What Makes a Good Chapter Meeting?
by Robert Owens, Field Coordinator for Ohio, Michigan, and Western Pennsylvania
Question: What are the characteristics of a well-run chapter meeting?
Answer: A well-run chapter meeting is one that efficiently advances the mission. Some will interpret the word “efficiently” to indicate “no fun.” But quite to the contrary, the most successful chapters are always fun and enjoyable. Consider the purpose of a chapter meeting: It is a time to get educated, develop leadership, and plan coordinated action.
In his masterpiece work The Art of War, Sun Tzu explains that the best generals understand themselves as well as who the enemy is and how they operate. Today, we must understand what a republic is and why it’s different from a democracy. Moreover, we must be able to explain that distinction to others. Additionally, we must understand the threats facing our nation. The John Birch Society has amazing educational tools on these topics, and a well-run meeting should feature them.
But simply being educated is not enough. Being the most knowledgeable member of a concentration camp is not a position of honor. Accordingly, leaders must be trained up. Good chapters should provide opportunities for members to develop leadership skills. This is essential, as chapter leaders that do it all themselves will burn out and quit — and that’s assuming the other members don’t quit first since there’s not much to do. Accordingly, chapters are encouraged to have committees for certain projects, with members assigned to lead those committees. So, for example, your chapter might have a Constitution Is the Solution (CITS) committee to plan, promote, and host a constitution class in your community. A well-run chapter should have a CITS committee, a Congressional Scorecard committee, a local-events committee, and a Support Your Local Police committee. Each of these committees is a vital opportunity for members to grow leadership skills. Additionally, this activity will eventually lead to the birth of a totally new chapter as the community experiences patriotic fervor.
What makes The John Birch Society special is its dedication to action — and more importantly, to focused, coordinated action. It is for this reason that your monthly JBS Bulletin has a specific action agenda. A well-run chapter meeting will go through that action agenda and make sure that every member understands the objective and his individual role in its successful completion. And when our chapters work as a team, both internally and with other chapters, we can achieve a significant force-multiplier effect.
Former JBS president Jack McManus once told me that the action of a good Bircher is not done at meetings; it’s done every day of the week in between the meetings. Truly, the hallmark of a well-run chapter is that it inspires members to excellence as described by Mr. McManus.
Philosophical thoughts aside, the nuts and bolts of running a good meeting — including how to run it, prepare an agenda, and keep people on topic — are laid out in the “Volunteer Leaders Accelerated Performance Series” manuals, found at the Members Area at JBS.org (top center of the page). There’s an arsenal of tools available to help you — now let’s get active!