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Membership Requirements: Writing Congregational Bylaws

Is membership open to everyone? The membership section should specify whether membership is open or closed, and on what grounds. Many congregations who don't include nondiscrimination language elsewhere include it in the membership section. Some congregations specify a minimum age for membership, whereas others do not. In deciding whether or not to specify a minimum age, you may want to check legal restrictions in your jurisdiction. The bylaws may also include a statement on the congregation's desire to have an inclusive membership; they may specifically articulate a desire to welcome and/or affirm members of historically marginalized groups or state the foundational commitment of the congregation to behave in a nonoppressive manner toward these groups.

Sample Provisions

Example 1: Any person may become a member of this Fellowship by:

  • Demonstrating sympathy with its purposes and program;
  • Demonstrating an understanding of its bylaws;
  • Supporting it through financial and/or personal participation;
  • Signing the membership book.

It is generally expected that prospective members will have had a discussion of the Unitarian Universalist movement with the minister or such other person as the Governing Council may designate. It is specifically understood that membership is open to all qualified persons regardless of race, color, sex, affectional or sexual orientation, or national origin.

Example 2: Any person who is at least sixteen (16) years of age may become a voting member of this society who is in sympathy with its purpose and program, has signed the Membership Book, and makes an annual financial commitment of record. People aged fourteen (14) and fifteen (15) who have completed a formal Coming of Age program within this congregation may also sign the Membership Book. All who sign the Membership Book shall become eligible to vote thirty (30) days after they sign. Prior to membership, an applicant should consult with the minister, a religious educator, or member of the Board of Trustees about the heritage of Unitarian Universalism, its principles, and the responsibilities of commitment to the congregation.

Example 3: Membership in this Church is open to any person eighteen years or older who is in sympathy with the purpose and program of this Live Oak Unitarian Universalist Church. To join a person shall sign the membership book.

Example 4: A member is any person who is in general sympathy with the purposes, goals, and programs of the Church, who makes a pledge or contribution of record thereto, who signs the membership book, and has remitted all or part of his/her current pledge.

Example 5: Membership is open to all who sympathize with the church's purposes and programs, regardless of race, creed, gender, sexual orientation, age, national origin, and mental or physical challenge.

Example 6: Any person of the age of fifteen (15) or more who has completed the "Coming of Age" program who desires to become a member of Unity Church of St. Paul may do so by signing his or her name in the book kept by the Executive Team for such purpose. The name will be added to the Register of Members.

Example 7: Membership in this church is open to any person fourteen (14) years or older who is in sympathy with our purpose and program. To join, a person shall sign the membership book.

Example 8: Any person may become a voting member of this society who is in sympathy with its purpose and program, has signed the fellowship bylaws, and makes an annual contribution of record. It is generally understood that all members should have an understanding of the history and the current situation of the Unitarian Universalist movement. It is specifically understood that membership is open to all qualified persons regardless of race, color, sex, affectional or sexual orientation, age, or national origin.

Example 9: Any person who is in sympathy with the purpose and program of this Association may become a member by signing the Membership Book. To remain an active member, a person participates in the affairs of the Association, contributes services, and/or contributes funds.

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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