Four Types of Meetings According to Patrick Lencioni

For me, the most helpful point Patrick Lencioni makes in Death by Meeting is what he calls “Meeting Stew.”

The single biggest structural problem facing leaders of meetings is the tendency to throw every type of issue that needs to be discussed into the same meeting, like a bad stew with too many random ingredients.

This kind of meeting frustrates people because those who attend will have different and even conflicting goals. Some will want the soup to be fancy, others will want something plain and soothing, still others are hoping for a dessert. But this kind of mishmash gives no one what they want and lets everybody down.

So what you need, Lencioni writes, is “different meetings for different purposes.” There are four types.

  1. The daily, 5 minute check-in. Focuses on connecting priorities to daily actions.
  2. The weekly, 45-90 minute tactical meeting. Each member does quick reporting on top priorities, reviewing progress, and deciding tactical issues to meet short-term objectives.
  3. The monthly, 2-4 hours strategic meeting. The team gets to debate, discuss, and analyze fundamental issues that were previously put in the “parking lot”.
  4. The quarterly, 1–2 day off-site review. The team completes a comprehensive strategy review, a team review, a personnel review, and a competitive and industry review.

Lencioni discusses the particular challenges to each of these meetings. He also recognizes that some organizations may struggle to follow this advice because of their circumstances. This is true for the various service teams at Covenant, including the session, whose members worship together weekly, but live far enough apart that make frequent meetings throughout each month impossible.

There are a few possible solutions in my opinion:

  • choose fewer objectives and/or do them more slowly; aim for sustainability over speed
  • have certain “easy” meetings via video/voice calls;
  • have longer meetings, combining, say, types two and three, but break these longer meetings up into distinct parts

And while I’m having fun applying a business book to the church, I’ll say Lencioni’s advice is good for families too. Having daily and even more frequent check-ins is essential for my wife and me, as are long, uninterrupted times for discussing big decisions. We haven’t yet implemented the quarterly, off-site review but that sounds fantastic!

Read: Lencioni, Patrick. Death by Meeting: A Leadership Fable About Solving the Most Painful Problem in Business. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass A Wiley Imprint, 2004.

Calling God “Father”

Let’s do a little theology.

In the Nicene Creed we call God, “Father.”

According to Scripture, there are several true ways we can understand the name “Father” as it applies to God. Each reflects something important about God and about ourselves in relationship with him.

First, we can call God “Father” as the creator of the world and the world to come. The Triune God is our maker. He makes us in his image and puts us into a covenant with him. Luke calls Adam, “the son of God” in Luke 3:38. In this sense, we can therefore call all three persons of the Trinity “Father” as Isaiah does in Isaiah 9:6 when he prophesies about Jesus:

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Second, we can call God “Father” when we refer to the first person of the Trinity. In this way, he is called “Father” in relation to the Son, the second person of the Trinity. This occurs many places in Scripture. Here is one from John 6:40 where Jesus says:

For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.

Finally, Christians alone can call God the Father “Father” as those who have been adopted through the Son into sonship and thus unto an eternal inheritance. Ephesians 1:3–5, 11:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will… In him we have obtained an inheritance.

Sustained Focus is Not a Fad

The necessity of focusing may be more difficult in the digital age, but it is not a new problem.

Writing in 1827, Samuel Miller, the presbtyerian minister and Princeton professor, wrote some points on the necessary habits of a good minister. One of them was “the habit of close and fixed attention in study.” Lacking this habit is the most “fatal defect in a student,” he wrote. Without it, one “will never look deeply into any thing; will never accomplish any thing which deserves the name of investigation.”

So if you lack the ability to focus, you should “try to attain it,” Miller says. And don’t give up if you struggle.

Try again and again. It is richly worth all the agony of effort that you can possibly make for its acquirement. Make incessant efforts, then, until you succeed, to summon your powers to concentrated action; to shut out, at pleasure, all extraneous objects; to go from step to step without interruption; and to keep fast hold of the thread which you first seize until you trace it to the end. From the moment you open a book, or take your pen in hand, give undivided attention to what you are about, until you close the one, or lay down the other.

Why work so hard to learn to focus? Because having such a skill will produce great results. Miller points to none less than Isaac Newton as proof, which he explains more in a letter that he wrote to his sons.

