Meetings: Striking a Productive Balance

Raychurch, eternity, Mormon, Mormons 9 Comments

Mormons often joke about the 14th Article of Faith, and it often is quoted somewhat like this:

We believe in holding meetings, and in asking all members to attend these meetings; indeed, we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul—We schedule all meetings, we plan all meetings, we have endured many meetings, and hope to be able to endure all meetings. If there is any reason to hold a meeting, we seek after these things.

I can’t remember where I first heard the following sentiment expressed, and I can’t find a source on Google, so it probably is a very twisted version of something someone once said (how about that disclaimer!), but I love a couple of thoughts about meetings that have stuck in my mind:

It takes an excellent meeting to be better than no meeting.

There is no meeting so unimportant that it can’t start on time; there is no meeting so important that it can’t end on time.

Given how religiously we cling to the idea of the importance of meetings, I want to ask a few questions that I believe are profound and important:

Why should we hold meetings? (What is their purpose?) Why should we not hold meetings? What meetings need to be held in person, face-to-face? What meetings can be held in alternate ways – and what ways would be most effective, particularly by employing modern technologies? What meetings are essential to a designation of “active” in the Mormon Church? Are there meetings that are strictly supplemental – that can be skipped or attended sporadically by “active” members and have that lack of or sporadic attendance be no dig deal?

PS. I added “eternity” as a category for this post, because some of our meetings feel like they take that long.

Comments 9

  1. I write a post early this year on Managing Mormon Meetings, which includes at least my source (dating back to the mid-1970s) for one of your two quotes, as well as my own thoughts on LDS meetings.

    I was recently called as the ward mission leader. The previous WML had been holding missionary correlations meetings at his house once a week, on a weekday evening, and (from what I was told) they usually lasted an hour or more. I hold the same meetings every Sunday 10 minutes after our block is done, and they’re over in 10 minutes, 15 tops. Likewise, when I’ve run PEC or related meetings, I run them fast, I run them tight, and I get us all out as soon as I can.

    I do think that most wards could be doing more with e-mail lists and websites to minimize non-block meetings. ..bruce..

  2. Ugh.. ditto to bfwebster about the email lists and websites…

    My gripe is when we have additional stake meetings that don’t turn out to be any different from ward meetings.. Like recently I attended a “special” stake priesthood meeting on a sunday evening only to realize that I din’t hear anything that couldn’t have just been said in Sacrament that morning. Or I’ve attended “teacher development” meetings that just turn out to be full of generic doctrinal stuff I could have heard in Sacrament Meeting.

    And what’s up with the Priesthood session of General Conference? I often have a hard time distinguishing anything said there from the other 8 hours of General Conference. the Young Men in my ward recently held the often-joked-about “Pre-planning-meeting planning meeting.”

  3. SingleSpeed, the Priesthood Session serves as a kind of quarantine for the extended sports metaphors. I think the General Relief Society Presidency insist on continuing that session chiefly for that reason.

    Yeah, I agree. If I’m going to get cleaned up after a Saturday’s work and go to the stake center for the “adult” session of stake conference, I wish it would be geared to mature, serious church members and not be merely a rehashing of the same stuff given on Sunday morning. And when I make the effort walk down to a RS board meeting in the early darkness of a snowy winter evening, I’d like something that pertains specifically to my calling instead of some member of the bishopric preaching at us some sermon that would be entirely appropriate for the full ward on Sunday afternoon.

  4. If the temple recommend interviews are any indicator of “activity,” only priesthood and sacrament meetings are essential. (sorry Relief Society) I’m not in a bishopric, but that’s what my wife tells me.

    Regarding the much-maligned preplanning meeting planning meeting, it is useful to teach a kid how to run his own meeting efficiently (have you ever been in a meeting where the person running it discussed any old idea that popped into anyone’s head and the meeting dragged on and on?). Once the kids get it, though, I think you could do away with it.

