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12. Staying in My Lane: Governance Roles and Responsibilities

Running track lanes

Congregational boards also operate in ways similar to other non-profit boards. Here are some basic understandings of the basic duties of non-profit boards.

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Officers and Executive Committees

Congregations, like most non-profits, must have officers that hold the key fiduciary responsibilities. A president/moderator (or similar position) presides over meetings. A secretary records meetings and keeps accurate copies of all congregational governing documents and records. A treasurer keeps and shares accurate financial records. Practice and some state laws also have a vice-president/vice-moderator and/or an assistant secretary. These officers usually comprise an Executive Committee that makes some decisions between board meetings.

More on Executive Committeees

Standing Committees

A board can't do all of its work by itself so it delegates (or "commits") research and preparation to other groups, which then report back to the board so the board can make the decision. You may have standing committees (finance, safety, personnel, etc.) to help with ongoing fiduciary work. There are also limited-time select committees (bylaws, staff search, strategic planning, etc.) that disband after they complete the charge given to them by the board. Some congregations refer to non-board committees as "teams."

More on Committees vs. Teams

Open vs. Executive Session

Open process and transparent communication are essential to self-governing institutions like congregations. Board meetings are usually open to any of the members. If this happens, good hospitality and boundaries can make it a positive experience for all. But there are also times when a board may need to discuss something in private (e.g. personnel issues) in an Executive Session.

More About Executive Sessions

About the Author

UUA Congregational Life Staff Group

The regional Congregational Life staff are congregations' local connection to the UUA. All of the program Congregational Life staff have expertise in most aspects of congregational life and each also has a few program areas of expertise. See the...

For more information contact conglife@uua.org.

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