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Nominating Committees: Overview

Filling Elected Positions

It is essential to embed your core values in the process that your congregation uses to choose its leaders. Congregational Bylaws and Policies should ensure that leadership roles are filled with people who are committed to the overall health of the congregation and are in alignment with its mission and vision. Your process should be transparent and open. If you have a “policy” board, you should ensure that candidates are strategic thinkers who can adapt in ambiguous situations. Your leaders should also be equipped with training, mentoring and other support to help them succeed in their roles.

Board-Appointed Nominating Committee

For simplicity and clarity—especially in congregations operating under policy-based or Policy Governance®—many congregations entrust their boards to convene a nominating committee and direct their work with policies and procedures.

Pros:

  • The board knows the qualities needed to fill their vacancies. Having the current and/or past board chair involved will enable the committee to understand current needs.
  • There are clear lines of accountability to the mission or ends.
  • The board can offer clearer direction and expectations than the congregation as a body, encouraging recruitment of trained candidates and from wider backgrounds.
  • More in alignment with the spirit of covenantal relationship
  • Can be combined with the task of leadership development (see below)

Cons

  • A board with weak leadership or unhealthy patterns of leadership can continue their dysfunction. 
  • A congregation that does not trust their leaders might resist this structure.

Congregation-Elected Nominating Committee

Congregations may want to provide for checks and balances by democratically electing a separate body to recruit and vet candidates for elected positions.

Pros:

  • Provides a safety valve for congregations that are resistant to entrusting their board with too much power.
  • It’s been the practice for many congregations for generations.
  • It could provide a democratic way to make changes when there are entrenched leaders in the congregation or if there are members who disagree with the board’s direction

Cons:

  • Often elected nominating committees are treated as an afterthought.
  • Elected nominating committee members may not be a good fit with the task at hand or may not be up to speed on current initiatives.
  • There tends to be greater resistance to moving to a leadership development team model
  • It is harder for the congregation to ask for accountability, in filling the slate, in being accountable to the mission and vision and around recruiting leaders with diverse identities or from historically marginalized groups
  • Often entrenched leadership in a congregation extends to the members of the nominating committee or the nominating committee is not independent enough to address entrenchment on the board

Leadership Development Team

Many congregations have created year-round leadership development teams to ensure that there is a supply of trained, equipped and trustworthy leaders ready to serve in various roles (both in governance and in ministry) in the congregation. Leadership development itself can be considered a kind of faith development and would therefore fall under the “ministry” of the congregation rather than “governance.” Paid staff such as membership professionals or volunteer coordinators often are already tracking gifts and passions of potential leaders.

Leadership development teams can work with nominating committees to supply information (skills and interests) about potential candidates to the nominating committee. More on Leadership development....

Other Important Considerations

As you write your bylaws, policies and procedures also consider the following best practices:

  • Devise an application process for all leadership (and even volunteer) positions and advertise the process for transparency. This enables folks who are outside of the some of the informal social circles have a way to enter into leadership. It also provides a gentle method for “saying no” when someone is not a good fit for a position.
  • Provide for nominations from the floor for elected positions. This can provide an opportunity in extreme situations to address an entrenched, dysfunctional board of trustees.
  • It is wise to have the minister serve as an ex offico non-voting member of the nominating committee. The minister may be privy to information that lay leaders don’t know (e.g. if the person being considered for treasurer had a history of unprosecuted financial malfeasance).
  • Contested elections are usually not necessary. They tend to favor known leaders over newer people and can be discouraging to new people wanting to serve in leadership. And there are better, covenantal methods of determining the direction or purpose of the congregation than having a candidates run on opposing platforms.
  • Foster a culture where the Nominating Committee will nclude members of historically marginalized groups (such as youth, young adults, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer (LGBTQ) members, people of color, people with disabilities).

Resources:

For more information contact conglife@uua.org.

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

Last updated on Friday, October 31, 2014.

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