Health and Growth

The Ultimate Church Business Meeting Playbook: 14 Practices for Success

Church business meeting protocol is the foundation of a healthy church working culture. Here are 14 best practices to professionalize and personalize your church business meeting protocol.

The Ultimate Church Business Meeting Playbook: 14 Practices for Success
by

Paul Maxwell

Church leaders are very often thrown into ministry without business training.

The call to ministry was surrounded by tears and a heart for God’s people.

The church was planted over the course of years years with the hard work of a village. 

And this can result in amazing preaching, beautiful community, services that expand the kingdom of God and … organizational chaos behind the scenes.

Unlike for-profit businesses, business is not the “stuff” of its culture.

A church is on mission.

A church exists to do something much more important than business.

And yet, very often, remaining business amateurs can get church leaders in a lot of trouble.

It becomes clear to most pastors after only a few years in ministry why business leaders invest in coaching, leadership books, administrative technology, productivity systems, and team-building events.

Pastors who fail to professionally self-develop in the basic skills of business often see a plateau in their ministry, because they don’t know how to scale a growing organization, they don’t know how to manage conflict, and they don’t know how to create and manage the kinds of teams that can sustain and involve the church ministry.

One of the core elements of business commonsense is the ability to hold and manage business meetings.

If you can master the business meeting, you can master church growth, self-improvement, team development, and the capacity for scaling your ministry much more easily.

Consider the business meeting a skill critical to the success of your organization.

Let’s not waste any time.

Here are the 14 best practices for organizing and leading church business meetings.

Best logistical practices

Before we get into the fine details of leading the actual meeting, it’s important to put in place certain pre-meeting elements, including shared software, delegation, and time management infrastructure.

1. Ensure all church staff use the same digital calendar

First and foremost, ensure that your entire church staff uses the same digital software to manage their calendars at work.

At home, they can experiment with the latest calendar apps (and perhaps you should as well), but it’s important that your team all use the same software so that invitations, meeting updates, and details are all communicated clearly without getting tangled in integration issues between services.

The obvious choice here is Google Calendar, though Tithe.ly ChMS also integrates very well with a calendar function that enables your church to manage members within its very church management system. 

2. Designate a point person before the meeting is set 

Many churches skip over this point, or consider it an unnecessary luxury for smaller meetings.

This couldn’t be further from the truth.

Designating a point person for every church meeting is an essential element of church communication best practices. 

When you have a point person for every meeting, you prevent the possibility that teams need to cross-talk between members in order to understand what they need to do.

All team members can direct inquiries about details related to the meeting to the team leader, and if there is any overlap or need regarding another team or meeting, team leaders can coordinate on the best way to resolve any issue that comes up.

Designating a point person is also important so that this person can clear peoples’ schedules and set meeting times without requiring an arduous 10-email-long gmail thread for every single meeting. 

A point person is also responsible for showing up, leading the meeting, closing the meeting, driving the meeting forward if it stalls, and delegating other key tasks to other church staff or team members. 

3. The point person should send meeting-relevant documents be sent to attendees at least a day before the meeting

Much meeting time is wasted by showing people documents at the meeting that they could better engage and comment upon if they had seen it earlier.

A common reason that documents are shared during the meeting, rather than before the meeting, is that team leaders fail to finalize documents in time to send them to meeting participants a day early.

This is simply a matter of excellence.

Team leaders should hold themselves to this standard—finalize and send relevant meeting documents to the team at least a day beforehand so that they can read, digest, and intelligently comment upon the details in the document, and meaningfully contribute to the purpose of the meeting.

4. Set and communicate clear participation expectations from attendees

Meetings most often stall when participation expectations are not clearly expressed. 

In order to avoid this, it is necessary to establish a baseline participation expectation for all participants. 

There are two ways to accomplish this.

For new teams and meetings, the team leader should expressly explain in the first meeting exactly what participation expectations are—having at least one informed thing to say, for example.

For older teams, participation expectations are more a matter of team culture than expressed expectations, as group dynamics elevate certain voices and not others. It is the team leader’s job to make sure that these group dynamics don’t get too out of control and shift all contributive responsibility toward or away from any one person.

