One of the challenges and joys of Unitarian Universalist Congregations and Covenanting Communities is that each develops based upon their own culture, identity, and community. There is no “standard design” for Unitarian Universalist congregations, with each congregation developing the structure and governance that best suits their mission and ministry. Most of our congregations begin from a premise that religious authority arises from the gathered members of the congregation, and how that develops in each congregation creates a beautiful complexity of committees, teams, boards, and leaders. Most of our congregations also elect their own leaders, have a governing board, and choose their own clergy and other religious professional leadership. Amidst this though, congregations have the freedom and responsibility to organize their communities as best helps them to live the congregation's mission and ministry in the world.
Our Unitarian Universalist congregations are required to have a set of bylaws describing their basic organization in order to join the Unitarian Universalist Association. Many also have governing policies and operational policies and procedures that describe how they organized, and capture institutional wisdom for how decisions are made and how the congregation or covenanting community function.
Does your congregation’s governance allow for leaders to think strategically about the congregation's vision, mission, and ministries in the world? Does your committee structure create a culture of empowering within healthy boundaries? Does your policy system provide necessary guidance and capture institutional wisdom? Can members and friends of the congregation access leadership to learn and to share what is important to them about the congregation? Does leadership have the ability to communicate well with members of the congregation about important decisions? How are concerns heard and responded to by leadership?
All of these questions and more are ways of asking whether a congregation’s Governance system is serving the congregation’s vision, mission, and ministries. In Unitarian Universalism, there is no one “right” way to organize a congregation, and every congregation and covenanting community is organized differently. Our goal is to have structure and leadership designed to live the congregation’s vision and mission in the world. And we on the Central East Regional staff are dedicated to helping you achieve that.
Some resources for you to engage:
- Governance Articles on the Growing Vital Leaders Blog
- 3 Parts of Effective Governance Video Series by Rev. Dan Hotchkiss
- Congregational Bylaws Video by Rev. David Pyle
- Cheat Sheet for Robert's Rules of Order (PDF)
- Book - Governance and Ministry by Dan Hotchkiss
- Book - The Congregational Handbook, 3rd Edition by Lawrence Peers
- Book - The Business of the Church by by John Wimberley
- Your Congregation’s Bylaws: A Guide to Effective Writing and Revising (PDF)
- The UUA General Page on Congregational Governance
- Tools and Methods for Keeping Meetings Fresh and Effective
- Basic Concepts for Meetings
- Committee, Team, or Task Force? By Rev. Renee Ruchotzke
- 6 Styles of Congregation Governing Boards by Rev. David Pyle
- How to “Right Size” a Governing Board by Rev. David Pyle
- The Five Strategic Tasks of a Governing Board by Rev. David Pyle
- Relationship between a Governing Board and the Professional Staff by Rev. David Pyle