s time for us to do business we should set a biblical example for how business should be done. Because of the practice of Scriptural principles, the church should be so good at business that the business world stops to notice and is compelled to imitate our practice.

    Keys to a good business meeting:
    1. A great system that clearly defines when you meet, for what purpose, the matters you vote on, and why. Suggestion – vote on core matters (staffing, budget, disposition of land, etc…), empower leaders and volunteers to make decisions about secondary matters or preferences.
    2. Periodic, but not frequent. Quarterly or less is often enough.
    3. Minimal discussion. This is only possible if you possible if you present information to the church in layers. It should be part of your system. When there is a new idea or change in direction share the information in layers. Let the idea move from staff to deacons, or other key leaders, into key leadership teams, then into the general population of the church. Give the idea time to develop. Let people, in smaller, more personal groups, even one-on-one, ask questions, and give feedback. Let them see that their feedback influences details of the idea. If this is done well then the business meeting becomes a place to make a decision about something people have already considered rather than a discussion about something they’ve not yet thought through.
    4. Celebrate the good things God has done.
    5. Cast vision for the things God is leading you into.
    6. Make it fellowship focused. Food helps. Informal helps.

    We call our business meetings Family Matters. We had one Sunday night. 257 people attended. We took time to celebrate the good things that have happened so far this year, report on a current building project, and cast vision for an approach to giving that will, over time, reshape our culture of generosity. We didn’t need to vote on anything this time. We spent the last 15 minutes praying in groups around tables about an event we’ll do leading into Easter and the people God will entrust to us Easter Sunday morning. It was a great meeting that built significant momentum for our next season of ministry together.

  • Carla Vornheder says on

    The more my church has done away with our church business meeting, the more it has begun to seem like a . . . a cult of personality. Older members do not feel wanted and attend less and less. The church is governed by a little group of members who seem very concerned with stroking the pastor’s ego. He’s a pretty good guy, but watching this ego-stroking little cadre is a little sickening.

    I believe that business meetings are a sign of the health of the church. If business meetings have become sick, then identify the problem and work to fix it. Don’t simply do away with business meetings, so that you don’t have to hear how sick the church has become.

  • Nathan Rose asked about suggestions to move away from the monthly meeting. I’ve seen a well-organized church council go a long way toward managing the negative issues listed in the article and possibly making the church-wide business meeting unnecessary. The church council I sat on meet one week ahead of the scheduled business meeting so the leadership had pretty much had the discussions and made all important decisions and the congregational meeting was a formality. Unless something major were to come up, that full meeting could have been done away with completely.

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