5. Delegate someone other than the point person to take meeting minutes

Meeting minutes—which are the essential, stripped-down notes, takeaways, action items, and loose ends from a meeting—should be written by a secretary or other church staff that is not a member of the team so that team members can actively contribute to the conversation.

Sometimes, on smaller teams or in smaller churches, team members can themselves take meeting notes, which can be a method of cultivating team engagement. 

For example, as a group grows, it would be appropriate for a leader to designate to a less active member the task of taking meeting notes to help assimilate them into the group’s contributive culture.

6. The point person and note taker create action items, delegations, responsibilities, and takeaways to send to attendees within 1 day

After the meeting, the point person and note taker will formulate the meeting minutes so that they are readable, digestible, and easy to navigate for team members looking for their responsibilities in the minutes.

This is a high priority, because meeting details are very easily lost. If you wait too long to send out this document to the meeting participants, the details may become so easily lost that the meeting itself becomes a waste of time, and another is required.

By sending meeting minutes, marked with the time, date, location, purpose, attendees, and details discussed within a day of the meeting, you ensure that the contents of the meeting remain relevant for the team and that the meeting remains valuable to the church as a whole.

7. Set the time, date, and location for the next meeting before the meeting ends

Your meeting attendees should know when the next meeting is before the meeting ends.

Don’t clamor through Google Calendar at the end of the meeting and ask: “Sooo … what works for you guys?” 

This goes back to principal #1 — if you have shared calendars, designated team leaders can see when you’re free, when you’re busy, and how available you are to prepare and contribute to any particular meeting.

Make sure to create the meeting event for the next meeting before you hold the first meeting, and invite all participants. This way, attendees have in mind when the next meeting is even before they enter the first meeting.

How to Get the Most Out of Your Meeting

Now, we turn to the protocol of the church business meeting itself.

The church business meeting is a great opportunity to corral all the loose details of your church’s business details and delegate their resolution to the right people. 

8. If you are the point person, prepare at least 2 questions for each attendee in order to prompt conversation about the material

Here, we will dive more deeply into the issue of participant engagement.

Engagement doesn’t only have to do with expectations.

Engagement during a church business meeting has just as much to do with whether the meeting leader has prepared engaging discussion.

One way to ensure that a meeting has something worth engaging is to prepare at least 2 questions for each attendee in order to prompt conversation about the material.

If time is an issue and it is a large meeting, prepare a single question for 3 high-value people in the meeting, and end with an open question for contributions.

But you should avoid making an open question (“Anybody have anything to contribute?”) your go-to line to boost engagement in your meeting. As many managers across many millennia know—all the way back to the Caveman organizing a hunt—this question prompts little response.  

9. Open the meeting in brief prayer

Business meetings can set people on edge.

That’s not a bad thing—business meetings tend to serious things, and you don’t want to bring too playful of an attitude to your business meeting.

And yet, opening the meeting in prayer—even a brief request for prayer requests—can ground the room, remind people of the brotherhood and sisterhood between them in Christ, and place front-of-mind the reasons the church exists.

This can help people to have a little more patience and perseverance with the “boring” business meeting issues, and perhaps even take a larger ownership role in resolving some of the more menial issues. 

More than that—prayer works. It’s not just a business hack. It’s not just an organizational psychology trick. God is real. And his Spirit leads the hearts of kings, managers, and employees: “The king's heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will” (Proverbs 21:1).

10. Make it your job to de-escalate conflict

Church business meetings inevitably have conflict. People have differing about the direction a church should go. The spiritual investment of elders, staff, and volunteers can sometimes turn passion into combustibility. 

It is the meeting’s team leader who is responsible to de-escalate conflict.

The best church business meeting resolution to conflict is to table an issue for a future meeting—and then, to hold a longer form meeting with the two parties who have a conflict of vision. 

However, this is not always possible—some issues need to be resolved in the meeting, and there is no way out of the meeting without resolving the issue.

