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Method of Notification: Writing Congregational Bylaws

Note any conditions or restrictions in state or local statutes about the method of notifying the membership of regular and special congregational meetings. Many states permit the congregation to choose its own notification process, provided that it is set out in the bylaws. You should check to see what is necessary before deciding on what is appropriate in your setting.

Generally, notice of meetings is given through the mail, either through special letters or congregational newsletters. If mail is your chosen form of notification, specify whether the notice must be postmarked or received by some specific date prior to the meeting. Some congregations require that the notice of the meeting be delivered during regularly scheduled worship services.

Some congregations have different notification requirements in case of urgent matters, whereas others have provisions for waiver of notice built into the bylaws. An example of an urgent matter is the congregation's making an offer for land or a building that can come on the market and be sold very rapidly. Without a provision for such urgency or a briefer period of notice, the congregation could lose a valuable opportunity. Notice of special meetings, such as a meeting to call a minister, should not be unduly short, as it is important that as many members as possible be able to participate in such meetings. Ensure that whatever requirements your congregation chooses are in keeping with state and local laws governing these matters.

Congregations also may wish to explore whether electronic communication is appropriate for notification. Again, they must ensure that the manner of notification complies with legal requirements and is fair to all within the congregation, as computer access may be restricted to people of a certain age or income level. Additionally, not all members attend church, so some people might miss notice delivered in a worship service.

Sample Provisions

Example 1: The business to be transacted at all meetings shall be set forth in the notice of the meeting, which shall be sent to all members by mail fifteen (15) days prior to the meeting.

Example 2: Notice of call of a Congregational Meeting shall be published in the official church newsletter at least fourteen (14) days before the date of the meeting, and shall be read from the pulpit on two consecutive Sundays immediately preceding the meeting. The notice shall state the business to be transacted.

Example 3: Notice of all meetings and the planned agenda shall be written and sent to the active members by first class mail, postmarked at least ten (10) days prior to the date of the meeting. In addition to this written notice an announcement shall be read from the pulpit on two (2) consecutive Sundays and published in one (1) issue of the Church Newsletter prior to the scheduled meeting date.

Example 4: Written or printed notice stating the place, day and hour of any Congregational Meeting shall be delivered either personally or by mail to each member entitled to vote at such meeting not less than ten (10) days nor more than fifty (50) days before the date of such meeting, by or at the direction of the Steering Committee. It case of a called Special Meeting, the purpose or purposes for which the meeting is called shall be stated in the notice.

Example 5: The call to a congregational meeting shall be mailed to the entire membership not less than seven (7) days nor more than thirty (30) days prior to the meeting.

Example 6: All members shall be mailed notices of annual and special business meetings of the church at least fourteen (14) days prior to the meeting.

Example 7: Notice of any meeting of the corporation shall be signed by or in the name of the Chair of the Board of Trustees or the Secretary, or in case of absence or disability of either of them, by or in the name of any two (2) trustees (and the Chair or Secretary if accessible), or if called by the voting members of the corporation, said notice shall be signed by not fewer than fifty (50) voting members of the corporation. Said notice shall specify the time and place for meeting and shall be read at the Sunday service next preceding said meeting, and shall be conspicuously posted in the parish hall or in the passages thereto, at or near each usual entrance at least five (5) days prior to the date of the meeting. In lieu of readings and posting a notice as provided, the Secretary shall mail, or cause to be mailed, a notice of such meeting to each voting member at least five (5) days prior to the date of meeting, which shall be deemed sufficient notice of any meeting of the corporation. Notice of the meeting shall include: (a) an agenda of the principle matters of business to be considered at the meeting; and (b) copies of all resolutions, budgets, and financial statements to be presented at the meeting by the Board of Trustees, committees of the church, or voting members.

For more information contact growthresources @ uua.org.

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Last updated on Thursday, February 7, 2013.

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