Congregational Meetings for Bylaws

Voting at a Congregational Meeting

In congregational polity, a decision by vote in a congregational meeting is the highest expression of the congregation's authority. UU congregations generally reserve only major decisions for the membership as a whole:

  • electing the governing boards
  • electing committees of the congregation
  • calling and/or dismissing ministers
  • purchasing and/or selling real estate
  • amending the bylaws
  • other momentous decisions affecting the identity or direction of the congregation

Annual Meetings

Most state laws require congregations to hold an annual meeting, where the members of the congregation can elect officers, committee-of-the-congregation members and--if needed--amend the bylaws. The bylaws need only state the basic requirement the the governing board call an annual meeting. The details of when and how can be outlined in board policy.

Special Meetings

Special congregational meetings are generally of two different types:

  • Meetings called by the governing board take action on unusual or occasional items of business. Usually, the agenda is a single item (call of minister, purchase of real estate, major bylaws revision or other such momentous issue) and higher quorum and passage requirements.
  • Meetings called in response to a petition by members of the congregation by the governing board include an agenda limited to those matters specifically addressed in the petition to call the meeting. The bylaws should include the number or percentage of signatures needed to require that the governing board call a special meeting.​

Notification for Meetings

Bylaws only need to state the basic requirements for the amount of notice needed for congregational meetings (usually in days or weeks), and leave the detail of required methods (from the pulpit, via email, via the newsletter, by U.S.Postal Service, etc.) to board policy.

Sample Provisions

  • An annual meeting of the congregation shall be called by the governing board with notice to the church membership of at least ______ days, with required method(s) of notice per board policy. The time, place, and agenda of the Annual Meeting shall be as designated by the Steering Committee, and all such information shall be published in writing and made available to the Church Membership as part of the notice.
    Special congregational meetings may be called by the Board or by the receipt of a written petition requesting such a meeting signed by at least ____ percent (##%) of all voting members.
    Any special meeting(s) called by the governing board need notice to the church membership of at least ______ days , with required method(s) of notice per board policy. No other business may be transacted at such a meeting.
  • The congregation will hold regular meetings at the time or times established by board policy, with at least one meeting held in the final quarter of the fiscal year. Special meetings may be called by the governing board or by petition of at least ____ percent (##%) of all voting members. Notice of a congregational meeting--including time, place, and agenda--shall be sent to all voting members _______ weeks before the meeting per board policy.

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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