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Governing Structure: Writing Congregational Bylaws

The decision as to how leadership responsibilities will be vested depends on the congregation's size and intentions. For smaller congregations, a more modest structure-a governing board-may be sufficient. Larger congregations may want to incorporate an executive committee, a program council, or another body to coordinate the delivery of the congregation's ministries. Still others may want to adopt the Carver model of policy governance, which will require different provisions for congregational decision making.

As is true with many other bylaws issues, with governing structure decisions nomenclature once again raises its head: Does the congregation have a board of directors, board of trustees, board of governors, steering committee, parish committee, or some other named body? The answers will differ, depending on which language and style suits the congregation's culture. Most congregations also have officers, and which officers exist may be articulated in the statutes of the incorporating jurisdiction. For ease of communication, this document will use the generic terms board(s), director(s), and officer(s).

The bylaws should address at least the following issues with regard to the governing board:

These provisions are explored in the following sections. Sample provisions concerning the election of the board will be covered in the "Nominating Committee" section.

For more information contact growthresources@uua.org.