Success Strategies for Committee Meetings

Increasing the Joy and Banishing the Pain!

Claude Richli is a pastor and an associate secretary at the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists in Silver Spring, MD, USA.

I love committee work! I know it’s not everybody’s cup of tea, but when a meeting is well prepared, led by a competent chair, and bathed in an atmosphere of cooperation rather than confrontation, it can be a source of great blessings and even personal satisfaction. Like many, I have had my share of boring board meetings, difficult meetings, and meetings going nowhere. These have a way of demotivating and discouraging members from attending, and even from being willing to serve in a leadership capacity. But here are a few principles and rules to turn committee meetings into a source of joy for those who serve on them.


There are certain cultures, including church cultures, where committee work is a way to socialize and talk. I have pastored churches where it was the expectation that board meetings would run well past ten in the evening, often to eleven or even midnight. There are times, of course, when the agenda is unusually full or difficult decisions need to be taken. But these need to be exceptions, and even so, there are ways to handle them that will not cause the committee to run into the middle of the night. As a rule, the business of the committee is to transact the business of the church, not to be a forum where members can talk about everything that goes through their head. This is where the chair needs to be gentle but firm, cutting short rambling monologues or, worse yet, provocative diatribes that call for defenses and counterattacks.


Every good meeting has an agenda prepared in consultation with the elders. That seems obvious, but just jotting a few points on a sheet of paper will not make you well prepared. The pastor, the elder, or the chair needs to communicate with the individuals responsible for presenting each item and agree on how much time to allow for the presentation. There also needs to be a clear understanding of whether this is for information only and merely needs to be voted “to receive,” or whether an action is expected. If so, that action needs to be spelled out clearly, preferably in writing. Depending on the nature of the action and the other items on the agenda, the chair needs to have a definite idea of how much time to allow for discussion. Of course, this is an exercise in guesswork, but doing so will provide a clear timeline. To make sure it works according to plan, the better the information and the motion, the shorter the discussion will be.

When the agenda is put together, make sure every item has an allocated time limit. This will help the chair stay on track to finish at the appointed time.


Discipline is the key to success in any endeavor, including in the way church boards are conducted. It begins with the committee chair but should also be part of the culture of the group as a whole. As with any skill, it comes with practice on the part of the chair, but also with education on the part of the committee. Both the committee and the chair need to understand the following:

1. There are reasons why someone needs to make a motion first, to be “seconded” before the discussion opens. If someone has only a random idea that doesn’t interest anybody else, there is no need to waste precious time in discussions. I’ve been surprised to see how many fail to grasp this simple rule. They are so undisciplined that even before someone has finished making the presentation, someone interrupts to ask questions, voice an opinion, or even make a counterproposal. Someone else quickly adds their five cents, and before you know it, people talk randomly, without even knowing what the motion will be.

2. If a discussion gets to be too long and the minutes are ticking away, it is always the prerogative of the chair to ask for a “question on the motion,” which is a motion to stop the discussion, so the board can proceed to a vote. Note that a question on the motion also needs to be seconded—but not debated— before being voted. If at least two-thirds vote in favor, the chair can then simply call for a vote on the main motion, and be done with it.

3. However, sometimes discussions can get heated or fail to generate a consensus. Occasionally, it is wise to simply table the motion, which means that the motion returns from the floor where it was debated, to the table, where it can be picked up at a later time. This can be suggested by the chair, and agreed by common assent, or if spirits are really worked up, the chair can suggest that a motion be made to table. This must also be seconded, but not debated. A simple majority is enough to postpone the item to a later meeting.

It is amazing how greatly committee members appreciate the kind of discipline that respects their time and gives them a good night’s rest.

A few years ago, I ran into a former member of a church board I used to chair fifteen years before. Somehow, the conversation came to the things he remembered about my pastorate. To my surprise, he said that it wasn’t the sermons or the pastoral calls I made to his home, but the meetings I chaired. Compared to what he was used to, they were short and sweet. By ten in the evening, everybody knew they could go home for a good night’s rest. Quality of work, quality of rest. Joy in service.

Claude Richli is a pastor and an associate secretary at the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists in Silver Spring, MD, USA.


The Seventh-day Adventist Church, like many other organizations, has adopted Robert’s Rules of Order for its committees and boards. You can find many answers to your questions at