by Linda Hoffman Kimball
Like many of you, I’m sometimes called on to lead group meetings. Whether it’s a meeting for community, employment or a church responsibilities I generally try to have an agenda. Agendas can help.
Here’s my general plan for crafting agendas. First I splat all the factors out on the tabletop that is my mind, or actually on paper or computer screen. I make no judgments at first about what weight to give each item; I just spew.
Pondering comes next. I determine which topics need to be emphasized. Does the pre-school board need to address playground safety first or decide about cutting teacher’s salaries in a bad economy? Does the college need a new sports arena or a new library? Do we donate to the “alabaster bottle of expensive anointing fragrance” campaign on the donation slip or to the “sell the perfume and give the proceeds to the poor” fund?
I don’t know that there are clear answers to these questions. I’m constantly trying to keep in mind the “meta” – the fundamental objective of the group. This isn’t always obvious or even answerable. Is our task teaching kids or keeping them out of harm’s way? Making sure the Relief Society ladies learn CPR or facilitating a social experience?
I find it’s most valuable to keep reminding myself of the basics, even if the current issue seems impossibly fraught with complexities. Can the College advance its scholarly pursuits without the kind of funding that comes in large measure from sports departments? Did Mary and Judas ever come to a meeting of the minds after she anointed the Savior with the contents of the bottle?
I record the items in some kind of order of importance. Having a written down, distributable agenda helps me. I find outlines with OCD-esque detail too confining for me and outlines that are just too loosey-goosey ineffective. I expect each person learns what works for them.
The group meets. We talk. We listen. As leader, I try hard to keep on task and on schedule. Nobody much likes watching the clock but it is a necessary evil in most situations.
At the end of the meeting we assess. We make and accept assignments. We set a “return and report” time frame.
To me this has been pretty workable, a decent if not perfect plan for making agendas.
What about those deep level agendas? People of good will approach challenges from different and seemingly irreconcilable points of view all the time. Recognizing agendas can bridge the differences or exacerbate the problems if the invested people de-emphasize the group’s main goals. Psalms 127:1 says it well: “Except the LORD build the house, they labour in vain that build it.”
I think of my life as the main thing over which I need to have an agenda. What I am most fundamentally trying to accomplish? What am I most about?
I’m with Paul in 1 Corinthians 2:2: “For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.” That’s the main task of my life – to figure out what that means, to explore those depths and heights, to let the Lord build my house. This is no small task. It’s complicated and requires plenty of wrestling, heavy lifting, and the grueling work of being vulnerable. This is not a challenge for the faint of heart nor a facile sop.
People talk about and proclaim generic agendas all the time: feminist agendas, progressive agendas, conservative agendas, organic and ecological agendas, etc. I’m not comfortable claiming any of those. The labels distract me. I’m just trying to work the Gospel of Christ into my bones, a process for which spewing, pondering, keeping on task and on schedule is plenty for me.