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Accountability of the Executive Team

We think of executive team as a fine example of shared ministry. Most ministers aren't trained to be CEOs and at least in large congregations, it is too much to expect them to do that and perform the ministerial and programs as well.

Areas of responsibility can be assigned by the Board. We (Unity-Unitarian Church, St. Paul, MN) has an Executive Team (ET) of three positions responsible for program, administration, and resource development—these include other particular, named areas of responsibility. (Incidentally, these are the three areas that financial auditors examine—program, administration, and resources.)

At this time, we have a husband-and-wife ministerial team with one vote, an administrator/financial person with one vote, and a lay person in the director of development role, also with one vote. (The reference to voting is within the team—not on the Board—though I have been told our team has never voted; rather they have educated themselves and reasoned with one another on issues well enough to reach their conclusions together.

Each member of the ET has employees (well, not the development person, see below) and church-member teams to help carry out their functions. The ministers are in charge of program—worship, music, parish visitors, child and adult education, membership outreach, etc. The administrator is responsible for support functions, communications, bookkeeping, property maintenance and security, etc. The development person heads the Development Ministry Team (DMT) which has church-member sub-teams such as Real Estate, Investments, Planned Giving, Gifts and Memorials, Annual Canvass, etc., for instance. The DMT meetings are attended by all the ET members and most subteams have one ET or other staff member, as do other congregational teams (other than Board teams).

Some reasons for a team (which nevertheless fulfills the CEO function) in addition to the lack of much training of ministers for a CEO role are the wish for the congregation to have ministers concentrating on other things than finances, the wish for separate reporting on finances, the distress of ministers having to raise money for their own salaries, a healthy separation of powers combined with the power of the need for the communication necessary to resolve areas of disagreement and speak with one voice to the Board (if Board policy requires that), and profound modeling of shared ministry, an important concept in our congregation.

As to hiring/firing, this model is working so well, I can hardly imagine it—but each position (the co-ministers came to us and will go as a package) is responsible for certain defined areas (they are not all responsible for everything but for everything together, that's the point). For an example of the one-voice part, the members of the ET arrived at the proposed budget together, an especially difficult task this year). If one member of the team departed, the Board would hire a person to fulfill the assigned areas of responsibility, taking into consideration the personalities and dynamics of the remaining members to achieve a balanced team.

—Ellen Green, Unity, St Paul, MN, 5/22/03

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Last updated on Monday, June 20, 2011.

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