Is It Time to Rethink Church Business Meetings?

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?

Posted on February 18, 2015

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.
More from Thom

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


  • You’re right about both the problems and the trends with church business meetings. Unfortunately, as churches move to shorter and less frequent meetings, their congregations can have less and less of a sense of engagement with their leaders, and the leaders can loose touch with their people. Here is a creative way to address these dynamics in a constructive way:

    • Thom Rainer says on

      Thanks, Ken.

      • I am a member of a small church and we hold our meetings annually. We call our meeting Vision Casting Night. We focus more on the spiritual growth within our congregation and leadership. We give praise reports and focus more on ministry involvement during the past year and community outreach. We discuss finances as well but it’s not our main focus. We focus on drawing people closer to Christ and evangelizing the lost.

  • Chuck Deglow says on

    The church from which I recently retired held two meetings each year: a semi-annual and an annual meeting. We stopped calling them business meetings simply because the name carried so much negative baggage. We called them “Church Conferences.” The annual church conference was a summary of the past year and approval of the budget for the new year. The semi-annual meeting was a mid-year report of the progress of the various ministries, etc.
    For what it is worth, we also changed the name of the “church council” to “Integrated Ministries Planning Team” to better communicate the purpose of the Team.

  • I really like what Jon suggested about a name change to “business and ministry meeting”. I feel as though business meetings are a wonderful opportunity to measure the health of a ministry. Are they contentious? In my experience, yes. Why? Because the congregation doesn’t love each other and/or trust the pastor/staff. I think that a church that loves one another and trusts their leadership will follow staff and volunteer leadership and want to empower their membership and meet less frequently. When you don’t see that happening, you are looking at obvious health issues… more than a format for a business meeting needs to change.

  • Greg Corbin says on

    I agree totally with your post. I have served in churches that had business meetings in every way you described: monthly where everything was voted on, quarterly with the financial update being primary, and annually where the budget and the church officers/committees were the only agenda. Presently, I am serving in a church that has quarterly business meetings according to our by-laws. They last less than 5 minutes, and, in addition to the financial update include updates from ministry highlights of the quarter as well as a ministry report from our deacons. We have 700+ in attendance on Sunday AM, so we aren’t a small church.

    Personally, having served in chruches that have different business meeting models as practiced in Baptist polity, I have come to believe that the healthiest is to have an annual church conference where the budget is passed along with election of church officers and committee/ministry team members. Then have the items that require a church vote clearly defined and have a called business meeting if any of them arise. These items might be calling a ministerial staff member, purchasing property, borrowing money, major construction/renovation, or changing the church’s governing documents.

  • Great observations Thom. We have moved to an annual church conference that is always held in December. We even changed the name to get “business meeting” completely out of it. As you stated, we still deal mainly with the budget, however, we work really hard to do as much ministry reporting as we can. We try to make it more about what God is doing in people’s lives than just about where we are financially.

  • Definitely time to reconsider. We recently changed the name of our monthly meeting to “business and ministry meeting.”

    This has allowed us to focus more on ministry than business and criticisms.

    So far so good….

  • I am a young pastor seeking God to bring revitalization to our church. I do not like our business meetings. They are so formal, rigid, and dry. We follow strict Robert’s Rules of Order. I am not even sure my generation understands or appreciates this format. Is there a better way? How do others feel about this old format and the “spirit” it generates?

    • Try making ministry and missions reports and needs the focus. No one likes to be bored. Small churches need connection with ministry. Big churches don’t do business in the meetings anyway.
      Southern Baptist used to mean congregational management. Big churches, like big countries, have to have a representative form of management.
      Call the gathering something else but let the church be the church, the whole church, and nothing but the church.

      Robert who?

    • I know Robert’s Rules of Order can be a pain, but you can use it to your advantage if you familiarize yourself with it. I highly recommend reading “A Parliamentary Guide for Church Leaders” by Barry McCarty. He breaks down Robert’s Rules in a very understandable way.

      • Thom Rainer says on

        That is indeed a very good book by a knowledgable man.