In this case, the designated meeting leader needs to do three things: (1) set an internal clock of how long the dispute will be allowed to last, (2) moderate the discussion during that time, and (3) make an executive decision of a conclusion is not reached at the end of this time.

This can sometimes result in the team leader appearing to be “the bad guy.”

So be it—better than an unruly meeting that disrupts the church staff culture.

After you make an executive decision, you can set another meeting to resolve the meeting conflict if it was serious or long enough.

11. Celebrate every contribution as somehow valuable

When people contribute, find the value in the contribution.

Don’t shut it down.

Nothing can kill participation more swiftly than a meeting leader who simply shuts down ideas.

If someone brings up an idea, find a way to implement it as valuable into your plan—even if you have no intention of really bringing it to fruition.

If you do this, people will feel good about contributing, and will continue to contribute more. 

Individual meetings are just as much about the overall “meeting culture” your church has as it is about the issues involved in that specific meeting.

12. Admit when you don’t know, and say when you’ll follow up

As meeting leader, it’s okay not to know what to do.

It’s okay not to know the answer to every question.

Make these lines your refrain:

“I’ll check on that and get back to you today.”

“I’m still waiting on [SENIOR PASTOR] for that.”

“Great question. Who can answer it?”

Cycle through those lines every time you don’t know something.

This will give you time to get the right information to the right people. 

Even if a meeting leaves you with 100 “Research” tasks, then at least the meeting was still productive. People asked the right questions, and you’re tasked with finding them the solutions—a task which you can feel free to delegate. Either way, the meeting progressed the church business, which is all you can ask from a church business meeting.

13. Take personal notes during the meeting so that people know you’re serious about follow-up

While meeting minutes are being dictated, have a personal notepad or tablet in your hands to record notes while making eye contact with the person to whom you’re making a commitment.

Even though you’re going to receive the action item in the meeting minutes, this act conveys that you are taking seriously the request of the meeting attendees, and encourages others to voice their own inquiries.

14. Send a follow-up email to attendees with summary of follow-ups

This email is separate from the meeting minutes, which take time to compile.

You should send an email to meeting attendees within 15 minutes of the meeting’s close—or, somebody should—so that people don’t have to wait on the compilation of those notes to have an official receipt of exactly what are their designated responsibilities as a result of the church business meeting. 

Over to you

If you implement these practices, you will be able to address any issue—financial, technological, pastoral, and relational—with the efficiency and effectiveness of a 21st century business. 

In an age when churches bear the public weight of responsibility for its mistakes heavily on social media and in the eyes of its community, it is important that it handles its business issues wisely and well.

Remember and implement these 14 best practices, and your church will be able to manage any issue that comes its way:

1. Ensure all church staff use the same digital calendar

2. Designate a point person before the meeting is set 

3. The point person should send meeting-relevant documents be sent to attendees at least a day before the meeting

4. Set and communicate clear participation expectations from attendees

5. Delegate someone other than the point person to take meeting minutes

6. The point person and note taker create action items, delegations, responsibilities, and takeaways to send to attendees within 1 day

7. Set the time, date, and location for the next meeting before the meeting ends

8. If you are the point person, prepare at least 2 questions for each attendee in order to prompt conversation about the material

9. Open the meeting in brief prayer

10. Make it your job to de-escalate conflict

11. Celebrate every contribution as somehow valuable

12. Admit when you don’t know, and say when you’ll follow up

13. Take personal notes during the meeting so that people know you’re serious about follow-up

14. Send a follow-up email to attendees with summary of follow-ups

Why Write Church Donation Letters?

In a previous blog post, I shared the different ways your church can thank donors—from automated emails to year-end giving reports. Printed donation letters also play an essential role in your church’s stewardship efforts.

Donation letters are the Swiss Army knife of your church’s gratitude arsenal. It may not be the most powerful—but it’s versatile, handy, and gets used often.

Your basic church donation letter can serve many different purposes, including:

  • Acknowledging that you received a donation
  • Thanking the giver for being generous with their finances
  • Sharing other ways the person can support your church
  • Allowing the donor to write the gift off on their taxes
  • Encouraging supporters to make recurring donations
  • Requesting future donations from church members

A single, well-crafted donation letter can pull together several of these things simultaneously. Better donation letters lead to more giving, which leads to more donation letters—thus creating a cycle of on-going church generosity.

