Saturday, June 16, 2012

14th Article of Faith: Long Meetings?

Do you like long church meetings?
"We believe in meetings — especially long meetings. If there is a meeting, we seek after it."
Is this the 14th Article of Faith in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints? It very well could be ...  unofficially.
I commonly envision that gatherings, like Stake General Priesthood meetings, should be approximately one hour (though some go 90-minutes or more).
The worst case of a long meeting I've even seen was in one of my Stake's Saturday stake conference sessions in the mid-1990s. It was a general authority there and he got me all excited about missionary work and inviting neighbors to the Sunday meetings the next day.
However, the problem was the meeting didn't end until 9:50 p.m., after a 7 p.m. start.
I had lost all my enthusiasm by 9:30 p.m. and will never forget how this leader just would not stop talking.
(I still think Saturday night Stake Conference meetings are the most over-rated of church meetings, as well as almost always the most poorly planned and executed of meetings.)
The root cause of long meetings is that too many leaders become overzealous -- don’t watch the clock (or ignore it) and feel a meeting has to be long to do any good.
Another cause is that leaders line up too many speakers for a meeting and these speakers have little clue how long their talk really is -- because they haven't timed them.
As a one-time stake executive secretary in my stake, a newly installed stake president first thought it a wise idea to have me stand up 5 minutes before each meeting we were in was supposed to end. I was to stay standing until the stake president acknowledged me.
That worked well for a few months and then I guess the reality of wanting to teach too much meant that practice went out the window and meetings simply got longer and not necessarily always better.
One stake also used to excel at half-day priesthood preparation seminars, if you were being ordained an elder or high priest. Although these 4 hour meetings had a half-time with some food and drink, they were simply too long. I maintain that 90 minutes of more concise, engaging meeting would do better than this 4 hour meeting ever would.
A recent stake relief society leadership meeting was advertised in an official flyer that it would last 90 minutes. Then, it ended up going more than 3 1/2 hours! (And, that was ALL lecture).
Another stake bishopric meeting went so long one Sunday morning that all 9 a.m. sacrament meetings in the stake started 5 minutes or more late, because of the too long leadership meeting.
Some stakes excel at having 90-100 minutes General Priesthood meetings -- that's far too long for a secondary meeting to be -- and having such at 7 a.m. on Sunday interferes with 9 a.m. block times, let alone it bores the Aaronic Priesthood holders severely.
It's not just long meetings either. Some meetings do not need to be held, or as often.
For example. one former bishop of mine didn’t always strictly follow the stake's advice to always hold priesthood executive meeting (PEC) every single week. On some holiday weekends, when many ward leaders were out of town, he'd say, it simply wasn't worth holding. "What are they going to do fire us?" he would say.
-The Relief Society is no better at times. A few years ago I saw a flyer for a Saturday morning relief society meeting in my stake. It stated lunch served after a 90 meeting meeting, that went from 10-11:30 a.m. -- or so the flyer stated.
In reality, my wife came home from the meeting at 2 p.m. and never even stayed for the lunch. Almost 4 hours was far too long of a meeting.

-A friend of mine, who hasn't been active for 40-plus years, believes ours is the church of meetings and he hates meetings. He's right to some degree, though would it not be better if we were more the church of service?
So, there you have it. Don't hold a side meeting (outside block time) unless there is a need and have a firm agenda.
And, keeping meetings short is always better than having longer ones.


The true mission should be better organized and more spiritual meetings, not just more or longer meetings.
Granted, you have to have some meetings, or chaos would rule. But too long of meetings can take away from family time and also lessen how much actual time is left to do service to others.
Less and shorter meetings and more service would be the worthy goal here.

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