      • KAREN JONES says on

        We have monthly business meetings. We use Robert’s Rules of Order…We have an agenda…we have motions..discussions and then voting..we have a financial report for every account…how much was spent in each catagory. We have a budget we do every year and the congregation votes on the budget…I am so proud of our church members as they are all very respectful…we usually have around 30 to attend our business meetings..

  • I came from a small church where I witnessed some horrific business meetings. They literally frightened me. I am in a large church now (almost seven years) and have only attended one business meeting. It was fine, but my past experiences keep me out of the “business” area as much as possible.

    Southern Baptist +500

  • Our church gradutally moved (over a period of years) from monthly “business meetings,” to quarterly “church conferences” to two “church conferences” per year. What is more important is that we moved from conducting (presenting, discussing, debabing, and divisively “voting” on church business) to “church conferences” in which we hear,receive and celebrate church ministries. “Reports” are more ministry stories, victories and direction sharing… the tone of he meetings has changed from tense comments, conversation and open criticisms to joyful celebration! They are now a blessing rather than a curse. And we end with a sense of God’s glory being seen and celebrated in our church.

    • Thom Rainer says on

      That is a great story, Bruce! I love the tone.

      • Love, Love, Love this idea!!!
        We have quarterly business meetings, and I dread, dread, dread them.
        The few that attend are not interested in “Business” and it usually ends with a negative discussion about the loud music, or some other topic that could be discussed at another time.
        Praying for God to change to something like this!!

    • Bruce, I really like that idea. Are you doing it as part of a service, in place of a service, or as a special stand alone time?

    • Love, Love, Love this idea!!!
      We have quarterly business meetings, and I dread, dread, dread them.
      The few that attend are not interested in “Business” and it usually ends with a negative discussion about the loud music, or some other topic that could be discussed at another time.
      Praying for God to change to something like this!!

  • As a congregant, I say keep the agenda short, consider holding the meeting during Sunday School hour, rather than after the church service or on an evening (or hold the meeting w-h-i-l-e people are eating the post-service potluck), keep the meetings infrequent (semesterly or annually), and manage the church finances and business doings well. No one wants to come to a meeting to hear how poorly the church is doing, especially if it’s because of bad decision making. We still haven’t paid off that massive building debt we couldn’t afford in the first place? We’re having problems making the monthly debt payments, which are hindering our ability to minister? How depressing–I think I’ll skip the business meeting for that update, partly because they’ll just want me to step up my giving to cover prior bad decisions. Also, have goals, that are financial but also not primarily financial, and give updates on those in the business meetings, so there’s something to be striving and hoping for and achieving. Let the pastor or board chair give their 15 minute summary of the current business state of the church, take 10-15 minutes of questions if there are any, then go home. Any haggling over issues should be reserved for regularly scheduled board meetings.

    • Thom Rainer says on

      Thanks, Louise.

    • Donna Walker says on

      If a married couple only discussed family business yearly or semiannually, everyone would be divorced, especially if there are problems that need to be addressed. Why would you even think of hiding the state of affairs from the local church? Being the church is not a spectator sport where one sits in a seat expecting to be entertained and then goes home disconnected. Being a church is being a family. We share each other’s blessings and sufferings. We labor together and party together. We succeed or fail together. It is NOT they (staff or leadership) vs pew fillers. It is “we”. And, in order to be “we”, we need ownership. And part of ownership is knowing the details and making vital decisions together, working toward solutions together, and, most importantly, praying for God’s will together.

      • I hope you mean something more than a member or staff member feeling like they are part “owners” in the church. I hope you mean participation. The problem with so many churches is that many staff and members alike think they “own” the church. There is a church in the upstate of South Carolina that identifies those who join the church, not as “church members” but as “owners.” Only One owns the church.

  • Gary Chupik says on

    we have quarterly “Partnership Roundtables” and focus slightly on business, heavier on ministry and prayer. At least that’s what we aspire them to be!

