Bylaws Task Forces

By UUA Congregational Life

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Whether you are a new congregation, you are merging two or more congregations, or you are making changes an existing congregation; forming a bylaws task force is an important first step.

The board forms the committee by appointing three to five congregational members with a strong commitment to the mission of the congregation, past leadership experience, and/or some other expertise that would round out the group. A diversity of experience will make a better task force. See Creating Guiding Documents for more detail.

Task Force as Learning Community

The task force's first assignment is to learn what they can about bylaws. Reading the Bylaws section of the UUA website is a good start.

Other helpful books include:

  • Commission on Appraisal, Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA). Belonging: The Meaning of Membership. Boston: UUA, 2001.
  • Heller, Anne Odin. ChurchworksA Well-Body Book for Congregations. Boston: Skinner House Books, 1999.
  • Rendle, Gilbert R. Behavioral Covenants in Congregations: A Handbook for Honoring Differences.Bethesda, MD: Alban Institute, 1999.
  • Zeitlin, Kim Arthur, and Susan E. Dorn. The Nonprofit Board's Guide to Bylaws : Creating a Framework for Effective Governance. Washington, DC: National Center for Nonprofit Boards, 1996.

Good Process Invites Consent

As the task force does its work, it will want to get input from the congregation. Effective communication provides opportunities for all learning styles. Written overviews, questions-and-answer sessions and visual mind-maps all contribute to better understanding. See Creating Guiding Documents for more detail.

Amending Existing Bylaws

If you are amending an existing set of bylaws, the amendment process may already be addressed in those bylaws. In the absence of a process, we recommend that you follow the above procedure.

Legal Review

Before they are presented to the congregation for approval, the bylaws should be reviewed by an attorney to make sure they are in compliance with local, state and federal statutes.

Congregational Approval for Amendments

When the bylaws task force presents the bylaws amendments to the congregation for approval, they should include:

  • The purpose and/or impact of the proposed amendment
  • The exact wording of the proposed amendment.
  • The bylaw language before the amendment.
  • How the bylaw would read after the amendment is adopted.
  • The names of the task force members proposing the change.

About the Author

UUA Congregational Life

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...

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