By just putting the name “meetings” in the title of this blog post ,I fear people won’t read it. The state of meetings, as we have known them throughout our lives, is not good. You may think I am simply referring to church meetings but I am not. We seem as a society to have gone from looking forward to meetings to wondering how we can avoid them.
Let me take the ultimate meeting in our country as a case in point. Every year the president gives a Sate of the Union address. Just in my lifetime this has gone from “must see TV” where every major news network would cover it and people would watch intently (regardless of whether they voted for the president or not). The Congress would be packed and you would even see very important people sitting up in the balcony leaning forward to catch every word. Applause was not just partisan applause either. Portions of the speech would be analyzed and repeated for weeks, if not months. How does that compare with your experience today? If I were a betting man, I would wager that most Americans are not even aware the State of the Union speech is about to occur (even if they are, most have no plans to watch it). This has nothing to do with the current president. The same has been true for the last three presidents (in other words for at least the last twenty years). People today, by and large, find the State of the Union boring. We might lament this is due to poor citizenship but I would contend that it is the structure that, unlike their parents and grandparents, they simply do not find engaging. And if it is true at the top, for this ultimate meeting, it is surely true at our local level for the plethora of meetings we are involved in. People just do not get excited about meetings anymore.
Why would this be so? Society has changed. First, people in the past thought of a meeting as a place to participate in decisions being made by a larger organization. Today, by contrast, people find meetings to be a passive rather than participatory event. Second, and related is that folks today gather information visually and interactively, whereas most of today’s meetings are still primarily something where we are called upon to listen to one or a few people for long periods. In days gone by, people were primarily entertained by radio (where they were listening to far more than music). Today, how many people do you know who listen to the radio when they are not driving or at least doing something else at the same time?
As God’s people in the church, we need to sit up and take notice. If we want people to participate in our annual meeting, or any of our meetings for that matter, we need to find ways to engage them in participatory events that engage the senses (especially visually) and are interactive. One of our elders is a teacher. She said she has tried to avoid being “the sage on the stage” and instead challenges her students to come up with solutions to what they are working on. It sounds like a good model for all of us.
We also need to think of ways to “go deep” without “going long.” Like it or not, our current culture does not have the time (or at least they believe they don’t have the time) to engage for long periods. Our gatherings need to have punch, impact, and be relevant.
What is the state of meetings in our society? They are in need of change. Let’s change the ones we have a voice in.
What do you think?
Until next time,