Church Donation Letter Samples

Here’s the good news—you don’t have to write an individualized letter for every person who gives to your church. That would be tough to do for even smaller churches. And most donors don’t expect you to. They’d rather you be putting their gift to better use in the community, instead of ceaselessly writing thank you notes.

With the possible exception of some unique circumstances, your church can use template language for the majority of your church donation letters. You’ll have to add in custom details like the donor’s name and gift amount, but you can write everything else in advance.  

To make this even easier on you, here are a few basic church donation letter templates you can copy and paste. Keep in mind that not all of these have to be in print—you could just as easily turn some of these samples into email appeals.

1. Donation Acknowledgment Letter

The Donation Acknowledgement Letter is a basic way you can confirm and affirm a monetary gift to your church. Sending these is standard practice in church and nonprofit culture.

Dear [first name],
I want to personally thank you for your donation of [gift amount] to [church name]. We’re honored you would bless us with your generosity. Donations like yours make a big difference in the work our church is doing in the community.
Without givers like you, our church can’t have an impact or influence in our community. With your support, we’re partnering with local nonprofits, sending out global mission trips, and hosting small groups on topics that help real people like you. Together, we can make a difference.
Because we’re a tax-exempt nonprofit, you also get to write this donation off on your taxes. This letter serves as official proof of your donation, so keep it in your records come tax season. At the end of the year, we’ll also send you an annual recap with how much you’ve given to the church.
Thank you for supporting [church name]!
Sincerely,
[your name]

2. Donation Request Letter

Not every church member realizes the importance of giving, or understand Bible verses about tithing and giving.  So a Donation Request Letter helps to spread that awareness and encourage a spirit of generosity.

Dear [first name],
How are the finances in your household? That was a rhetorical question, so you don’t have to answer—besides, this is a letter so we wouldn’t hear you anyway. But we still want you to think about that question.
Money is a uniquely human issue, one we all struggle with to one degree or another. Even if you’re financially blessed, you still have the burden of stewarding your money wisely. And we believe that one of the best ways to invest your money is into the local church.
Tithing (giving 10% of your income) on a regular basis not only supports the work we do at [church name]. It doesn’t just support local missions and community growth. It also shows an obedience to God by making his work a financial priority in your life.
So if you find yourself ready to put God first in both your heart and your wallet, we encourage you to make a one-time gift or sign up to make recurring donations. That way, you won’t have to ever wonder again about the financial status of your household.
Sincerely,
[your name]

3. Monthly Giving Letter

Many church donations aren’t just one-time gifts. Plenty of givers contribute monthly—and that should be acknowledged.

Use this template to correspond with recurring givers.  

Dear [first name],
Thank you for being an active and faithful member of our church community. By giving to our church on a monthly basis, you’re showing that our church has a meaningful place in your heart. We just wanted to write this to let you know that you’re in our heart, too.
Donating to the church monthly allows us to preach the gospel, make disciples, and support others in our community who need help. Others like the local food bank and the nearby homeless shelter. We’re answering the cry of the needy, and it’s all thanks to contributors like you.
We earnestly appreciate your ongoing support and want to let you know we’re here for you. If there’s ever anything we can do for you and your family, don’t hesitate to reach out. You are a valued member of our church family. And you’re financial support is making a difference.
Sincerely,
[your name]

4. Year-End Giving Letter

At the end of each year, it’s customary to give your church supporters a summary of their gifts. The primary reason is for tax purposes, but it’s also a way to recap everything your church has done over the past year with their support.

