Planning the Family Meeting
The family meeting is your opportunity to talk about family business with everyone present.
So don't let the reunion pass without at least one comprehensive gathering where you can converse and plan as a group.
Even if not all of your family is in attendance at the family reunion, it's probably the most family you'll have together at any given time, so press forward.
Family Meeting Tips
Family meetings can be run by the reunion planner, family patriarch or matriarch, or other dynamic family leader. No one wants to sit for too long and kids won't have the patience anyway, so make sure the person running the meeting is fun to listen to and will be able to handle the group as well as the assignment.
- Keep the business portions as short as possible
- Include appropriate jokes to keep the atmosphere light
- Start and end on time
- Remain positive and upbeat
- The family meeting is not the appropriate time to air dirty laundry.
Wait until everyone has had a least some opportunity to get reacquainted before meeting. A family meeting works well at the end of a meal and/or before a program or entertainment. Team building or get-to-know-you activities may help increase trust and self disclosure among participants. You want everyone to feel comfortable enough to share their opinions and comments.
Family Meeting Discussion Points
Important family meeting discussion points might include:
- Individual family updates - weddings, funerals, births
- Family genealogy - share facts and stories
- Evaluation - review the reunion; what worked and what didn't
A Sample Meeting Agenda
A more detailed sample meeting agenda follows:
- Start with the big picture. Who are we, why we are here and what we hope to accomplish. This could be just one to two sentences. It will help everyone catch the vision and get on the same page right from the get-go.
- This is a good time to give out fun awards such as a certificate to the person who traveled the farthest to attend the reunion or to the couple that has been married the longest.
Review Last Time
- Briefly review what happened the last time you were together. If there were assignments given or meeting minutes taken, remind and then update the clan on what happened.
Introductions, Announcements & Business
- Have each family branch quickly introduce themselves or share newsworthy updates such as babies and weddings. To avoid endless monologues, set a time limit and make the process into a game. Have everyone help keep track of the time and wave flags or make noise when a person's time is up.
- If your family reunion has planning committees or projects of any kind in the works, this is the time to report on their status. Let those who need to report know ahead of time so they can prepare. Keep it short.
- This is the time to discuss family affairs that involve the entire family. These might include an upcoming 50th wedding anniversary, Mom and Dad's estate plans or the family cookbook. You could even ask the group if there is anything they feel needs to be discussed. Just keep tabs on the time and energy level. Bring temporary closure to any about-to-spiral-out-of-control topics by establishing a few people to discuss the topic further at another time.
- Call for a vote on any business that needs a democratic decision. This could help determine reunion format, location, date and/or frequency, if needed.
Speaker & Entertainment
- Depending on your family, there may or may not be a place for a special speaker. If someone is making a speech, keep it short.
- Instead of, or in addition to, making a speech, this portion of your meeting might include a brief bout of entertainment from the emcee or perhaps a musical number. Corny knock knock jokes would well. So does balloon tying and magic tricks.
- This is also a perfect time for sharing significant family stories or presenting your unique family history in a fun way.
Evaluation & Dismissal
- Ask everyone to evaluate the reunion. This could be a group discussion or simply hand out paper and pencils. The most important questions are: what did you like the most, what did they like the least and why.
- If yours is a multi-day reunion, review the agenda for the remaining days and invite family to purchase t-shirts and participate in the silent auction (or whatever else you have going on).
- If known, announce when and where the next reunion will be. Or at least announce who will be in charge of the next reunion and what plans are tentatively being made. Just like you want to know from your doctor when to expect your test results, your family wants to know what to expect in the future.
Madea's Family Reunion
Sometimes a meeting might happen unannounced, as it did in Madea's Family Reunion. No one really planned on making a speech but in the movie, Aunt Myrtle had some spontaneous and inspiring words that called their posterity to action and put their family reunion in perspective. Borrow what you need for your own family meeting or inspiring speech. Her words are powerful and I love her perspective -
This is the first family reunion we have had in 5 years. Aunt Ruby, she's 96 years old. 96. Family reunions are about uniting the family, bringing together the young and the old. Singing and dancing and thanking God, giving Him the glory. Thanking Him for getting us over. As we marched up the road this afternoon what we saw were young men gambling, fighting, cussing, women with no clothes on, gyrating all over on this land. Do you see this shack? The man and woman who were born here gave birth to this generation. They were slaves. They worked this ground… but they bought it from the widow of the slave owner and that's the kind of blood we have running through our veins. That's the stock that we are made of. What happened to us? Who are you? Do you know who you are? What happened to the pride and dignity and the love and respect that we had for one another? Where did it go? And how do we get it back? I'm 'a tell you. Young black men, take your place. We need you! Your sons and daughters need you. Did you understand what I just said? You were sold off and had no choice, yes, but now it's time to stay. Take your place! Now! Starting now! Young black women you are more than your thighs and your hips. You are beautiful, strong, powerful. I want more from you! Take your place. I want every single one of you, young man, young woman, turn to the next person standing alongside of you. Grab them and hug them and tell them that you love 'em. Tell them, "If you need somebody to talk to, come to me." "I'll give you a shoulder." "I'll give you the hug." "I'll feed you." "I'll clothe you if you need it." That's how you start - from this moment. When you leave this reunion today you take that with you. God bless y'all. God bless you.
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