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It's Not Rocket Science

General Assembly 2008 Event 2067

Presenters: Rev. Ian Evison, Congregational Services Director for the Central Midwest District; and Rev. Kenn Hurto, Florida District Executive.

The Rev. Ian Evison and Rev. Kenn Hurto gave a valuable presentation on the core elements of church boards, and gave session participants many practical tools to help their boards work better.

Think of the board as the "head,” or top, of the congregation, Evison and Hurto said. The middle are committees and staff; the bottom is the congregation. The heart is the minister, along with the caring committee.

Evison and Hurto maintain a "simple is good” approach to board structure. The necessary officers are president, president-elect, treasurer, secretary and at-large members (no more than 12). A good rule of thumb is "The larger the congregation, the smaller the board!”

Evison and Hurto advised boards to start the year with an orientation. Here they can establish congregational norms and shared expectations. It's important to acknowledge the current board’s differences from other boards, for those with previous leadership experience. The board should work as a team, manage internal process, and speak with one voice (not represent subgroups). Members can be liaisons to committees, but when they report to the board, they must not do so as an advocate of those committees.

The heart of Evison and Hurto’s presentation—the core advice they shared—is something that every church board leader should recite as a mantra. Boards should do only one thing: decide things. They need to delegate power to other bodies, and ask committees and task forces to make recommendations to the board. If there is a lot of work to do, the board should be small and committees should be large. The president should avoid being involved at the detail level, instead setting policy and monitoring adherence to the congregation’s mission/vision.

The board makes decisions by thinking of the whole congregation and the Unitarian Universalist Assocation, setting priorities and expectations, and providing resources to make things happen. As servant-leaders, board members should respond to legitimate needs and define the vision and direction of the church. They should assess the overall quality of ministry (not the minister). While the board needs to ensure conflicts are addressed in a timely manner, they may not address those conflicts directly. They can measure success or failure, and should hold members accountable to agreed-upon expectations.

Evison and Hurto cite the importance of an executive committee, composed of the president, president-elect, minister and an at-large member rotating monthly. The executive committee should create the tentative agenda for the board meeting ten days in advance. The board reviews and makes a working agenda seven days in advance. Evison and Hurto advise boards to let the congregation know the meeting agenda—and how to get on the agenda—everyone feels invested and included.

The presenters also offered an idiot-proof boilerplate 105-minute agenda and a system for managing short-and long-term project review which no board president should be without.

The PowerPoint presentation and other materials from the workshop will be made available on the Central Midwest District site.

Reported by Toby Haber; edited by Dana Dwinell-Yardley

For more information contact web @ uua.org.

This work is made possible by the generosity of individual donors and congregations. Please consider making a donation today.

Last updated on Thursday, September 8, 2011.

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