How To Conduct A Business Meeting

            One of the things that is necessary for a pastor is to know how to conduct a business meeting. The Scriptures teach us that all things should be done in an orderly manner (1 Corinthians 14:40). For things to be done decently and in order, we must have a rule of order.

            Robert’s Rules Of Orderis a handy reference to have on hand, but it is somewhat too detailed for the typical business meeting in a small, Baptist church. There are several quick reference sheets available for purchase, and they could be of great help learning about various questions of order.


            A church usually has three officers involved in a business meeting: the moderator/pastor, the clerk/secretary, and the treasurer.

            The moderator presides over the meeting. It is his job to guide the meeting and insure that proper decorum is maintained. 

            Note that the term “moderator” involves moderation. The moderator is to be an arbitrator, or an intermediary. All remarks should be made to the moderator rather than to other members of the body. This helps keep things calm and peaceful, as it is easier to be calm and peaceful when one is speaking concerning a subject to the moderator, who is attempting to rule with fairness to all.

            The moderator, presiding over the meeting, is given the responsibility of maintaining order. Should there be a breach of order or decorum, it is the duty and authority of the moderator to note that and reestablish order. Should there be a disagreement regarding a point of order or decorum, the one ruled out of order should never be permitted to dispute with the moderator. He should, in keeping with the general order of making motions, move to appeal the point of order to the body and, should the motion receive a second, the body is to rule on the matter without discussion.

            The clerk/secretary should keep a record of the business proceedings. His duty is to, upon entering into the business meeting, read the minutes from the previous meeting in order that they might be approved by the body. He is to also maintain any correspondence that is deemed necessary by the body.

            The treasurer has the duty to handle the funds of the body, keep a record of all funds received and dispersed, and to give a report thereof as directed by the body.

The Business Meeting

            The typical business meeting opens when a motion is passed to open business. Some churches, having set times for business, may consider the meeting as automatically opening, and thus proceed with their business.

            The typical business meeting closes when a motion to close is passed. Again, some churches consider their business meeting as automatically closing at a previously specified time. For example, I know of one church which holds their business meeting on a Wednesday night, and the business meeting is considered as opened until the succeeding Sunday evening, when it automatically closes.

            Immediately upon opening the business meeting, the clerk/secretary should read the minutes of the previous meeting, and they should be corrected if needed and then approved by the body.

            The next step should be the reading, correction, and adoption of the treasurer’s report, if it is time for the treasurer’s report to be read(Some churches do not give a monthly treasurer’s report).

            The moderator should then ask if there is any unfinished business needing to claim the attention of the body. Robert’s Rules Of Orderstates that unfinished business should have been recorded in the minutes of the previous meeting, and that anything not in the previous minutes dies and needs to be brought up as new business; sometimes there are issues that take longer to deal with than one month. For this cause, I think it best to issue a call for unfinished business at each business meeting. The moderator may deal with this according to his discretion.

            Next should be the call for new business.

            Baptist churches should believe in and practice church discipline. They should also consider the peace and unity of the body as being of great importance. Thus, at the end of the business meeting, there should be an opportunity given to consider matters touching the peace and harmony of the church. Should there be issues relating to the welfare of the body in this manner, these should then be considered by the body. It is of utmost importance that the moderator/pastor should seek peace, harmony, and promote reconciliation in these times. It is also important that, should any member have an issue to bring to the body during this time, he bring it to the attention of the pastor/moderator before the business meeting begins.[1]

Rules Of Order

  • If one wishes to speak or to make a motion, he must first obtain the floor (the right to speak) by being the first to stand when the person speaking has finished; state Brother Moderator/Pastor. Raising your hand means nothing, and standing while another has the floor is out of order, as that is an interruption. One must be recognized by the Chair before speaking. 
  • Before the motion is stated by the Chair (the question) members may suggest modification of the motion; the mover can modify as he pleases, or even withdraw the motion without consent of the one seconding the motion; if mover modifies, the one seconding the motion can withdraw the second. 
  • A motion that does not receive a second apparently does not hold interest to anyone other than the one making the motion and thus dies. It cannot be discussed or voted upon.
  • Debate/discussion can not begin until the Chair has stated the motion or resolution and asked for discussion. If no one rises, the chair calls for the vote. Note, that the time for discussion/debate is only after that there has been a motion and a second. Also, after the vote is taken, debate is out of order, as the question is settled unless there is a vote to reconsider, or to rescind the act.
  • No member can speak twice to the same issue until everyone else wishing to speak has spoken to it once. For the sake of fairness, everyone should be given an opportunity to discuss before a member speaks to the issue a second time.
  • Only one member shall speak at a time, who shall rise from his seat and address the Moderator; and the speaker shall confine himself to the subject properly in debate and cast no reflection on the body or any member thereof, and shall not be interrupted while speaking.
  • No person shall speak more than three times upon the same subject without permission of the body.
  • To modify, or amend, a motion simply takes a vote of the body to do so. Once made, a motion belongs to the body and not to the one making the motion. The body has the right to amend a motion at any time during discussion of it. To amend a motion, one simply needs to follow the regular order of making a motion, and then move to amend the motion under discussion.
  • To table a motion is to simply remove it from discussion and consideration until a later time. This can be done in two ways: a motion can be tabled until a specified time, or it can be tabled for an indefinite period of time. To table indefinitely is simply to remove an item from discussion, and leaving open the time of bringing it back to the floor for discussion. Never is tabling a motion the correct way for one who is opposed to the motion to over rule the motion and stop it from moving forward. Note also that, for something to be tabled, it must first be on the floor for debate and discussion. To bring a matter back to the floor for discussion, a motion to bring the matter off of the table to the floor is all that is required.
  • A majority of messengers present shall be necessary to carry any proposition or motion and the Moderator shall vote as other messengers when the question is taken and in case of a tie the motion is lost.
  • The moderator is the presiding officer. No deacon or other member has the authority to usurp this position. The ruling of the moderator is authoritative and can only be over ruled as stated above. To dispute with the moderator, or to ignore his ruling and continue doing what has been ruled out of order is insubordination and rebellion, which is worthy of rebuke and possibly church discipline.
  • A point of information generally applies to information desired from the speaker: “I should like to ask the (speaker) a question.”
  • Point of Order: Infraction of the rules, or improper decorum in speaking. Must be raised immediately after the error is made
  • Divide the Question: Divides a motion into two or more separate motions, which must be able to stand on their own.
  • A motion to reconsider: Can be made only by one on the prevailing side who has changed position or view.
  • The moderator shall decide questions of order but an appeal from such a decision may be taken to the whole body, which shall decide without debate.

[1]It is my desire to present a study of the issue of church discipline in depth at a later time.

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