    When I was Teachers Q advisor, I had the pre-meetings with the T.Q. President for 10 minutes before the Presidency meetings and they focused the presidency meeting and allowed the President to run the meeting himself (reasonably well).

  5. Good Post Ray

    Skype is our future! My wife is a councilor in Stake Young Womens and have had presidency meetings and meetings with 6 young women all from their lap tops and pc’s at home.

    England pay about $9.00 a gallon(Credit Crunch on Top) makes it expensive to travel.

    Home teaching/ Visiting Teaching for an ageing church or extreme distances or for lazy companionships.

    This will give you a glimpse of the future now on Skype.

    Maybe high councilman will sit in their studies and look at each other on a screen!!

  6. In our family, we’re pretty open about telling people that we don’t attend extra meetings. We’ve explained that family time is too scarce as it is. Unless the meeting appears to have something new or of great purpose we just politely decline. At first people think we are joking, but they catch on. It doesn’t appear to offend people and works for us. An added benefit has been fewer leadership positions. 🙂

  7. As a member who is generally too exhausted to travel even to sacrament meeting on Sunday, I would love to have more online church meetings. I’d love for my ward to video-record sacrament meeting and Sunday School each week and upload them on youtube. Conference weekend is so great because I can watch online!

    I think visiting teaching and home teaching could be done via instant messaging or skype as well. I love it that I can pay my fast offerings online, an also my PEF contributions. I’d really like to be able to pay tithing online, too. Right now I have an automatic check sent from my bank to my bishop’s house each payday, so that still works. I think paying online would work even better, and it would take some administrative work off the already overburdened local bishoprics.

    This would be a huge boon for disabled members, as well as encouraging more activity among the merely lazy. =) I asked some missionaries once what was the major reason he thought people went inactive and he said mostly it seemed to him that they were just too tired to come to church. As someone battling several degenerative conditions, I can really understand that sentiment. Yet I would love the sense of community and the opportunities for service I might find if I could participate more. I can’t do much in the way of physically demanding things but there’s plenty I could do.

    One of the things that members could do from home is chat live online with investigators, and answer their questions about the church. I can think of many other things as well. Technology is such a blessing!

  8. I am of the opinion that the vast majority of the meetings held in the Church are primarily so that we can practice holding meetings.

    That way when the Apocalypse hits we will be all ready and prepared to respond with a flawless meeting, despite being under a lot of pressure.

    I’m being a little sarcastic, but in there is some truth to it. I’ve seen a crisis hit the neighborhood and everybody knows we need to do something. Who takes the lead in inviting people to a meeting to figure out what to do? A Mormon. Who takes the lead in the meeting in directing it to the important issues, and asking everybody’s opinions, and ensuring that their is a consensus on what action to take? Mormons.

    I swear, the whole Church meeting thing is like a big training program on how to hold meetings that actually produce results. (With plenty of examples on how to not do things).

  9. Tatiana (and anyone else who cares – *grin*),

    We are in the process of creating an integrated network of blogs for our stake after Elder Teixeira came to our Stake Conference and showed the leadership what he had done as a Mission President in Brazil. I have set up linked blogs for the stake and each of the obvious auxiliaries – not any posts on them yet, but with links to the major church sites and RSS feeds to the daily gems and newsroom highlights, a separate “blogging etiquette” page (with links to Elder Ballard’s Ensign address and a couple of posts about blogging etiquette), etc. We are working on how to structure the author and admin permissions and how to work comments and posts. I envision any wards in our stake who want to do so modeling their own after our stake blogs, and we have replicated the basic structure for one of the wards to work out the kinks.

    We also are discussing how to set up training sessions to introduce blogging (and other modern communication technologies) to the general stake membership.

    I want to keep it simple and non-threatening for those who are not technology savvy at all. If anyone wants to check out what we’ve done so far and give me any suggestions, I would appreciate it. Let me know through a private e-mail to:

    fam7heav at juno dot com

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