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Special Congregational Meetings: Writing Congregational Bylaws

Special congregational meetings are generally of two different types: (1) meetings called by the governing body to take action on unusual or occasional items of business and (2) meetings called by the governing body at the request of members of the congregation. Often the agenda at special meetings is more specific (call of minister, purchase of real estate, or other such momentous issues), and with the second type, the agenda often is limited to those matters specifically addressed in the petition to call the meeting.

When determining the number of members (or percentage of membership) that must sign a request to the governing body for a special meeting, carefully consider growth or decline in membership. A fixed number may prove to be too burdensome or too easy to attain if the congregation suffers a major decline or substantial growth in membership. A number expressed as a percentage of voting membership will keep the intent constant, regardless of the size of the congregation at any given time.

Sample Provisions

Example 1: Special Congregational Meetings may be called by the Board or by the receipt of a written petition requesting such a meeting signed by at least fifteen percent (15%) of all voting members. The Secretary of the Board shall call such a meeting. A call for a Special Congregational Meeting, either by the Board or by petition, shall state the purpose of the meeting. No other business may be transacted at such a meeting.

Example 2: Special meetings of the corporation may be called by the Board of Trustees. If a written request to the Board of Trustees by any fifty (50) voting members of the corporation for a special meeting is denied by the Board of Trustees, said meeting may be called by those fifty (50) voting members.

Example 3: Special business meetings of the church may be called by the Board, the minister, or at the written request to the Board of any five (5) members.

Example 4: Special meetings may be called by the president, or in his/her absence, by the president-elect. Special meetings may also be called at the written request of four (4) trustees, or any five (5) voting members. The business transacted at all congregational meetings shall be limited to that specified in the call to meeting.

Example 5: Except as otherwise provided in these bylaws, Special Congregational Meetings shall be called by the Board whenever deemed necessary by the Board or the Minister, or by written request stating the purpose of the Meeting, signed by at least ten percent (10%) of the Voting Members, and delivered to any member of the Board.

Example 6: Special Meetings of the Association shall be called by the Moderator at the direction of the Board of Governors, or upon the written request of fifteen percent (15%) or more of the Association members. The meeting shall be called within fourteen (14) days of such direction or request. The meeting shall be held for any of the following purposes: (a) calling or dismissing a minister, or an assistant or associate minister; (b) purchasing or selling of real property; (c) recall of an elected Officer or other Board Member; (d) amending the Constitution; (e) amending the bylaws section on the Endowment Fund; (f) transacting any other business that may require action by the membership before the next Regular Meeting.

Example 7: The Board of Governors may call an Emergency Meeting of the Association, if necessary, by a unanimous vote of the members of the Board participating in a board meeting. Such a call need not be in conformance with the notification requirements below, but the Board shall take such measures to insure notification to all members using the telephone, first class mail, or other actual notice as appropriate. Quorum and voting requirements shall be determined by the action to be taken.

Example 8: Dismissal of a Minister shall be at a Special Congregational Meeting called for that purpose. This meeting shall be called by the Board only upon written request signed by at least twenty percent (20%) of the Voting Members. Notice of the meeting shall be only by letter sent to the Congregation. No notice shall be placed in the official church newsletter or read from the pulpit. The minister shall be invited to speak at this meeting.

For more information contact growthresources @ 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, February 7, 2013.

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