Q&A: How Do You Handle Missed Meetings?
In a recent post I talked about our ongoing meeting schedule, which raised a couple of questions regarding how well-attended those meetings tend to be, plus how we handle disseminating info to those who can’t / don’t make it. I thought the questions (paraphrased below) warranted their own post.
Do you struggle with volunteers or staff who can’t make your meetings?
[Amanda Stanton, Director of Guest Services, Calvary Church, Clearwater, FL]
When it comes to meeting attendance, everything rises and falls on communications and expectations. And while these meetings involve people who are paid to be there as well as those who are showing up as a volunteer, those communications and expectations work much the same way for both groups.
STAFF: As a general rule, our entire staff holds most “all hands” meetings on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, days that all staff members need to plan to hunker down at our central offices. We also try to group similar meetings during the same regular time slot. For example, our Associate Campus Pastors / Directors are often in meetings together each week, but those meetings are led by a different central ministry head. The ministry heads coordinate the day and time so that it’s the same slot each week, but we also “own” a particular week (small groups on the third Wednesday, First Impressions on the fourth Wednesday, etc.). Paid staff are obviously expected to make those meetings a priority. Even in the case of part-time staff, we ask them to work their “real job” or class schedule around the meeting schedule.
VOLUNTEERS: Our High-Capacity Volunteer Cohort brings with it high expectations. Before a potential participant signs up, I share the meeting schedule for all eight months and a close-to-specific layout of reading expectations and other assignments. I let the volunteer know from the beginning that it will be a lot of work, there will be a lot of dollars their church is investing in them, and so there is a lot of understanding that they’ll make the meetings a priority. For some volunteers, they choose to self-select out of the program before it gets started, or ask me to re-ask them in a less-busy season, or have to say no because other obligations won’t allow them. And typically, the ones who do commit are committed. For example, in our just-finished Cohort, almost 60% of our attendees either had perfect attendance or only missed one session. Another third of the participants were at 60-75% of the eight sessions. So all in all, not perfect, but not too shabby for a volunteer event.
Having said all that, there are times when someone has to miss a meeting. So…
What do you do with the staff or volunteers who can’t / don’t make the meeting or training?
[Warren Wilson, Connections Director, Fellowship Bible Church, Topeka, KS]
Vacations happen. Work schedules get changed. Middle-of-the-night sicknesses are a reality. Oversleeping is a thing. So what happens when one of these things happen?
I rarely record these meetings. Many of them are heavily discussion-based, so they don’t lend themselves well to being recorded. Plus, it would involve me or my team remembering to hit the “record” button, and that’s just so hard.
What we will do is provide a complete agenda with notes, hyperlinks, handouts, slide decks, etc. after the meeting is over. For our paid staff, they get a stripped down version of the agenda a week prior to the meeting (so they can prepare), and a completed, finalized version after the meeting (so they can review and/or get links to more information). Our volunteers know the particular reading assignment and the general topic we’ll be discussing, but they don’t get any semblance of an agenda until it’s all over.
Staff and volunteers who miss a meeting are accountable for the information that’s contained in the post-meeting agenda. I’m like your middle school social studies teacher: “I wasn’t in that class” isn’t an excuse.
What I’ve found is that immediate follow up helps with future attendance. I try to make it a habit of getting in touch with every absentee on the same day of the session they missed: simply checking in to see the reason for their absence. It’s a way to communicate that (a) I noticed you weren’t there, (b) I care about what’s going on in your world, and (c) I’m subtly hinting that you need to be back next month. 🙂
Want to submit a Q for a future Q&A post? Do it here.