Dear [first name],
You’re getting this letter because you gave to [church name] at some point during the past year. That might have been a one-time gift, or recurring donations. Either way, we want to thank you for your generous support. Every contribution helps.
One of the official reasons for this letter is for tax purposes. That’s right—you get to write these donations off on your taxes. Which is why we’ve included a summary of all the contributions you’ve made to our church this year.
But the other reason for this letter is to let you know what we’ve done with the money you gave. We take stewardship very seriously, which means we value spending our time and resources wisely.
During the year, our church supported local nonprofits, sent global missions teams, and baptised quite a few people. It was a great year for us—thanks in large part to donors like you.
So thank you for your support of our church, and we hope you’ll consider continuing to contribute to our mission in the coming year.
Sincerely,
[your name]  

5. Church Fundraising Letter

Sometimes you need to make a more significant financial push using tried and true church fundraising ideas. Some churches call this a Stewardship Campaign or a Church Capital Campaign. Either way, the goal is to raise a certain amount of money for a big project. And typically, a solid letter of appeal is an integral part of that.

Dear [first name],
God has a plan for everyone and everything. That includes you, and it includes [church name]. None of us can fully know God’s plan—the best we can do is pray and listen for clarity. Our church leadership has been doing just that and are excited to announce our latest church project.
[Detail the outline of the major church project—this could include a building campaign, or raising support for a global mission trip. Anything specific to your church that requires a fundraising letter. Be sure to include a fundraising goal so everyone knows what you’re shooting for.]
But we can’t pull this off without your support. Whether you give to the church on a regular basis, or just attend on occasion, we’re asking you to consider contributing to this massive undertaking prayerfully. It’s something we need our entire church community’s help with.
Even if you can’t make a large gift, know that every little bit helps. It’s more about coming together as a community united behind a common cause. We hope that you’ll consider making a donation towards this great step forward that we’re making together.
Sincerely,
[your name]

Tips when writing church donation letters

It’s not enough to just copy and paste this content and send away. The key to an effective church donation letter is a touch of personalization. Follow these tips to take your donation letters to the next level:

  • Examples: Add specific examples of how your church will use the donation. Tell a story about the work your church is doing in the community and connect that with giving.
  • Personalization: For regular donors, don’t be afraid to add a short, handwritten personal note. This shows that you’ve singled them out with praise.
  • Timeliness: Sending donation letters quickly reminds people you’re thankful for them. But this also takes organization and efficiency. All the more reason to use pre-written templates.
  • Storytelling: Everything is better with stories—including donation letters. Weave in a specific narrative of how your church is making a difference and how the money will be used.

There’s no one right or wrong way to write a donation letter or request contributions. You’ve got to do what is right for your church and congregation. But if you stick to these general tips, you’ll probably start to see some traction when it comes to giving.

What’s next?

Most people don’t love talking about money in church. But it’s a necessary and vital part of your church. And maximizing your efforts when it comes to donation letters will help make those conversations more comfortable. So what do you do next to put this into effect?

  • Customize these letters: Take the samples above and make them work for your church. Personalize the content. Remove the stuff that doesn’t sound genuine and add in stuff that does. Remember that these are just a starting point.
  • Create some systems: Develop processes that make it easy for you to replicate sending donation letters. Use a letter template that allows you to drop in names and details. Then develop guidelines for when these letters will be sent out.
  • Empower a champion: Find out who is going to be responsible for making these letters happen. Rather than thinking of this as adding more work to their plate, think about how you can elevate their work. This could be a staff member, or a volunteer.
  • Start sending: All of this will be for nothing if you don’t actually send out the letters. Take the time to get it right and get them into the hands of your church donors.

And if you’re looking for ways to grow your church’s giving capacity, Tithely can help.

We provide several different ways your church members can support your church financially—from online giving, text to give solutions, and giving kiosks.

Tithely’s systems make it as easy as possible for people to give to your church. Now all you need to start doing is generating a culture of gratitude. There’s nothing standing in your way. Go unleash generosity in your church.

How does your church use donation letters to spread generosity? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Editor's Note: This is a guest post from Robert Carnes. Robert is a writer and storyteller. He's the author of The Original Storyteller: Become a Better Storyteller in 30 Days. A former church communicator and nonprofit marketer, Robert works as a managing editor for Orange in Atlanta.

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The Ultimate Church Business Meeting Playbook: 14 Practices for Success