You've heard the laments: People just don't get involved the way they used to … We can't get people to participate in committees … We don't know how to get people excited about committee activities. True, time is at a premium for most people these days, but the spirit of involvement is far from dead.
If you're responsible for a religious meeting committee, approach your task with care and enthusiasm and you may find that members approach committee service with care and enthusiasm in equal measure. How? Use these 20 simple tips:
A. Agendas — Don't go anywhere without one! When you're planning a meeting, your first step should be preparing a detailed agenda.
B. Background — Agendas, of course, are not enough. Whenever your committee will be dealing with complex issues, be sure to provide relevant information with the agenda: financial statistics, history, commentary, recommendations.
C. Celebration — Committees shouldn't be all work. Before or after your meetings, aim for some simple festivities: coffee and bagels, a meal, a social hour.
D. Delegation — The best committees figure out how to get things done before they set out to do them. And many of these committees pass specific tasks along to subcommittees or task forces.
E. Evaluation — Periodically, give members a chance to assess how things are going. If you're leading a formal committee, you might use your executive leadership to evaluate committee operations annually. If your committee is informal, you might choose to circulate an evaluation form every six or 12 months, or take three minutes at the close of each meeting for evaluation.
F. Facility — While there's no perfect location for a meeting, always look for a place that's comfortable (while retaining some formality in furniture and seating arrangements), climate-controlled, accessible to main thoroughfares and parking, relatively soundproof, and convenient to media or audiovisual aids you might use.
G. Goals — What are you trying to accomplish? Does your committee have broad, overarching goals? Do you have annual goals or a strategic plan? Once you focus members' attention on clear, compelling goals, you'll take an important step toward motivating them.
H. Heirs — Enlist members for specific leadership positions a year or two in advance. The result: ample training time and greater interest.
I. Inspiration — Seek to epitomize the highest ideals of committee work: service to people and to your religious organization, the betterment of others, even the well-being of our nation and the world. Challenge your members to exemplify high standards as well.
J. Jobs — Every member of your committee has real-life, on-the-job experience. Make use of it by matching committee tasks with the talent in front of you.
K. Keynotes — Just as conferences are often distinguished by keynote speakers, so your committee should be distinguished by keynote activities. Some possibilities: a much-anticipated educational event or a special summer social event.
L. Leadership — A great committee leader must be creative, decisive, and collaborative. But great leaders also invite others to lead. So next time you're trying to get something done, enlist allies on the committee. Ask them to help fire up their peers.
M. Minutes — Minutes are the formal record of committee proceedings. And they're important working tools: They provide a blueprint of actions taken and to be taken, as well as a summary of future committee tasks.
N. Notes — Keep notes of committee activities, and encourage committee members to take notes. Provide pads or note guides. And when you want to focus committee attention on an issue, consider offering a pre-printed outline or notes summary.
O. Organization — A good committee has structure. The committee might contain officers; subcommittee chairs; members with specific roles such as timekeeper, historian, or hospitality expert; and liaisons to other committees or organizations. In committees with complex responsibilities, the structure might extend to the working parameters of the committee and include bylaws or formal procedures.
P. Participation — Seek to involve every committee member in activities. Whether it's by consciously prompting discussion or involving members in post-committee followup, participation will lead to greater commitment.
Q. Quorum — By requiring a minimum presence of members before business can be transacted, you'll clearly articulate the need for involvement and subtly encourage attendance.
R. Roles — Each committee member fulfills a role — not only as a member at large, but ideally as an individual with specified responsibilities or anticipated contributions. Maintain a written record of roles, perhaps in the form of committee member “job descriptions.”
S. Standards — What makes your committee effective? Encourage members to adopt and follow standards that they create. Also encourage members to develop standards for committee projects or activities that are sponsored by the committee.
T. Time — Start meetings on time, stick to your timed agenda, and end on time. The result: greater member satisfaction during the meeting and an ever-deepening commitment and enthusiasm toward the committee's work.
Richard Ensman is a writer based in Rochester, N.Y.