I’ll tell you what we’ve done and I’ll tell you what I’m looking forward to doing in the future (meaning I haven’t done it yet).

Honestly, I’ve tried to keep the meetings pretty flexible and light, hopefully making it rewarding for everyone involved. For the past nine months we’ve followed a pretty simple schedule. Each month the meeting would be held at a different church. We try to mix it up so that every month, the lunch is on a different side of town. We usually have the room set up with 4-6 round tables. We’ve had a lot of success making table assignments, meaning we had a table for elementary staff, a table for preschool staff, a table for admin/operations staff and a table for pastors/directors. This is great because it would allow for my staff to meet people who do the same stuff as them at other churches. If found that some of my staff really don’t network very naturally, so helping them to find other people they should network with has been very helpful. I know that my staff has enjoyed this opportunity.

Usually the host church will welcome everyone and pray for the food. The host church provides the food and everyone attending simply brings $5 per person to help cover the cost. After everyone has had plenty of time to eat and catch up at their tables, the host will talk for a few minutes about his/her church and the unique nature of their ministry. We usually keep this pretty short and from time to time we’ll lob a couple of discussion questions around the tables for groups to discuss. Again, it’s pretty simple. We wanted to make sure to keep it this way so that people could really come to connect and network and not spend excessive time listening to someone talk.

We’ll usually wrap up the meeting with the opportunity to take a facility tour after lunch. Everyone loves seeing how others are using their ministry space, so this is a big hit.

We’ve found that on months with a lot of busy stuff going on, we simply organize a lunch at a local restaurant that is central to everyone. This way we still get the opportunity to network, but no church has to bear the weight of organizing an event during an exceptionally busy ministry season.

What we haven’t tried yet are ministry conversations. I would like to organize think tanks or opportunities to explore an issue, opportunity or resource in more detail. For instance, I’d love to have a meeting where we explore check-in software and check-in best practices. Some will come to learn about certain software as they’re looking at making a switch. I’d love the opportunity to promote F1 Ha! For those who aren’t looking to make a switch, it still gives us the opportunity to look into adjusting best practices. Everyone has something to learn or improve. I’m pretty sure I could get 4-8 pastors/directors to one of those conversations, but the true test would be to see if I could get the same number of early childhood staff members or admin/operations staff to a similar event.