Under the article is a video of a recorded webinar where the author of this article gives details instruction on how to effectively record meeting minutes.
Jenny Smith is a Star Trek fan, graduate of Brigham Young University, member of the Patawomeck Indian Tribe, and recipient of the Protector of Children Award from Strengthen the Family. She works on and offline perfecting the saints through service in various capacities. Jenny lives near Fredericksburg, Virginia, sharing 350 acres of beautiful farmland with two children, two cats, and one very supportive husband. She also has created an incredible resource at MormonShare.com.
You’ve done it. I’ve done it. We’ve all sat through interminably long church meetings where nothing seems to be accomplished. There’s talking, sure, but nothing ever seems to get done.
I’ve served as secretary of a variety of church organizations, but it wasn’t until I served on the board of a non-profit that I finally learned how to use minutes to keep an organization functioning well. Few in the church have a sense of how essential it is to take effective minutes and write well organized agendas, and fewer still receive any training on those skills. LDS secretaries and leaders come from a variety backgrounds where they’ve had little experience with meetings and even less with councils. Fortunately, it’s easy to learn and teach the skills necessary to hold effective meetings.
Using minutes “helps participants focus on the meeting’s purposes and use time effectively” (Church Handbook of Instructions Book 2, 18.1). Minutes can help you plan better meeting agendas and help follow the temple pattern of return and report. Minutes help streamline the administrative work of your council so that you can focus on ministering to families and individuals.
Minutes are not Notes
In simplest terms, minutes are the formal record of decisions and assignments made during a meeting. Minutes are not a record of discussions. Minutes are kept to help leaders track assignments and progress. Minutes help group members stay on task and be accountable for their assignments. Minutes record all assignments made to group members. Minutes briefly record every decision made during the meeting.
Like informal notes, minutes are a record of meeting, but minutes differ from informal notes in significant ways. Minutes are taken by the secretary of each presidency or council. The secretary is attending meetings to take notes and track assignments (See Church Handbook of Instructions, Book 2, Sections 7.3.3, 8.3.3, 9.2.3, 10.3.3, 11.2.3, 12.2.4). Minutes record every decision and assignment made by a council or presidency. Informal notes are taken for personal reasons, such as recording reminders for personal assignments or notes about why a decision was made.
Benefits of taking minutes
Minutes help you organize effective meeting agendas. They help teach Return and Report principles. Minutes help members who have been absent catch up when they return. Minutes can also help new members integrate fully into the group.
Minutes help you plan effective meeting agendas
The primary benefit of minute-taking is that they help the secretary work with the presidency or council to plan an effective meeting agenda. Using your minutes, items that have been resolved may be dropped off the agenda, new business can be added, and you can plan how long to spend on each item of business. You can include lists of assignments so that people can make better reports. If there is a dispute about what resulted from a discussion, minutes can resolve it.
Return and Report with minutes
The principle taught in the temple of Return and Report will bless the lives of leaders and ward members. Leaders who may not feel effective in their calling will benefit from reporting to the council the successful completion of an assignment. Leaders who feel out of touch with events in the unit will appreciate hearing what’s happening. Busy leaders who struggle with delegating responsibility will learn that others can accept and complete assignments. When a report comes back, leaders who made the assignment will receive the information they need to fulfill their responsibilities. Forgetful or disengaged leaders may re-engage when they see that someone cares about whether their responsibilities are completed. Using minutes, you can help members return and report their progress while simultaneously developing leadership skills and confidence.
In 2008, Elder Uchtdorf said the following about the importance of using councils to teach the principle of Return and Report:
“You learn to be a leader by first learning to be a follower. The scripture says to ‘act,’ not to be ‘acted upon’ ” (2 Nephi 2:26).
“The next step is to follow up. That’s what we learn in the temple—the return-and-report principle. But some of our leaders are somehow afraid to give direction, to provide a kind but clear message of what is expected, and then to follow up. Things will not be done perfectly, but when [members] try, encourage them. [They] will remember that. They may not remember the words, but they will remember the feelings.” (Uchtdorf, Dieter F. “Tending the Flock: Teaching Leadership Skills to Youth”. Ensign, 2008 Jun. https://www.lds.org/ensign/2008/06/tending-the-flock-teaching-leadership-skills-to-youth )
It is not enough to just make assignments. It’s not enough to receive an assignment and fulfill it. An assignment is not complete until reported. In the words of Marion G Romney: “Remember, brethren, to return and report is the final act of the faithful and wise steward.” (“Welfare Services: The Savior’s Program”. Ensign, Nov 1980. https://www.lds.org/ensign/1980/11/welfare-services-the-saviors-program.p1 ) We must teach this essential, eternal skill — Return and Report — to both youth and adult leaders. Minutes will help us do it.
Minutes help absent members catch up
Minutes can be invaluable to a person who was not able to attend a previous meeting. By reviewing the minutes from your last meeting, an absent person can get a briefing of what happened and will be ready to attend the next meeting, fully up to date and ready to participate when he or she rejoins the group.
Minutes help new members integrate
When a new member joins the group, minutes can help him or her feel at ease because he or she will know what decisions were made at the last meeting and can feel like he or she has something to contribute to the discussion. A new member with little experience can interpolate discussion topics and learn which things are approprate to add to the agenda based on minutes. If an assignment was made to a predecessor, a notation was made in the minutes and the new leader can follow up to ensure it was completed.
What to include in your minutes
- Meeting start time
- A list of meeting attendees and the organization they represent
- Participants in the meeting. Who gave a prayer or spiritual thought? Record their name. Did you sing? Record the song title. Was there leadership training? Record the training topic and who taught the material.
- Every assignment made, plus a completion date where appropriate
- Every decision made, including any decision to discuss an item again later
- Meeting end time
- Date, time, and location of the next meeting
This is a copy of the minutes taken during a BYC meeting. This meeting was planned ahead of time to last longer than an hour because of the important discussion that took place regarding how to organize mutual opening exercises. Several quorum presidents were missing due to some reorganization, and leadership training was skipped that week due to the expected length of the meeting.
Note: Unfortunately, no secretary is assigned to attend BYC. In our unit the young women president acts as secretary during BYC, but you may invite the ward executive secretary or a responsible youth to act in that capacity. You may think of BYC to be a less essential meeting, but consider that the example you set today for youth on how to run an effective meeting will affect church council meetings for decades.
Tips on minute taking
- Carefully record every assignment made during your meeting. Include a time for completion where appropriate.
- Record decisions made, not discussions. Occasionally you may need to include some details for clarity in your minutes, but focus your minutes on actions taken.
- Transcribe your minutes and provide them to the meeting leader as soon as possible. You’ll be surprised how much you forget in just a day! The meeting leader may ask for changes to the minutes.
- Use the minutes to help the meeting leader prepare the next agenda.
- Provide a copy of the minutes to every attendee before the start of the meeting. Attendees can refresh their memories by looking over the minutes before the meeting begins.
- Get more ideas at http://www.effectivemeetings.com/meetingbasics/minutes.asp
Minutes — formal record of decisions and assignments made during a meeting.
Informal Notes — personal, informal record of a meeting. Notes may include discussion points. They usually do not include assignments made to others.
Agenda — the planned outline of a meeting.