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Responsibilities of the Board: Writing Congregational Bylaws
Governance for Congregations, Bylaws & Policies

The responsibilities of the board should be set out in the bylaws. They should include the extent of the board's authority to act, those areas where committees may have authority to act, and those actions or decisions that the congregation reserves for itself. Many of these provisions are standard, but some particularities of congregational life can be spelled out in this section.

Sample Provisions

Example 1: A Church Board shall administer and manage the business of the church. At each annual business meeting, the Church Board shall submit an operating budget for the coming fiscal year. The budgeted expenses may not exceed the anticipated income. Once a budget is approved, the Board may authorize and expend the funds as budgeted. The Board may reallocate funds, as long as the reallocation does not exceed ten percent (10%) of the approved budget. The membership must approve any expenditure or obligation for indebtedness that exceeds $5,000.00. The membership must also approve the purchase, sale, or mortgage of real property.

Example 2: The Board, subject to the prime authority of the congregation, is the principal policy forming and administrative body of the church. The Board has full authority and responsibility, except as limited by these bylaws, to act on the business and programs of the church.

Example 3: The Board of Trustees shall be the governing body of the Church. It shall: (a) establish and maintain short/long range goals, procedures and policies to govern the operating practices of the Church consistent with these bylaws; (b) have general charge of properties of the church; (c) employ staff as necessary; (d) appoint interim minister(s) in accordance with the Unitarian Universalist Association guidelines in the event that a called minister(s) leaves employment; (e) approve the appointment of community ministers or intern ministers in accordance with Church policies and procedures; (f) provide facilitation and liaison services as needed to Committees and Councils; (g) insure that prior notice is given on changes of policies or procedures to the affected membership. The Trustees shall not sell or otherwise dispose of or encumber the real estate of the Church without prior approval of the membership of the Church, nor shall they authorize aggregate expenditures or incur a total indebtedness in excess of five percent (5%) of the approved annual budget without approval by the membership of the Church. The disposal of bequests, devises or contributions within one year of acquisition shall not be considered as disposition of Church property or as expenditures subject to the limitations above. The Board of Trustees shall recognize the moral principle that all of its powers are subordinate to the will of the membership of the Church.

Example 4: The duties of the Steering Committee on behalf of the membership, shall include the general custody of the property of the church, the conduct of all business and financial affairs of the Church. The Steering Committee shall have the authority to enter into contracts, the authority to engage or delegate the engagement of all employees except the minister, to appoint temporary committees in connection with its responsibilities, to make regular evaluation of the insurance programs, recommending changes where necessary, to maintain an active membership list, to coordinate the use and rental of the building by non-Unitarian groups, and to maintain communication between the Steering Committee and committees of the Church. The Steering Committee shall have no power to call, settle, or remove a minister or to fix this minister's salary. It may not, without consent of two-thirds (2/3) vote of those voting at a Congregational Meeting in person or by absentee ballot, mortgage any real property, buy or sell property.

Example 5: The officers together with the trustees shall form the Governing Council. No officer may be a trustee simultaneously. The Governing Council shall be responsible for carrying on the executive duties and business of the Fellowship between congregational meetings. To the best of their knowledge they must try to reflect in their actions the wishes and best interests of the Fellowship as a whole.

Example 6: The Board of Trustees shall be responsible for the finances, administration, property, and business affairs of the Church. The Board shall supervise all Church programs. Any decision, action, or omission of the Board may be appealed at an Annual Meeting, or at a Congregational Meeting called for that purpose. The Board's specific duties and obligations include: (a) to hold monthly meetings at such time and place as the Board shall designate; (b) to appoint the Trustees who shall chair the Standing Committees, at the first meeting of the Board after its election; (c) to hold special Board meetings when requested to do so by the President, the Minister, or three (3) members of the Board. Due notice of special Board meetings, stating the date, time, place, and purpose of the meeting shall be given to each Board member. No business except that stated in the notice shall be acted upon, but other matters may be discussed; (d) to give notice to the Congregation at least seven (7) days in advance of special Board meetings, except when the Executive Committee, Board, or Minister determines the existence of an emergency which allows insufficient time for prior notice as described herein. Whenever a special Board meeting is held without prior notice to the congregation, the Board shall make written report to the Congregation of the business transacted at such meeting; (e) to make available minutes of each Board meeting, or a summary of all business transacted at the Board meeting, by the time of the next Sunday service; (f) to appoint and dismiss all employees of the Church and fix their salaries, with the advice of the Minister, except as provided herein; (g) to establish budgets for Congregational approval, monitor those budgets, and see that Church expenditures are within those budgets; (h) to appoint the Director of the Annual Canvass; (i) to ensure recruitment of volunteers to staff Standing Committees and to fill unelected positions needed to carry out Church programs or administration; (j) to conduct or supervise and approve all polls of the Congregation; (k) to authorize expenditures exceeding its budget to the extent of not more than three percent (3%) of the total annual budget, as periodically adjusted in light of actual income. Any expenditure in excess of this limitation shall be approved by a majority of those Voting Members present and voting at a Congregational Meeting with such expenditure in its call; (l) to establish Standing Rules for conducting its own business and approve Standing Rules for each of the Standing Committees.

Example 7: The Board shall be the head administrative body of the Church and, on behalf of the Congregation, shall be vested with the care and administration of the real and personal property of the Church, and shall conduct its business affairs. It shall keep the Congregation informed of its actions.

Example 8: The business, property, and affairs of the corporation, including the approval of the annual budgets, shall be governed by the Board of Trustees, which shall promulgate policies for the conduct of the affairs of the corporation consistent with the laws of the State of Minnesota, the Articles of Incorporation, and these Bylaws.

Example 9: The Board of Directors shall have general charge of the property of the Fellowship, the conduct of all business affairs, and the control of its administration, including the appointment of such committees, as it may deem necessary.

Example 10: The Board of Trustees shall have general charge of the property and funds of the Church, the conduct of all its business affairs, and the control of its administration, including the appointment of such committees as it may deem necessary, but no borrowing of money nor contract involving more than ten percent (10%) of the current annual budget shall be made without approval of the Congregation.

Example 11: Reporting Responsibilities of the Board. The Board will make a written report to the Parish on at least an annual basis, and otherwise will inform the Parish of major policy decisions.

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