Is It Time to Rethink Church Business Meetings?

February 18, 2015

It is unwise to assume all churches do things the same way. I certainly know that the readership of this blog includes leaders from tens of thousands of different churches. Even within the same denomination, there are countless different approaches to church practices.

Such is certainly the case with church business meetings. You may be in a congregation that does not have any business meetings. But if you are in a church with these meetings, please stay with me through the remainder of this post.

The Questions

I have been observing churches for decades. And I have been observing how many congregations conduct and utilize church business meetings. This process has led me to ask a few questions. Are we utilizing these meetings effectively? Should they be dramatically changed? Should they be eliminated altogether?

While I certainly don’t have the answers to these questions, I am seeing lower participation and greater dissatisfaction with business meetings in many churches. That is the reason I am asking these questions.

The Observations

While recognizing the diversity of churches represented by the readers of this blog, allow me still to make some observations about business meetings in many congregations. I make them in no particular order of priority.

  • There are still many churches today where the business meeting is primarily a gathering of critics and malcontents. The happy church member tends to avoid the meetings for obvious reasons.
  • There is a clear trend toward less frequent business meetings. Quarterly meetings are becoming common, and many churches have moved to annual meetings only.
  • Though I have not actually done a precise statistical study, I am confident in saying that there is a high correlation between the size of the church and the way a congregation does business meetings. Larger churches tend to have less frequent meetings. And smaller churches are more likely to require votes on more issues than larger churches.
  • Most pastors and staffs dislike, even dread, church business meetings.
  • The most common item covered in church business meetings is the finances of the church. For those congregations with annual meetings only, the church budget is the primary item brought as business.
  • Relatively few churches discuss ministry in these meetings.

Is There a Better Way?

I love local churches. I desire to see God’s glory manifest in these congregations. And I desire to see these churches be the best possible stewards of the resources God has given them.

With that in mind, I am asking the simple question: Is there a better way to conduct the business of the church? Some congregations have already responded by having less frequent meetings, and by empowering staff and lay leaders to make most decisions.

Should we totally rethink the way we conduct the business of our churches? Are there practices that would better protect the unity of the church while making certain accountability and decision-making are working well?

Please let me hear from you.

What is your church doing? What is it doing well in this area? What would you like to see changed?

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152 Comments

  • Churches opt for too many meetings I think, they start to focus too much on the things of this world. There are obvious reasons since the church has to be sustainable but as you said, the church business meeting only brings those who are not happy. It would be interesting to see what would happen in the long term if churches all opted for fewer meetings.

  • Dear Thom, I researched Baptist business meetings on Google after 2 horrible attempts at attending our monthly business meetings, months apart I might add in order to get over the first one. I attend a very small church (Sunday attendance is 20-30), over 100 years old. At the first meeting I asked a question about a piano we were buying and was told after the meeting by one of the deacons to hold my questions until after the meeting. The last meeting that I attended on Wednesday night I tried to 2nd a motion and was told I couldn’t that it had to be a man. They told my husband that he could 2nd it. He is not a deacon or an elder, just a church member as I am. I was so hurt, embarrassed, and humiliated, that I pressed my husband to 2nd it– though he opposed (not opposing the motion, but that I as a female, couldn’t). We both left so hurt, embarrased, angry, etc. , and headed home to discuss it rationally. I marked it up as “just the way they have done it for 100 years.” I am a loyal member, tithe 11% each month, attend and participate faithfully, and trying to become more involved. My question to you is: is the practice of only the men running the church and having a say “bible-based?” There are many Godly women in the church, but I guess they feel comfortable not participating, they are never called on to pray (I would say the average age of the church is 55, I just turned 60). I have come to the conclusion that I will accept this practice, but I do not approve of it or agree with it. I’m afraid if I bring it up it will cause too much controversy, so I’ll let it go. Would appreciate your thoughts, feelings, and knowledge you may have on this.

  • Kirby Shelton says on

    Our small church 25-30 attending each Sunday had a business meeting each month. They are terrible. Loud discussion, rude comments etc. To make it worse they are held in the Santuary even though the educational build is 15 feet away. When I first questioned this I was informed ” that’s the way we have always done it”. I can’t seem to get them to see its wrong. Any ideas?

  • Pop Myers says on

    There are far too many comments listed here for me to take the time to read all of them so what I’m about to say possibly has already been addressed. I’ve been a member of the Lord’s churches (3 different ones) for about 60 years. I have been a member for about 28 years of a small church (400+) but only have weekly attendance of about 200. Our business meetings over the years have evolved from good discussions about church business, finance, and ministry to now it’s “pastor’s or deacon’s recommendations” and everything is just Rubber Stamped! A few years ago we had a previous pastor that said we should not question anything presented because the pastor was “Called by God”. The last 3 pastors have had the same view and now no one can question anything for fear of being labeled a Trouble Maker. I continue to pray for a change but God continues to allow this to go on. It’s become more of a dictatorship than a church. Do you have an answer?

  • I am not as old as I look. I have just been to too many business meetings.

  • We hold a PVC night once a school term. Our Prayer, Vision and Community nights attract about 150-200 people from a congregation of 650. We divide the night into our pastors sharing our future vision and recent successes followed by a time of intense and focused prayer. This then is followed by splitting into groups to discuss action points and general fellowship of like-ministry people ending in a provided supper. We leave these nights with real excitement and anticipation and inform those not present with a follow-up PVC newsletter. There is a lot of transparency, honesty and commitment to communicate better and more broadly after each meeting. These much anticipated PVC nights allow us to hold just one annual meeting to vote on finance and administration issues lasting only about 20 minutes after our second Sunday morning service. Our intention is to inspire and involve our congregation not to intern them. This 5 year old works better for us than any other approach we have had up until now.

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