We are told of Sir Isaac Newton, that when questioned respecting the peculiar powers of his own mind, he said, that if he had any talent which distinguished him from the common mass of thinking men, it was the power of slowly and patiently examining a subject; holding it up before his mind from day to day, until he could look at it in all its relations, and see something of the principles by which it was governed. His estimate was probably a correct one. His most remarkable, and certainly his most valuable, talent consisted, not in daring, towering flights of imagination, or in strong creative powers; but in slow, plodding investigation; in looking at a series of facts, from day to day, until he began to trace their connection; to spell out their consequences; and ultimately to form as system as firm as it was beautiful.”

I love this description of what focus and meditation on an idea involves. Clearly, Miller spoke from experience and the lessons he learned from those who came before him.

So while we may have new kinds of challenges, staying focused is an old probelm. It’s a skill every student must learn if he or she is “to accomplish any thing which deserves the name of investigation.”

For more context and lots more advice on studying and many other things read: Miller, Samuel. Letters on Clerical Manners and Habits. New York: G & C Carvill, 1827, 251–252.

And thanks to James M. Garretson for his book, An Able and Faithful Ministry: Samuel Miller and the Pastoral Office from which I first learned of these passages in Miller’s writing. See chapter twenty of his book for a summary of Miller’s views on “clerical manners and habits.”

🍸 Lift a glass to this beautiful olive tree. It’s about 65 years old. I wrote a little meditation on Psalm 128:3 with this tree in mind.

Review: Scripture Doctrine of a Call to the Work of the Gospel Ministry

William Plumer (1802–1880) was a southern Presbyterian minister and professor. He held various positions within the church to help men prepare for the gospel ministry. And in conjunction with one of those roles, he wrote this essay on how one might determine whether he is called to the work.

Plumer explains that there is some difficulty in determining this, and that one’s conviction of God’s call may strengthen or weaken, even after becoming a minister. Nevertheless, there are points we can draw from both Scripture and common sense than can help with discernment.

He sets the tone in the preface when he encourages his readers to not even read the essay unless they are willing to consider the question of their calling with a humble, reverent, and deliberative spirit.

After this, he distinguishes between the general and special call of the believer to Christian ministry. And then writes breifly on each of the various and necessary evidences for a call. These include:

  • earnest desire,
  • sense of personal weakness but also confidence in God’s grace,
  • a high view of the office, the consent of the church and the authorities in the church,
  • a wise discernment of various providences,
  • the essential qualifications for the office: “piety, prudence, knowledge, and the power of communicating knowledge in an appropriate manner,”
  • and conviction of duty.

In the last few pages, Plumer concludes with a list of reasons why some men resist a call and why some men pursue a call without warrant. This list can help those considering the call to calibrate their consciences. It can also help sessions and presbyteries shepherd the men under their care.

Read: Plumer, William S. Scripture Doctrine of a Call to the Work of the Gospel Ministry. Philadelphia: Russell and Martien, 1832.

Four Things Jesus Does With Miracles

Jesus once fed more than 5,000 people using only five loaves of bread and two fish. With something as amazing as that, you’d be right to think that there are a number of things Jesus’ accomplishes with miracles. Here are a few:

  • Jesus’ miracles comfort people who are trapped and oppressed in the world.
  • Jesus’ miracles warn those who are too much in love with the world.
  • Jesus’ miracles show how God uses ordinary things to accomplish extraordinary ends.
  • Jesus’ miracles point to his suffering and exaltation.

I explained all this and read the record of this particular miracle in the sermon I preached last Sunday morning. Give it a listen. It’s about 30 minutes.

👋 Meet Watchman Wee. He was created by my dad, a meticulous craftsman who always keeps a bit of whimsy close by. I love that about my dad.

sculpture of a robot

👁‍🗨 It’s the middle of the night. Do you know who your iPhone is talking to? from The Washington Post

Apple promises privacy, but iPhone apps share your data with trackers, ad companies and research firms

Good news: you can limit the tracking.

UPDATE: WSJ published a similar article.

🌀 “the household gods utter nonsense”

🐌 Loading problems for my website are fixed now. Thanks to the slack community, esp. @mikehaynes for the help.