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Committees: Writing Congregational Bylaws

Committees are the lifeblood of our Unitarian Universalist congregations, for much of the congregation's ministry happens through small groups of people gathered together for a specific purpose. Some congregations have one or two committees, whereas others have dozens and dozens. Some committees are articulated in the bylaws, and others are created as needed, without mention in the bylaws. Bylaws should set out the key committees, especially committees elected by the congregation. However, for the committees that are listed, the bylaws should articulate only the basic duties. This restriction is important for two key reasons: to keep the bylaws as succinct as possible and to allow the inevitable changes in the committees' charges to be made with relative ease. Sample provisions for several committees are set out in the following sections. The provisions for the ministerial search committees will be set out in the section of this manual called "The Minister."

Basic Provisions on Committees

Some bylaws set out provisions that relate to all committees, establishing criteria for committee membership and the basic responsibilities that hold for all committees. Bylaws that include general provisions also may include provisions on specific committees.

Sample Provisions

Example 1: The Board may appoint standing and temporary committees as it deems necessary. All committees shall report to the Board or Executive Committee at the time and in the form determined by the Board. All committee chairpersons shall be appointed by the President and approved by the Board. Membership of all committees with the exception of Nominating, Ministerial Relations, and Executive, shall be open to all church members. The Board may organize the committees into councils as it determines will best meet the changing needs of the church.

Example 2: Standing Committees shall be: Building and Grounds, Bylaws, Communications and Marketing, Community Outreach, Fellowship, Lifespan Religious Education, Finance, Music, Sunday Services, Nominating, and Human Resources. There shall be at least three (3) members of each such committee. Only voting members of this Church shall chair a committee. At least one (1) member of the Board shall be a member of each Standing Committee and each Board member shall serve on at least one (1) Standing Committee. No member of the Board may serve as chair of a committee. No member may serve as chair of the same committee for longer than two (2) consecutive years. After two (2) years, the chair becomes automatically vacant until filled by the Board. Other than the Ministerial Search Committee, special committees may be appointed, as required, by the President or the Board, and cease to exist on discharge of their duties.

Example 3: In addition to the committees specified herein, the Board may establish such other committees as required, but the chairpersons of these committees shall not be voting members of the Board. The motion to establish such a committee shall specify the purpose for the work of such committee. The Chairpersons of all committees shall select such additional persons as required to serve on their committees. In fulfilling duties of their positions, each officer and chairperson shall be guided by the latest "Officer and Committee Responsibilities" statement as approved by the Board.

Example 4: Only members or pledging friends of the church shall serve as voting members of committees. Board committees are created and appointed by the Board to perform one or more particular functions. The members of board committees serve at the pleasure of the Board. The duties of board committees are specified by the Board at the time of the creation of the committees. Congregational committees are designated and elected by the congregation to perform one or more particular functions. The members of congregational committees are elected by the congregation. The congregational committees are: (1) Nominations Committee; (2) Ministerial Relations Committee; and (3) Ministerial Search Committee. The duties of congregational committees are specified elsewhere in these bylaws. Standing committees perform actions necessary for the normal functioning and operation of the church. The congregation may add standing committees by a majority vote at any congregational meeting with such proposal in its call. The initial standing committees are (1) Finance; (2) Facilities; (3) Program; (4) Membership; (5) Public Relations; (6) Religious Education; (7) Adult Programs/Social Activities; and (8) Association Affairs/Social Concerns. The duties of standing committees are set out elsewhere in these bylaws.

Example 5: The Board of Governors may establish committees as necessary. The duties of such committees shall be prescribed by the Board of Governors within the requirements of this Constitution and Bylaws and the appended Operational Guidelines.

For more information contact growthresources@uua.org.

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Last updated on Thursday, February 7, 2013.

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