Build A Better Meeting

Non-boring, productive, creative

Time Management/Organization //

About a year ago, I realized that my life had turned into a series of bad meetings. The kind of meeting where very little is accomplished, people’s feelings are hurt, and most of the time is spent thinking about the work that could be getting done if we all weren’t stuck in this terrible meeting. Ick. Yuck. No good.

Instead of continuing my complaining before, during, and after each meeting, I decided to do something a bit more productive. Over a year ago, I started a series on my blog Lemon Lime Kids ( in order to help eliminate bad meetings from my life forever! Every Monday for the last year, I’ve written a short tip for how to improve meetings. The series is called “Build a Better Meeting” ( and includes tips for leading great meetings, being a helpful participant, and improving follow-up after meetings. The project is a collaborative effort; oftentimes, children’s ministry leaders email with a tip they’ve recently applied to their meetings, and I feature it on the blog!

After 51 posts on how to build a better meeting, here’s what I’ve learned. Meetings are important! They help us connect with each other and accomplish tasks we aren’t able to do alone. And, I’ve learned that leading a great meeting takes work. It takes work before the meeting, during the meeting, and after the meeting. A great meeting doesn’t usually happen accidentally. If you’re in charge of leading regular meetings, here are a few ideas for ensuring your meeting will be the talk of the town.

First, let’s talk about preparation. I’m convinced that preparation is the most important thing when it comes to leading great meetings. If you’ve called a meeting and are planning to lead that meeting, you must take time beforehand to fully prepare. Prepare by thinking through the goals for the meeting, the environment and resources needed, and any necessary information your participants will need from you in order to fully contribute to the meeting. Last week, I scheduled a pre-meeting in order to prepare for the real meeting. Ridiculous? Maybe. Effective? Definitely. By taking the time during the pre-meeting to discuss the details, collect information, and create a plan for communication, the actual meeting was brief and totally productive. In fact, we had scheduled 60 minutes for the actual meeting and wound up only needing 30. Fantastic!

The preparation work of the meeting has to be done sometime. It’s your choice whether you do it before the meeting or during the meeting. If you procrastinate preparing until the actual meeting, you waste participants’ time. They don’t want to do the preparation; they want to work. Prepare ahead of time and save everyone (including yourself) precious time for accomplishing goals during meetings.

Environments matter, especially when it comes to meetings. I always look forward to meetings when I know the environment will have been considered ahead of time, and I absolutely dread meetings when I know the environment wasn’t given the time of day!

1. Choose your location carefully. If you’re meeting in a church building and have your choice of rooms, choose the best room for the tone of your meeting. If it’s a casual, conversational type meeting, choose a room with rocking chairs and sofas. If it’s a formal, take notes type of meeting, choose a boardroom or classroom. If it’s a creative, brainstorm type meeting, consider a location off campus where participants will be inspired. Above all else, don’t default to whichever meeting room is available. Think ahead of time and choose wisely!

2. Rearrange the room. Once you’ve chosen your meeting location, rearrange the furniture in order to make it best for your group. Move tables, rearrange chairs, change the flip-chart location, whatever it takes to make the room perfect for accomplishing your goal. Most times when I request a meeting room to be set up a certain way, I still make a few tweaks before the meeting, because I can never fully anticipate what the room will feel like until I’m standing right in the middle of it.

3. Fill the room with inspiration. Once you’ve chosen your room, it’s time to fill it with things that will cause out-of-this-world creativity and brilliant thinking! Consider the goal of your meeting and how you can fill the room with objects that will help accomplish that goal. If your goal is to relationally connect with each other, consider adding baby pictures of participants as placemats. If your goal is to solve a problem, consider adding small mind games and puzzles so that the group can get their brains moving! If you hope to brainstorm new ideas, consider adding art supplies and fun toys so that participants have tools for creative thinking.

