Running track lanes
Staying in My Lane: Governance Roles and Responsibilities
12. Staying in My Lane: Governance Roles and Responsibilities

Congregational boards also operate in ways similar to other non-profit boards. Here are some basic understandings of the basic duties of  non-profit boards.

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Officers and Executive Committees

Congregations, like most non-profits, must have officers that hold the key fiduciary responsibilities. A president/moderator (or similar position) presides over meetings. A secretary records meetings and keeps accurate copies of all congregational governing documents and records. A treasurer keeps and shares accurate financial records. Practice and some state laws also have a vice-president/vice-moderator and/or an assistant secretary. These officers usually comprise an Executive Committee  that makes some decisions between board meetings.

Standing Committees

A board can't do all of its work by itself so it delegates (or "commits") research and preparation to other groups, which then report back to the board so the board can make the decision. You may have standing committees (finance, safety, personnel, etc.) to help with ongoing fiduciary work. There are also limited-time select committees (bylaws, staff search, strategic planning, etc.) that disband after they complete the charge given to them by the board. Some congregations refer to non-board committees as "teams."

Open vs. Executive Session

Open process and transparent communication are essential to self-governing institutions like congregations. Board meetings are usually open to any of the members. If this happens, good hospitality and boundaries can make it a positive experience for all. But there are also times when a board may need to discuss something in private (e.g. personnel issues) in an Executive Session.

Understanding Boundaries

Each congregation has its own unique culture and structure. We recommend that you create an understanding of roles and responsibilities using a responsibility assignment matrix such as a RACI Chart.

It's also helpful to understand the relationship between the governing board and professional staff.

About the Author

  • 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 UUA Congregational Life Staff...

For more information contact conglife@uua.org.

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