Faith CoLab: Tapestry of Faith: Virtue Ethics: An Ethical Development Program for High School Youth

Faith In Action: Congregational Decisions

Part of Virtue Ethics

Materials for Activity

  • Minutes from meetings of the congregation's governing board
  • Index cards of two different colors

Preparation for Activity

  • Obtain the minutes from several meetings of the congregation's governing body. Highlight material pertaining to votes on actions the congregation will take. Make copies for the youth to share.
  • Obtain minutes from a recent meeting of the entire congregation, and make copies for the youth to share.
  • Obtain a schedule of upcoming meetings of the governing body and/or the entire congregation, and obtain agendas for these meetings. Make copies for the youth to share.
  • Familiarize yourself with how your congregation decides on actions it will take.

Description of Activity

Youth examine decisions made by the congregation's governing body.

Ask the youth if they know who makes decisions for the actions of the congregation. The answer is probably a combination of congregational members and the congregation's governing body. Discuss the following, adapted for the process, policies, and specific recent actions of your congregation, to make sure participants understand how decisions are made:

  • Some decisions are made by the entire voting congregation. These may include election of board members and committee chairs, the budget, decisions about public witness statements, decisions related to a congregational building, and calling a new minister or other staff decisions. Who gets to vote? [Members] How do you become a member? How many voting members are in the congregation? Can non-members speak at congregational meetings? What other rules govern the congregational meeting? [May include how far in advance meetings must be announced, number of meetings required in a year, etc... ] Who reports to the congregation at meetings?
  • Some decisions are made by the congregation's governing body. What is that body's name [e.g., Board of Trustees] and composition? How are its members chosen? Are there youth and/or young adults on the governing body? What kind of decisions does this body make (versus the full congregation)? Are their meetings open? Are the minutes from the meetings available to everyone? Who reports to this body?

Ask if anyone has attended any congregational and/or board meeting recently. If so, what was it like? Can they remember any decisions that were made? Were the decisions voted upon?

Distribute the meeting minutes you have assembled. If decisions were made and the group is interested, ask them to vote on whether they think the best decision was made by holding up index cards, where one color means "Yes" and the second color means "No." Pick decisions where you can impartially supply background the youth need to make informed decisions. Can youth imagine what emotions came into play as decisions were made? What about the reasoning involved?

Say that voting members make the best decisions for the congregation they can make at the time. Sometimes, in hindsight, they may wish they had decided differently. Yet, we believe the democratic process is usually the best tool for making decisions that affect us all. Ask if there is evidence that UUs believe this. [Hint: Look at the seven Principles.]

Ask if any one else makes decisions in the congregation. Committees, staff, volunteers, and individual members make decisions all the time. Are the youth involved in any congregational decision making?


Plan for the youth to attend a congregational or board meeting together. Before the meeting, gather the group to discuss the agenda and any decisions that may come up for a vote. If any youth are members, they might decide to speak at the meeting and share from the group's discussion. If non-members can speak at meetings, urge youth to do so about any decision they feel strongly affects them.