The meeting minutes from board meetings and congregational meetings create the official, legal record of the actions of the board or congregation. For the congregation, they are important as an accurate historical record.
They may also be used by outside parties:
- A bank may need to establish that the church has approved a building project before issuing a loan for it
- A bank may need proof that your president, moderator or board chair was duly voted into that position by the congregation
- Auditors and the IRS also look to the minutes as proof that certain financial transactions were authorized.
Usually, the secretary or recording secretary takes the minutes.
Contents of the Minutes
While specific content varies by committee, in general, the minutes for all church organizations include:
- Particulars of the meeting, such as time, date, place, who attended and who presided.
- Whether the meeting is regularly scheduled or a special meeting and, if special, who called the meeting and for what purpose -- attaching a copy of the meeting notice.
- Ordered record of what occurred at the meeting.
- Exact wording of all formal motions, even those not voted on.
- For motions that are brought to a vote, the minutes should record the number of votes for and against, as well as the number of abstentions.
- General understandings or consensus reached despite the absence of formal motions or votes.
- Names of people elected or appointed to offices or other leadership positions.
- Details of discussions are usually NOT included unless there is information that would be pertinent to the permanent record.
- Adjournment and time.
- Signature of secretary and, once the minutes are reviewed, corrected (if needed) and approved, the presiding officer.
One of the most challenging aspects of minute-taking is to determine how much detail to record. The Mennonite Brethren Historical Commission suggests recording the main points of the discussions leading to decisions, as well as the alternatives considered and a summary of why the committee chose one alternative over the others. The Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability suggests that the board establish a policy about details that is consistent regardless of the individual secretary. It suggests including enough detail to show that the board was prudent, but not so much that the minutes read like a novel.
Taking the Minutes
Before the meeting begins, obtain a copy of the agenda. As the meeting progresses, take detailed notes relating to meeting particulars, board reports, discussions and actions as the board proceeds through each item of the agenda. Record motions, resolutions and decisions verbatim, but summarize discussions. Be sure to include the name of each person who makes a motion or who initiates action, and any conflicts of interest stated. Once the meeting is finished, transcribe and condense your notes to include the appropriate detail and put them in the proper format, beginning with the meeting particulars, then proceeding in order of the agenda.
Once you've completed the draft of the minutes, circulate the document to members. The minutes you've written for this meeting will be approved, with or without corrections, at the next meeting. Once minutes are approved, prepare a final copy, then sign the document and ask the presiding officer to sign it as well.
Minutes should be available upon request to all members of the congregations.
In times of change or anxiety, many board provide of summary of decisions made in the weekly email or monthly newsletter.
Preserving the Minutes
Store the minutes chronologically in a loose-leaf minute book, along with the meeting agenda. That loose-leaf book also should contain a table of contents, and copies of the church bylaws and constitution. At some point, perhaps annually, minutes may be professionally bound.