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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  • Interesting. I was drawn to this site, because tonight is my church’s annual business meeting, and I have an issue that I wish to raise.

    There is a Proverb that says, “The first to present his case seems right, until a second comes forward and questions him.”

    This particular blog entry obviously take the side of pastors and elders rather than “naysayers.”

    But here is the thing: While pastors and elders should be honored and respected, all Christians should listen well in a spirit of true humility to the ideas, questions, concerns, and grievances of church members. A negative individual should be rebuked, but he should not be prejudged. By what objective standard is a person deemed negative? Likewise, pastors and elders should not always insist on their way, and they should listen to the ideas that individuals of the congregation have.

    Throughout history, way too many leaders who have been zealous for the peace, the good, and the order of the community have erred in their judgment by thinking too highly of their own opinions and not listening well with proper humility to the opinions of those who disagree with them. Surely this is a temptation for all elders and pastors.

    Henry Robert, who wrote Robert’s Rules of Order, once said, “Once can scarcely have had much experience in deliberative meetings of Christians without realizing that the best of men, having wills of their own, are liable to attempt to carry out their own views without paying sufficient respect to the rights of their opponents.” God help us!

    That said, in most cases, I think that a monthly meeting is too frequent. But I think an annual meeting is too infrequent. A quarterly meeting sounds about right to me.

  • Our church stopped having council meetings altogether because our Pastor deemed them unnecessary. Now he Lords over the church and makes all the decisions regarding anything. Lack of communication within the church prevent church growth and causes disunity because no one knows what is going on. Lack of meetings gives pastors too much control.

  • I would bet that the people commenting on not having these meeting are clergy. It’s one less committment they have to attend. Our ELCA church has a trust problem and the council can’t do anything without having the congregation’s approval on very trivial things. We’ve had meeting with the trouble makers and they are a major reason there is such low attendance at the meeting. We even had one of the troublemakers make a motion to display the American flag in front of the church by the pulpit. General “spirituality” in this country may be on the rise but Spirituality in the Church is falling. Church attendance is falling throughout all denominations. Until people start trusting the elected council or church body is allowed to take care of church business and the Church itself goes about the “business” of being the Church of Christ, things will never change.

  • Janis Edwards says on

    I have found that very few lay people are trained in how to participate in a business meeting. This should be part of new board members orientation. Is this even taught in seminary? How about How to read your church budget?

  • I so appreciate this discussion and forthcoming book. As a new pastor, I inherited a very contentious once a month council meeting. I Interject a devotional at the beginning of every meeting but want to reduce the number of meetings as those who don’t attend worship tend to speak the loudest and longest. Its a power play…
    Thank you for your wisdom.

  • We have monthly business meeting every month and we really don’t have any arguments. We do have a complaint from someone every now and then but for the most part they are actually very informative and a lot of new ideas are presented and agreed upon. I love my church family and my pastor! I am blessed to have such a loving church that is all about doing God’s work!

  • I think a lot of this has to do with how well meetings are planned and run. Most of my committee members look forward to the monthly meetings now because we are talking about what is coming up and not about what has past (though some review for critique is done and is important). We are focused on strategic goals and a vision of how we are making God’s word known in the community. Naysayers are voted off the committees and critical comments are used to improve the ideas. Not every meeting goes smoothly and not everything we do is without wrinkles, but the monthly meeting is a sign of a healthy church that people want to get together and work on things. Meetings for the purpose of having a meeting are counter-productive and certainly fit the description you portray in this article. I completely agree that some churches (and other organizations) suffer from these maladies, but not meeting monthly sends a signal about church health and about management skills.

  • Michael Simons says on

    We do once a Quarter meeting to update how the budget going , how many joined etc along with ministry reports last 10-15 minutes . We have called meetings as need . We have a deep level of Trust with our Deacons and Committee system.

  • John Little says on

    I so want to “kill” our monthly business meeting. Being a paid staff member in churches for over 30 years, I have been to countless of these. I can count the spiritually uplifting ones on one hand. I would love changing it and having us move to a different format. In 5 years or less it will do so out of necessity anyway as those coming will be dead or unable to get out at night anymore. But I would rather have a plan in place now then wait till then.

  • I assume this is a church (all members) meeting not a leadership meeting or regular meeting that is needed to address the affairs and day to day operations of the church.

    Our quarterly “business” meeting took place exactly as you stated, with members who were the loudest and had the most complaints speaking to much for too long.
    When I started I was shocked. Having never been on the inside of a church meeting, but having had tons of business meeting experience, I could not believe what went on and was said by at these meetings.

    What made our meeting more difficult, a few of the “Leaders” agreed with some of those who were causing issues, and would not change any part of the meeting especially the section titled open discussion, which is not a good idea.

    So, after I started working in the office, and had the responsibility of preparing the agenda, thought it would be best to move all the business items to the front of the meeting. Messy topics like “open” discussion were last.

    What has happened, those members who were interested in hearing the business items, financial reports, state of the church, etc… and not the mess, would leave after the reports and new business related items were presented. Those who like to bring out negative items, were left with an audience of less than 10 people sometimes, and after about 3 meetings of not having anyone around to listen to them, they stopped. Our last 3 meetings, were about 15 minutes. No open discussion topics were brought up. (Applause, Applause) 🙂

    Praying we change to a once a year state of the church celebrations! Like the idea of involving food. People are happy when they eat, especially desserts!! 🙂

    • Nicky,

      This seems like a manipulative tactic being used to silence those you disagree with rather than patiently and lovingly work with them.

      I would suggest using Robert’s Rules of Order to conduct your meetings. A church meeting should have a clear call to order and a clear time at which it is adjourned. Ideally, all members in attendance would remain in attendance for the duration of the meeting. Rearranging the format of the meeting in order to accomplish your goals sounds a lot like dirty politics to me. It may be effective to get done what you want to get done, but that doesn’t make it the best way to patiently work through the ideas, concerns, proposals, and grievances of those that you disagree with. Also, if people leave the meeting early and negative people stick around, then negative people may be able to vote on something and have their proposal carry, because others didn’t stick around and were therefore not present for the vote.

  • As pastor I have lead the church I am now at (19 years) to have quarterly meetings. I have emphasized that if we elect committees then we need to let the committees do their job that they were elected to do. And that is exactly what the church has done. We also have meal at our Business Meeting (which is in lieu of our evening service) in which we fellowship with one another and I remind people as I pray that this isn’t our church, it is God’s. We have had quarterly business meetings for over 8 years now and in that hour meeting we average eating for about 40 minutes and going over the ministries of the church for about 20 minutes. I’ve gotten to where I enjoy these meetings!

    Also in my past church, to keep contentious or damaging surprise motions from coming up, all motions must have been in the church office 10 days ahead of time so that they could be printed and in the church foyer for members to pick up and pray over. If it was an emergency, that a committee could not handle, we had a called business meeting to deal with that subject only. I’ve never understood why motions are made and quickly passed or voted down without thoughtful consideration and prayer from the members. As a pastor, this does away with the surprise motions.

  • Dan Sowell says on

    Our church has quarterly business meetings. This is something that began well before I became pastor here 13 years ago. Meetings usually last about an hour and are always positive. Various committees and teams report at least twice each year in celebration of recent ministry involvement and in anticipation of upcoming opportunities. As some others have indicated, financials are reviewed at each meeting.

    As pastor, I set the agenda but our meetings are presided over by an elected moderator. I advise the moderator in advance regarding issues and perspectives on issues that may come up. We all operate in an atmosphere of great trust and transparency. I always come away from our meetings feeling thankful and blessed.

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