Pastor, are your staff meeting and planning sessions helping accomplish the mission and strategic vision of the church? They are not if feelings matter more than effective ministry. Some church staff meetings and planning sessions are imprisoned by a superficial niceness culture. The chief value in those kinds of meetings is that no one gets their feelings hurt.
Ernest Hemingway is reported to have said in reference to writing, “Everyone’s first draft is [rubbish].”1 The same could be said for most initial ideas and plans as well. Push back and critique is the only way an idea or a strategy is refined, improved and owned by the staff team.
The team ownership of ideas comes from the no-holds-barred input offered in planning. With this approach, no idea is perceived as simply one person’s idea because it it cannot even be considered the same idea after being thoroughly critiqued. Quality almost always comes slowly and painfully through deliberate course correction.
We should take into account regarding our staff meeting and planning times Paul’s admonition: “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men” (Col 3:23). Attention is to be focused on the Lord, the true object of our service, not people pleasing. “Heartily,” means the work you do comes from your soul (inner being). We must not be merely going through the motions or only superficially engaged with a task before us.
We must not settle for any idea offered in a staff meeting planning time simply because it might hurt someone’s feelings to push back against it, including ideas offered by the one who leads the meeting. Good is often the enemy of the strategic in planning and in church staff meeting superficial niceness is often the enemy of the strategic. This fact is odd, since, in the church, we are uniquely having family conversations about the most important mission in the world.
Those who sit at the staff meeting and planning table need to possess thick skin and a soft gospel heart. An effective meeting leader regularly reminds those attending of the purpose of the meeting, what is to be accomplished, and what is at stake. If the staff team possesses this thick skin / soft gospel heart makeup, they will proceed understanding that gospel advance and faithfulness is more important than their temporal feelings. If any group of people in the cosmos should understand that we must not settle for pleasing people in our labor it should be a church staff team.
Of course, someone has to be directing the meeting and eventually the talking will stop and the action must occur. Nevertheless, if this honest critique process precedes you will often find there is greater unity and more willingness to carry out the plan once the decision is made, even for those who do not think the chosen course to be the best, as a result of their freedom to critique in the planning stage. The follow-up evaluation is also vital, and it ought to be equally exacting with course corrections written down for future reference.