Conducting Congregational Meetings in Bylaws (In-Person and Virtual)

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How meetings are conducted--quorum, voting percentages, and model of group deliberation--reflects your theology, expectations of membership, and commitment to welcome and inclusion.


The quorum (percentage of membership required to conduct business at a meeting) required at congregational meetings reflects your expectation of members. High quorums signal that membership is a significant commitment. Low quorums signal that participation in important decisions is not an expectation of membership. A low quorum makes it easy for the congregation to approve decisions and enact programs that are not accepted by a significant proportion of the congregation.

Quorum numbers include those actually present according to your state laws.


The definition of who is a voting member is generally handled within the membership section of the bylaws.

Other voting concerns can be included in this section:

  • Include the majority percentage required to approve a motion. Most pro forma decisions, such as electing officers could be a simple majority. Other more momentous decisions that need ongoing support, such as approving a strategic plan or a real estate purchase, may elicit a need for a higher percentage.
  • Include a provision for extending discussion when a minority from historically marginalized groups have concerns.
  • Clarify whether proxy or absentee ballots are allowed, in compliance with state laws. Allowing such votes can lead to decisions that are not fully informed by discussion that happens at the meeting.
  • Technical Guidance on Virtual Voting for Online Congregational Meetings

Conduct of Meetings

The genius of congregational polity is that the highest authority is vested in the gathered membership of the congregation. The reality is that many of the practices for discussion and decision-making in meetings only include the loudest voices and those who are well-versed in Roberts Rules of Order.

Because practices are emerging, any detail about methods or models of meeting conduct should be in board policy.

Online/Virtual Meetings

During a pandemic, when large group gatherings are prohibited or discouraged, a congregation may need to hold meetings to make important decisions. Here are some guidelines.

Sample Provisions

  • A quorum of the Congregation for the purposes of voting shall be constituted of ______ percent (##%) of eligible voting members. Opportunities for open discussion before and during the meeting will be provided per board policy.
    Meeting will be held at such placeor no place, solely by means of remote communication, as may be fixed by the Board.”
    All voting and elections shall be determined by a simple majority of the people present and voting, except as otherwise noted in these bylaws. Absentee ballots will be available according to board policy and will not count toward quorum. 
    A majority vote of the qualified members present shall be required to carry any motion at a Regular Meeting. A _______ percent (__%) vote of the qualified members present shall be required to carry any motion at a Special Meeting.

  • _________ (##) percent of the membership shall constitute a quorum.
    A simple majority of those votes cast shall be sufficient to either approve or disapprove matters submitted for determination by vote, unless otherwise stated in these bylaws or in the motion itself. Absentee ballots shall be available to members who cannot attend a given meeting for reasons of incapacitation or travel.

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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