Religious meetings are not immune to dealing with controversial discussions. Inevitably, your organization will encounter controversies with respect to issues or changes that are under consideration. Controversy is not bad, but the way it is handled can determine whether your organization will emerge united.

The following ideas are based on suggestions from The Complete Handbook of Business Meetings, a new guide written by Eli Mina and published by the American Management Association.

  1. Head off clashes before they occur. Contact potentially disruptive individuals or factions prior to the meeting and seek to address concerns. Reassure them that the meeting will be run fairly.

  2. Set a constructive tone from the start. For example: “The issues to come before us today are not easy. At the same time, I am confident that we can work together, debate the issues rationally, and reach positive outcomes for the organization that we all love.”

  3. Remind members of the organization's mandate and values at the start of the meeting. Do so again if things become heated. “It would be helpful to remind ourselves of our mission statement, which says: ______. Are we on the right track?”

  4. Introduce guidelines at the start of the meeting and have them approved by the members. Some suggestions include speak when recognized by the facilitator, focus on issues and not people, maintain civility and decorum.

  5. See if contentious proposals can be modified to address valid concerns and to integrate positive suggestions.

  6. Intervene decisively if members are disruptive: “Please focus on the issues and not the personalities. Give others the same respect you want when speaking.”

For more information on The Complete Handbook of Business Meetings ($29.95), contact AMACOM Books at (800) 714-6395; or contact Eli Mina at (604) 730-0377, at, or on the Web at