Church Governance

5th Principle of Unitarian Universalism: We affirm and promote the right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregation and in society at large.

The congregation of All Souls Church Unitarian is, like all Unitarian Universalist congregations, self-governing. We elect representatives to our Board of Trustees and officers to perform specific duties; vote to approve our budget and call our settled ministers; decide the content of our bylaws and other governing documents; etc. You can read about the various aspects of our governance below.

Eleven trustees (including a president, vice president, treasurer, secretary, and seven trustees) serve three-year terms on the church’s board; each year, some cycle off and others are elected in their place. The trustees represent the congregation. Read more here.

Six officers are elected each year to fill functions necessary to smooth operation of the church: a moderator, a treasurer and assistant treasurer, a secretary and assistant secretary, and a membership secretary. Read more here.

The Church Council is the collection of all lay leaders of the church, including representatives from all of the church’s ministries and groups. The Council meets twice each year to check in, learn from each other, and explore aspects of church governance. Learn more about the Council here.

The LDNC comprises 15 members (five cycling on and off each year) who identify and recruit lay leaders to serve as trustees and officers. The LDNC also runs the church’s Leadership Development class, which trains future leaders. Read more here.

The CRR, using the church’s Covenant of Right Relations as its foundational document, deals with conflicts with the congregation and between congregation and staff. Read about Right Relations here.

Read the All Souls Church Unitarian Security Policy.

The Board of Trustees Security Committee is looking for your feedback. The Committee is in the initial phases of developing a security policy that will encompass the physical, spiritual, and emotional well-being of the All Souls community. This survey, which is only the first of many ways the Security Committee will engage the congregation over the next few months, gathers information on where we are now and identifies people who want to be involved in this very important effort. We fully expect that our individual and collective views will evolve through this process of information gathering, and your voice is very important to the creation of a policy that will support a safe and welcoming space for everyone when we gather again. Learn more about the Security Committee.

Once each year, the congregation gathers to hear a report on the state of the church, elect new trustees and officers, and approve next year’s budget. They may also vote on bylaws changes and other matters concerning the governance of the church. 

2020 Congregational Meeting

2019 Congregational Meeting

Want to know more about policy-based governance? Here’s some essential aspects that you should know:

(condensed from John Carver, Carver Guide Series on Effective Board Governance; edits included to reflect the congregation of All Souls Church Unitarian.)

Policy Governance is a fundamental redesign of the role of a board, emphasizing values, vision and the empowerment of both board and staff. It is built on ten principles. The short version of these nine principles are:

  1. Trust in Trusteeship
  2. Principle of One Voice
  3. Policy over Procedure or Personalities
  4. Largest Values First
  5. Define & Delegate
  6. Ends at the Center
  7. What, Not How
  8. Board Monitors Itself
  9. Executive-Board Relationship Important

The trust in trusteeship

The basis for effective governance is reliant on trust – trust between the Executive Team, the Board and the Congregation. Simply put, a board governs on behalf of persons who aren’t seated at the table.

When a decision is made, The Board speaks with one voice or not at all

 Rarely will a vote be unanimous. Those board members who lose a vote, however, must accept that the board has spoken and that its decision is now to be implemented. The board should not present conflicting messages to the congregation, the Executive Team or to the staff.

Board decisions are predominantly policy decisions

What makes Policy-based governance different than a managerial board is that the Board governs primarily through deliberation, delegation and implementation of its policies.

Policy is defined as the value or perspective that underlies action. Board policies express the board’s soul, embody the board’s beliefs, commitments, values, and visions, and express its wisdom. The board decides what to have policies about, and to what level of detail it will develop them. Its policies fit into four categories:

  • ENDS — The board defines which human needs are to be met, for whom, and at what cost. Written with a long-term perspective, these mission-related policies embody the board’s vision, and the organization’s reason for being.
  • EXECUTIVE LIMITATIONS —The board establishes the boundaries of acceptability within which staff methods and activities can responsibly be left to staff. These policies limit the means by which Ends shall be achieved.
  • BOARD-STAFF LINKAGE —The board clarifies the manner in which it delegates authority and how it evaluates performance relative to ends and limitations.
  • GOVERNANCE PROCESS —The board determines its philosophy, its accountability, and the specifics of its own job.

Except for what belongs in bylaws, these categories of board policy contain everything the board has to say about values and perspectives that underlie all organizational decisions, activities, practices, budgets, and goals.

The Board formulates policy by determining the broadest values before progressing to more narrow ones

Under Policy-based governance, the Board is charged with keeping their eye on the big picture – the values – mission – vision of the church.

The Board defines and delegates, rather than reacting and ratifying

What this means is that the Board sets an outer limit (limitations) beyond which the Executive Team/Lead or Senior Minister should not go. Everything within that limit it subject to the executive teams interpretation and discretion, giving them the greatest flexibility and freedom to do their job.

The ends or goals created by the congregation are at the center of governance decisions

Ends Statements are not just lofty descriptions of values which are then sent to the dustbin of history. They are a snapshot documentation of a congregation’s values for a period of time (generally about five years).

Under PBG- the board will become more of a think tank for vision than a reviewer of staff decisions and activities. It will focus on outcomes; focus on the reasons for which the organization exists.

The Board’s relationship with staff describes the “what” but not the “how”

One important principle of Policy-based governance is to distinguish the difference between “means” and “ends.” The means are the “how” a task is done. The means are delegated to the Executive Team, Lead/Senior Minister, Staff, which includes volunteers. The ENDS are the “what,” – What are we called to do and be in the world? They are value statements which the Board must keep its eye on to monitor the progress on the Ends.

The Board is responsible for monitoring itself by rigorous relationship to its governing policies

The board states what it expects of itself, its code of conduct, the way it will plan and control its agenda, and the nature of its linkage with the congregation.

The link between the Board and the Executive Team is critical

The Executive Team and the Board must have a good working relationship. Each must be clear about their roles and responsibilities.

The Board is charged with the task of monitoring – but only against its policies

In Policy Governance, monitoring is conducted only against criteria currently stated in ends and limitations policies.