Now that you’ve prepared well for a meeting, consider how you might lead strong during the meeting. Of course, we all know that agendas and great facilitators are key to keeping a meeting on track. And, a good goal of every meeting is active participation from all members. Recently, I evaluated the methods I used to encourage meeting participation. I realized that the only method I employed was asking a participant to verbally share his opinion. I decided to experiment by encouraging participants to share their opinions during meetings via texting. I asked a question and waited for participants to text me their answers. What I discovered was so interesting: several of the more quiet participants texted their answers first and had really great ideas. Without the new form of participation, I would have missed these ideas.

Consider spicing up your next meeting by encouraging various forms of participation. It may seem like extra work for the meeting leader, but if you are able to utilize various forms of communication during a meeting, you ensure the best possible results! When passing along an agenda, consider sending it in multiple formats: email, paper, text, or even posted on a blog. While leading a meeting, consider multiple mediums to communicate a point: show a training video, text participants an interactive question, record an audio of your voice, or pass around a magazine article. If you meet regularly as a group, decide together which methods will accomplish the goals best!

And, finally, whenever possible add a few extra elements of enjoyability into your next meeting.

1. Unpredictability. Changing meetings up just a bit always seem to make them more enjoyable! One time, I moved a meeting to Chuck E. Cheese so that we could brainstorm new games for kids. It was fun, unexpected, and brought an extra level of energy to our time. Add unpredictability by changing the meeting tools. Instead of using pens, everyone must use crayons to take notes!

2. Games. Play a game that’s fun and also helps move the meeting forward. A few years ago, during a big ministry presentation meeting, I wanted to introduce our team to the rest of the group, so I included a baby photo of each member and had the rest of the group guess who was who. It was super fun and served a purpose that helped accomplish our goals throughout the meeting.

3. Sensory Experiences. For your next meeting, create a checklist that includes sight, hearing, touch, taste and smell experiences. Adding video, photos, sound effects and music are a great way to incorporate sight and hearing. What about placing an item in a paper bag that participants have to touch in order to discuss the next agenda item. Incorporate taste by bringing samples of food you plan to make or buy for your volunteers. Host a taste test during the meeting critiquing the samples and deciding on the food that’s just right for volunteers! And, why not bring a small candle or Christmas air freshener when planning the Christmas programming schedule. Adding sensory experiences is a great way to accomplish the goals of the meeting in a super fun way!

Meetings are important and can be enjoyable while being productive! And, when they’re enjoyable, more is accomplished, everyone leaves motivated, and you’ve got happy team members. Spend time preparing, considering the environment and adding extra doses of enjoyability. When you do, you’ll be well on your way to building a better meeting.


Additional Meeting Resources:

Creating a Culture for Great Meetings: CM Telesummit Workshop 



The Power and Joy of Meetings: 252 Basics Online Article (

Hold a 22 Minute Meeting (

Death by Meeting by Patrick Lencioni





About the Author

Amy Dolan is founder, leader and blogger for Lemon Lime Kids, a children’s ministry consulting company that seeks to encourage churches to consider a fresh approach to leading and teaching children. Amy started the company in 2005, as a way to empower and encourage fellow children’s ministry leaders, and since that first day has had the opportunity to work with leaders & organizations committed to the spiritual growth of children. Amy believes that the church fully empowered, combined with the commitment of the family, and the compassion of the community has the power to inspire children’s faith for a lifetime. In addition to her consulting work with Lemon Lime Kids, Amy leads the strategic curriculum development for Phil Vischer’s new curriculum What’s in the Bible? (, and serves as Director of LOCAL, a Chicago-area children’s ministry collaborative ( Amy is the former Executive Director for Children’s Ministry at the Willow Creek Association, a former Children’s Ministry Director at The Chapel in Libertyville, IL and a Curriculum Writer for Promiseland at Willow Creek in South Barrington. Amy is proud to be married to her husband Kelly, and loves living in Chicago. Amy blogs at and tweets at @adolan.