  • We do business meetings every other month and are considering once a quarter. We also have included a fellowship meal in conjunction with the meeting and ministry reports and share time to try and create a more meaningful time. This is also done in an attempt to make people feel as if they have a better sense of what is going on in the different areas of the church as a result of the meeting. The actual business portion of our meeting is very small and is mainly limited to presenting reports from committees. Not many decisions are made during this time, as most of the decision making is done by the staff and committees. Our church is a Baptist Church with an attendance of 500-600 people on an average Sunday, and are business meetings have at best 50-75 people in attendance.

    • Thom Rainer says on

      That’s good input. Thanks, Michael.

    • This is almost EXACTLY what we do. Once a month we have our fellowship meal and then the business meeting which consists of finance report and committee reports. However, we are a church of about 30. We usually only have 7-10 people in attendance of the meetings. I’m considering changing the name from “Business Meeting” to “Ministry Meeting.” After all, the business of the Church is ministry! Maybe people will be more inclined to attend and participate.

    • As a church we no longer have “business meetings”. Instead we have two times a year where we gather together. These times are referred to as our annual and semi-annual celebrations. During these times we focus on celebrating what God has done the past six months and casting vision for where we believe God is leading us as a church. While there is time spend dealing with the budget, we make sure to provide the budget information well in advance of the meeting. By being very transparent with our finances, along with the intentional shift from “meeting” to “celebrating” that is tied in with vision, we have watched the tone and the unity of the church improve greatly.

      • My husband and I have been going to a small church for 1year they never show a statement about the finances they dont have open business meetings We are ready to find another church we would like some feed back on weather to find another church

      • Ethel Zimmerman says on

        If you are happy in this church and you must be if you have been there a year. Ask for a report. If you have knowledge or experience you may even be needed to help start a financial report. Maybe you are being called to service there.

      • What does God’s word say on the matter of business meetings. Are you less saved because you don’t know the church’s cash flow.

      • akinoyewopo says on

        please settle down and ask the church since you are a part of it. You used the word “they” twice showing that you have not seen yourselves as members of the church. Settle down, identify and ask “us”. You are the church, not only “they.”

      • Charles Baker says on

        Committing to a local Church has nothing to do with finances but more about your commitment to a local Church which Christ died for. The information you seek is normally for the leadership and members, although financial information usually can be obtained by simply asking.

      • Pastor Jimmy Smith says on

        Being a pastor for the past 19 years. I find it refreshing to the church body ( every member) to be in the know of where it is and where we intend to go. Imput from the members first instead of elected church officials give us a fresh vision and out look. We pray, discuss the matter, end w a solution instead of road blocks. We keep God first, family second, and then ministry. It works.

    • Church meeting for members to have knowledge of action that affecting the church, all members in good standing with the church, I responsibility to imput his or her thougts to improve the operation of God house,. Non members, should not be given the opertunity to attend any business meeting of the church,. All discussion and final decision voted own, ie business transaction, policy changes, etc., Non members, that are member from another Churches, should not have knowledge of any business meeting, No one, members are non-members, not own the church membership roll, should never speak or gossip about the operation of God house,? No church business meeting or carried out the sane stop gossiping, and show love,.

    • I Believe in the local church and have been a member of the Body of Christ for about 40 years now. Scriptures doesn’t include the words business meeting…..but Paul does encourage the brethren to do all things in decency and in order. 1 Corinthians 14.40 (KJV). I believe the authority was given to the church to make sure all things are done this way. We the church decides how we use our funds and we use that time to speak any concerns we have about anything in the church. We don’t rely only on elders only but every member can speak how they feel. We base all our decisions according to God’s word. That’s it. Here we exercise ourselves also in the word and use scriptures to back it up then we all decide yeah or nay. If the church is fighting and grumbling at these meetings they need to let God be the source of it according to God’s word cause if they don’t trouble will come. Is it wrong to have these meetings? Not necessarily it depends how the church runs it. Is God the center of all decisions and receive the Glory? Then He is well pleased.

1 2 3 7