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Your Congregation's Bylaws: A Guide to Effective Writing and Revising

Bylaws are important in laying the groundwork for any organization. Although written in legal language to satisfy governmental requirements, bylaws also tell the story of a congregation. They encapsulate the vision, hopes, and dreams of the congregation and are also a last resort in cases of disagreement on legal matters. They help the congregation govern day-to-day functions such as committees and board structure, as well as deal with infrequent situations such as the calling of a minister and the purchasing of real estate. For all members, bylaws provide a roadmap for getting involved in key decision making, which is particularly important to groups historically underrepresented in Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) congregations.

Bylaws exist to support and enhance the functioning of the congregation. They can be a good resource, providing direction and counsel, or they can be used to stifle change and growth. They can be inclusive or exclusive. In a congregation where trust and goodwill are predominant, badly drawn bylaws are benign; in congregations in crisis and conflict, however, bylaws can be wielded as a stumbling block or weapon. All these characteristics should be kept in mind as you draft your initial bylaws and again when you revise them.

Contents

  1. About Using This Guide
  2. Introduction
  3. Organizational Structure and Bylaws
  4. Bylaws Committee
  5. Bylaw Components
    1. Name
    2. Purpose
    3. Congregational Membership in the UUA
    4. Nondiscrimination Clause
  6. Membership
    1. Membership Requirements
    2. Becoming a Member
    3. Categories of Membership
    4. Removal of Membership
  7. Congregational Meetings
    1. Types and Dates of Meetings
    2. Method of Notification
    3. Quorum
    4. Voting
    5. Other Meeting Provisions
  8. Governing Structure
    1. Composition of Board and Election Provision
    2. Caucus or Affinity Groups
    3. Youth Representative
    4. Term Length and Term Limits
    5. Responsibilities of the Board
    6. Executive Committee Board
      1. Meetings Frequency and Notice
      2. Quorum
      3. Decision Making and Voting
      4. Open Meetings
      5. Minutes
    7. Other Board Provisions
    8. Officers
      1. Officer Composition
      2. Officer Responsibilities 
        1. Responsibilities of the President
        2. Responsibilities of the Vice President
        3. Responsibilities of the Secretary
        4. Responsibilities of the Treasurer
    9. Committees
      1. Nominating Committee
        1. Nominating Committee Constitution
        2. Nominating Committee Procedures
        3. Committee on Ministry or Ministerial Relations Committee
  9. The Minister
    1. Definition of the Relationship and Responsibility of the Minister
    2. Qualifications of the Minister
    3. Calling a Minister
      1. Ministerial Search Committee
      2. Quorum and Plurality of Call
    1. Dismissal and Termination of Call
  10. Other Staff
  11. Fiscal Matters
    1. Fiscal Year
    2. Other Financial Provisions
  12. Dissolution Clause
  13. Other Procedural, Financial, Legal, and Insurance Provisions
    1. Rules of Procedure
    2. Indemnification
    3. Real Property
    4. Affiliated/Auxiliary Organizations
    5. Other Legal and Public Relations Provisions
  14. Initial Adoption of Bylaws
  15. Amendment
  16. Appendix A: Resources
  17. Appendix B: Acknowledgments

For additional help or information, contact the Growth Strategist.

For more information contact growthresources @ uua.org.

This work is made possible by the generosity of individual donors and congregations. Please consider making a donation today.

Last updated on Thursday, February 7, 2013.

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