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Developing Ends Statements
Governance for Congregations

Let me review some high points of Carver's model as specified in "Ends Policies: The Real Bottom Line," chapter seven of Reinventing Your Board. I think it's true that Boards feel more natural describing activities and intentions than prescribing results, recipients, and cost. Carver warns that "if you prescribe means to your staff, you will surely get them, but you will still be in the dark as to whether the right results were produced for the right people at the right cost."

Here's a home grown example of just such an error. One of our ends policies reads, "Unity Church provides innovative whole-life religious education." This tells the Executive to:

  • Provide religious education.
  • Make sure it is for all ages.
  • Be innovative (instead of ho, hum traditional?).

It does not state what results will be produced, it pretty much mandates a program. Simply providing religious education says nothing about how folks of all ages will be different, better, enlightened. An innovative program of religious education for all ages could still do a lousy job of ensuring that folks are knowledgeable of Unitarian Universalist heritage and world religions and that they lead lives of spiritual self-examination and practice.

Another feature of Policy Governance is that ends policies can (and should) begin with large global statements. The Executive can use any reasonable interpretation to determine if the policy has been fulfilled (this is good), until the Board goes down a level and further specifies sub policies as a nested set (this is also good.) I don't think a Board has to do this all at once, it's a developmental process and is the important ongoing work of the Board.

Another Policy Governance notion that is near and dear to me is that a crude measure of the right thing is better than a precise measure of the wrong thing. Professionally, I live in the world of measurable, assessable outcomes and, God forbid, I create an outcome that is not crafted with a pristine assessment in mind. I try to give up my concern with measurable outcomes when I approach ends policies. Carver states, "...if the Board allows measurement questions to contaminate its deliberations about what is to be accomplished, for whom, and at what cost, it will prescribe what is measurable rather than what is meaningful." I also believe that Boards get in trouble if they wait until the end of the year to determine if the Executive has accomplished the ends. Monitoring the accomplishment of ends with monthly Executive reports allows the Board to observe how the ends are always being accomplished.

Art Ungar stated, "I am looking for ends statements for churches that meet Policy Governance standards." While I've pasted below my congregation's ends policies, please know that I do not consider them to meet Policy Governance standards. They are recently revised, far from exemplary, but created with loving intention. They are much, much more specific and detailed than were our "old ends" and I'm afraid they serve, to a certain extent, as a catch-all for cherished ideas that don't fit well anywhere else in the policies. Sadly, not one of them states "at what cost," something generally true of other congregation's ends policies as well. Art Ungar noticed this when he said, "I don't believe that they offer the exec any guidance as to priorities for spending time and money."

Here they are:

  • ENDS Policy #1: Mission: The mission of Unity Church is to engage people in a free and inclusive religious community that encourages lives of integrity and service.
  • ENDS Policy #2: Values/Philosophy: In pursuit of the Unity Church mission, we will not violate our bond of fellowship, which includes:
    • Belief in religion, and support of freedom, fellowship and character in religion.
    • Defining religious life as thankful, trustful, loyal, and helpful.
    • Envisioning our church as a community of helpers.
    • Joining with others in our church community in name, hand, and heart.
  • ENDS Policy #3: Vision: By 2003, Unity Church will have broadened, deepened, and expanded its spiritual community, reaching out and becoming for all who are touched a source of connectedness, inspiration and meaningful interaction. We will be able to say of our church:
    • Unity Church is a community gathering place where everyone is welcome, where diversity is valued, where elders are honored, where leadership is supported, and where people of all ages are actively engaged in ministry.
    • Unity Church is a "community of communities," where people find connections in groups large and small.
    • Unity Church provides innovative whole-life religious education.
    • Unity Church engages the passion, experience and intellect of congregants in acts of service, while supporting spiritual growth and development.
    • Unity Church works in partnership with others to meet needs in the larger community.
    • Unity Church is financially sound, sustained by a culture that prompts generous gifts of time, talent, and money to support the church and its programs.
  • ENDS Policy #4: Moral Ownership: The moral ownership of Unity Church is its congregation.
  • ENDS Policy #5: Primary and Secondary Stakeholders Draft 9/00 
    • In accomplishing its vision, Unity will prioritize its planning and resources toward:
      • Primary Stakeholders: 
        • The congregation 
        • Visitors (actual and virtual) 
        • Potential congregants 
        • Sister churches and other direct affiliates 
        • Denominational affiliates 
      • Secondary Stakeholders:
        • Others we touch professionally, commercially, and in the community at large.
  • ENDS Policy #6: Strategic Plan: The Executive Team shall develop a plan that specifies how the Board's ends will be realized over specific periods of time. The Board shall approve this plan.

—Gretchen Dorn Unity Church-Unitarian of St. Paul, MN

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