6 Tips for Effective 1-on-1 Meetings

By Will Browning

Meetings shouldn't be your entire ministry, but they can play a huge role in what you do! Here's some helpful advice as you make appointments with the church members you shepherd.

Meetings and Ministry

“My dad’s job? Well, he meets with people all day, every day.” That’s how one of my kids described my job as a pastor. When my kids were younger, there was a certain intrigue behind what I did all day. I found that my congregants also had the same intrigue when they would ask—half in jest and half in wonder—“What do you do all day long as a pastor?” My kid had it right. Besides sermon writing, nothing filled my ministry calendar more than meeting with people. After all that practice, through a great deal of trial and error, I learned over the years that there are a few tips and tricks to help you make the most of your one-on-one meetings.

1. Confirm all meetings the day before

This small action—which may require only one quick email or text!—will ensure you make the most of the time you have committed to this meeting. Someone showing up late (or not at all) can throw off the rest of your day. Aim for clarity over brevity in your confirmation. Give both a start and end time and provide a location with an address. (This is important!) A couple of minutes committed to confirming details could save you a couple of hours the following day by avoiding both the “Oh, I forgot!” or the “I thought we were meeting at this coffee shop!” excuses.

2. Choose a meeting location you can easily leave

I learned this trick the hard way. I can’t tell you how many times I agreed to a meeting in my office or at my house where the person I was meeting with just could not pick up on all my signs that I needed to end the meeting. Or the lingering “Can I ask you one more question before I go?” line would come again and again. However, when I started having meetings in the other person’s office or even in a public location, I could transition away much more easily.

3. Start the meeting by establishing the ending point

I have found that beginning a meeting by saying, “I am so excited to meet with you for this hour. I will need to leave for my next meeting at 10 a.m., but I am looking forward to our hour together.” I can’t count the number of times I have gotten to the last five minutes of a meeting and only at that moment heard someone say, “Well, pastor, the reason I wanted to meet is to talk with you about… [Insert an issue that will take an hour to deal with rightly.]” This tip is directly connected to the next tip below.

4. Determine the greatest need for the meeting

I found that if I start every meeting with the following line, I can be the most helpful and make the best use of the time I have committed. Here is the line: “I want to be the most helpful to you as I can, so let’s start with the most important issue first. What is the most important topic you would like to discuss today?” Sometimes, I find out that the person I’m meeting with just wanted to hang out, which is fine. If they have a particular purpose to the meeting, though, it’s good to get to it first rather than waiting for them to bring it up at the end.

5. Bring the meeting to a close with a question

Of all the tips on this list, this one will seem like the least powerful, but I would argue it’s the most powerful. As you bring the meeting to a close, ask the question, “Was I helpful to you today?” Almost every time, your churchgoer will say, “Yes, pastor, this was very helpful. Thank you!” So, why is this step so important? Well, I want them leaving, thinking, This was a good use of my time, and my pastor is a very helpful leader in my life. I am glad he is my pastor. When they voice their satisfaction, they can leave with that same fulfillment. This isn’t self-serving, though. When they voice their dissatisfaction, I know how I can be more helpful in the future.

6. Review commitments made

Finally, I like to end the meeting with a review of any commitments I have made to make sure there is clarity between us. “Bill, I am leaving our meeting noting that I promised to send you an email with a link to that podcast you said you were interested in.” I also review any next steps they may have made to me in order to make sure they do not feel unsure of what I may be asking of them: “Also, Bill, I will be expecting from you those dates for that event you invited me to.” This small step to closing a meeting with clarity will give your guest confidence, while also building up their trust in your leadership.

At certain points in my ministry, I averaged over 15 meetings a week! That’s not a pace I would suggest to you; however, holding that schedule for years taught me so much about making the most of each meeting. So, implement these small changes into your one-on-one meetings and amp up your effectiveness today!

Published August 16, 2023

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Will Browning

Will Browning serves as the Send City Missionary in Los Angeles, California. He spends most of his time coaching church planters in Southern California. Prior to serving in Los Angeles, Will was the founding pastor of Journey Church outside of Charleston, S. Carolina, where he served for 14 years. He and his wife Tarah, have three kids: Piper, Ethan and Jedidiah.