What Everyone Needs to Learn . . . Eventually

It is my experience that at one point or another, everyone will need to know something about the following:

  • How to plan a meeting.
  • How to run that meeting.
  • How to communicate through a memo or letter.
  • How to communicate through e-mail.

Churches can be especially bad at all four of those, while other churches I’ve known function better than many businesses. But even if you spend your days painting houses or delivering packages, you will inevitably end up on some kind of group or committee and will need to communicate with that group.

Here is my quick and nonauthoritative guide to all of these essential skills in life:

How to Plan a Meeting

A meeting is about building consensus and taking action toward a specific goal. Make sure only the necessary people are there. State very specific goals for the meeting. Write up a rough agenda for the meeting that allots set amounts of time for each item and a person to lead that section.


How to Run a Meeting

Perhaps I assume too much, so let me state right away that there should be someone who is running the meeting or who at least has the power to keep the group on task. Starting and ending on time is essential. This shows respect for the time of those involved.

Hand out the agenda and try to keep on topic and on your set time schedule. Don’t expect to solve every problem or make a plan for every issue. Meetings are the places where delegation takes place. Assign projects to those present and then establish a rough accountability structure. Make sure there’s enough time in the next meeting for reports on the progress of these committees.


How to Communicate Through a Letter or Memo

Keep it short. Use bullet points if necessary. Only use letters and memos to share information, never to confront sensitive issues. Don’t use a letter to deal with something that needs to be said in person or over the phone.


How to Communicate Through E-Mail

Many of the same rules from letters apply. E-Mail is a terrible medium to use for resolving conflict. I recently diffused a potentially divisive situation by simply paying a visit to the party involved. This person was very grateful that e-mail was set aside.

One friend passed along some excellent advice regarding e-mail. Spell check and make sure your sentences are coherent.

That’s all I’ve got for now. Does anyone else have their own advice to share regarding these topics?

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