Our office just finished our annual Leadership Retreat. We spent several hours planning strategies, praying and getting to know one another. The 30 women who came represented different areas of our state, different sizes of churches and different passions for ministry. I always feel a huge responsibility to make this time worthwhile because I know the sacrifice women make to attend. They leave their families at home, drive for hours and have their own ministries to organize.

As I was planning for the weekend, I was skimming through one of Tim Elmore’s Habitudes books. (If you don’t know Tim or his resources, please check them out here!) One of the chapters refers to another leadership author, Pat Lencioni. Lencioni poses the question, “Given a choice, would you rather go to a meeting or a movie?” Of course, most of us would probably answer, “movie.” But why?

Lencioni shared, “Movies have nothing directly to do with your life, while meetings often do; in fact, in meetings you are allowed to speak up and weigh in on decisions.”

Let that sink in for a moment. If you are dreading some meetings this week, ask yourself, “Why?” More importantly, if you are leading the meeting, ask, “How can I change that attitude?”

Knowing I was preparing to lead a marathon meeting, I posed these questions to myself. Why should women attend this meeting? How can I make it effective? How can I make it engaging? How can I even make it entertaining?

If you’re a  leader, consider these suggestions to help make your next meeting more exciting.

1. Don’t just share information. While downloading data might be important to your meeting agenda, invite those attending to create the vision to dream and plan something bigger. Include stories and drama. Share your own experience and how data impacts others.

2. Create times for competition and interaction. Our retreat centered around the three “E” words in our purpose–encourage, embrace and echo. At one point during our time together, I challenged groups to write as many “E” words as they could.. Not only did this activity get them engaged, it provided some inspiration for planning future events. It’s amazing how a little competition can liven up any meeting.

3. Create margins for conflict. As groups shared their ideas, it was funny to see how protective they got. They were able to defend their ideas, but it wasn’t at the expense of breaking unity. There was a spirit of healthy discussion and an openness to agree and disagree.

4. Design times for right-brain activities. We live in an ever-increasing world where imaginations and creativity are more important than facts and figures. Whether it is giving people playdough to create something or including video clips that relay a message, find ways to engage different learning styles.

Here are a few practical examples we used this weekend. We hope they help you.

1. Create an image of themself. We provided everyone with a blank “body” on a sheet of paper. We gave them questions to answer about themselves and they could design it any way they wanted. These were posted at the back of the wall and throughout the weekend everyone tried to guess who was who.

2. Group activity. We placed a large wooden “E” as the centerpiece for each table. Each table group had time to decorate their “E” in their own unique way. We even gave them a few ideas by showing them our ministry Pinterest board. (Instead of talking about Pinterest, we just showed them how to incorporate it.)

3. Prayer walking. We met on a college campus and spent an hour praying for our churches and the students at the university. We divided women into three groups and had guided prayer prompts for each location. This broke the monotomy of sitting in a chair and getting a little exercise instead.

4. Videos of upcoming speakers. We did this at the end of night one because everyone’s brains were really tired. All of them just got to sit back, eat brownies and watch videos. By the way, eating brownies is always a good thing to have in a meeting.

5. Group interaction and discussion. Groups planned various events and there was time to share. Everyone had input and time to be creative. Everyone wants to be heard in a meeting and this is the best way to do it.

6. Prayer partners. To give women one-on-one time, we began the second morning by pairing off into prayer partners. Each woman brought a coffee mug from home and exchanged it with their partner. The mug idea might be old, but praying for each other isn’t.

7. Planned information. All of the “data” and “downloads” were in written form. They could be reviewed at home or at their own convenience, which allowed for more group interaction. When we shared “reports”, different women presented the information. Hearing different voices can make planned information more powerful.

The result? Overall, I think the women who came felt our time together was worthwhile. They left with stronger relationships and we brought back some great ideas. I was especially encouraged when one younger woman approached me after it was over. She said, “I really had no idea what to expect when I came, but I thought this was going to be really boring. Instead, this was great. I loved it!”

What about you? Do you have good meeting ideas to share? We would love to hear them!