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Why Not Use Policy Based Governance?

Art Ungar

What is the need for centralization of the implementation of policy in the Executive?

To make my question clear, let me propose a different model. Let's say that the church has a number of committees which are charged by the Board for specific areas of responsibility (e.g. worship, religious education, building maintenance, finance, etc.) Each has a budget and there are certain general policies (e.g. all events must be scheduled on a common calendar.) Each committee then does it's work, coordinating through a council, or through Board liaisons.

In this case, decision making is devolved to the committee level. There is certainly still a need for leadership, particularly from the minister, in providing vision, encouragement, focus and so on, but the rigidity of the Carver Model, with only negative policies, tightly defined boundaries, strong executive is not needed.

Let me also provide a case study. We are currently building a $2 million expansion. The Board has appointed a Building Committee to oversee the project. They have approved the overall plan and budget. All contracts are signed by the p resident, as the legal representative of the congregation, so the Board retains control. However, the Building Committee has carried out the project with almost no Board involvement. There is no Executive, either. The minister attends meetings of the Building Committee when his schedule permits, and there is a Board liaison to keep communications open.

—Art Ungar, Mt. Diablo UU Church, Walnut Creek, CA, August 16, 1999

Arthur Thexton

I'm not sure that making the minister ultimately responsible for the building and furnace contributes to the smooth and effective functioning of the institution, even if these responsibilities are sub-delegated. If we are to have shared ministry, a concept that many of our congregations are adopting, then I think we need to be clear that no one is responsible for everything, or should be. The Board is the governing body for the congregation, elected by it and accountable to it. Likewise, the minister is called (elected) by the congregation, not the Board. The Board cannot fire the minister anyway (although I acknowledge that the Board can make it so uncomfortable for the minister that resignation follows). This is unlike the usual Carver Model, so we are already departing from the classic version.

I am just suggesting that Carver does not require the minister to be the CEO and therefore accountable for everything. It is not useful to the analysis to say that everything is related to what the minister does: that's a tautology in that everything is connected to everything, so by that reasoning everything should be under the Building Committee, or the Religious Education Committee, or whatever. Of course everything is related to what the minister does, but that still doesn't mean that the minister should be in charge, ultimately or otherwise, of everything.

I do favor having a small number of persons reporting and accountable directly to the Board for their areas, instead of having everyone report to the minister who then reports to the Board. I know that the borders are fuzzy in some cases. But, I think that such a structure works better for a Unitarian Universalist congregation.

—Arthur Thexton, May 4, 1999

David Jackoway

Unitarian Universalist Church West in Milwaukee, WI (UUCW) is a medium-sized church with approximately 330 members. The church staff consists of our minister, a director of religious education, a music director and an administrative assistant.

We recently created a Governance Committee to suggest improvements on the way the church is governed. The committee is composed of the minister, three members of the Board and myself. Our first task was to gather information about governance from various sources. I searched the Internet which led me to the Carver website. When I presented this information to the committee someone mentioned that Marty Gluckstein, a member of the Bylaws Committee, had submitted a posting to this email list, which led me here.

Our committee is still in the early stages of its work. Policy Governance is one concept we are exploring through books and other sources. But we have not decided whether adopting a new model such as the Carver Model is necessary or would be accepted.

—David Jackoway, Unitarian Universalist Church West in Milwaukee, WI; July 25, 1999

For more information contact governance @ uua.org.

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Last updated on Tuesday, March 27, 2012.

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