Leaders in all sizes of congregation struggle with how to best govern their congregation’s affairs in ways that are effective, efficient, and faithful to our liberal religious tradition. We have spent a lot of time studying congregational governance and working with congregational leaders as they explore models and practices. Here are online resources that may be helpful to you as you consider your own congregation’s governance.
- The Art of Governance
Dan Hotchkiss offers another insightful perspective on governing congregations, identifying key characteristics of good governance, and pitfalls and mistakes that can be made along the way.
- The Size and Shape of Governance (PDF)
My own brief introduction to the topic of congregational governance identifies five key components of governance and offers a thumbnail sketch of how governance changes as congregations grow in size.
- Linking Governance and Emotional Systems
No governance model or organizational structure will be effective in the absence of a healthy emotional system in a congregation. This presentation at the 2008 General Assembly looked at the critical linkages between governance models and systems theory. This site includes links to the accompanying PowerPoint presentation and to relevant governance websites.
- Governance for UU Congregations (PDF, 20 pages)
An introduction to governance for leaders in congregations of all sizes, including thoughtful insights into the nature of authority and practical considerations such as bylaws, decision-making, policy development, and size considerations.
- Your Congregation's Bylaws
Although governance involves much more than bylaws, it is in each congregation’s bylaws that we find its core governance values and assumptions. This guide to writing and revising bylaws identifies the key considerations that should be kept in mind when creating clear and concise bylaws for your congregation.
- Congregational Governance
This chapter from the 1997 Commission on Appraisal report, Interdependence: Renewing Congregational Polity, offers a concise overview on how effective congregational governance is grounded in our larger traditions of congregational polity. From this document you can access the rest of the COA report, if you’re interested, by going to the table of contents in the left-hand column.
- The Carver Model of Policy Governance
No governance model has sparked more interest or generated more controversy among Unitarian Universalists than John and Miriam Carver’s “Policy Governance.” Yet, no other denomination’s congregations have studied this model or adopted its principles more widely. This link provides a concise overview of the model from a Unitarian Universalist perspective, along with diagrams and illustrations. If you would prefer to read about Policy Governance in the words of the Carvers themselves, Policy Governance offers their introduction to the model.
- Beyond the Organizational Chart (PDF, 5 pages)
The quality of the relationship between the board of a congregation and its staff is an important factor in effective and accountable functioning. In real life this relationship involves delicate and complex balancing acts, as well as emotional maturity on the part of all the key players.
Developing Congregational Leaders
- Leadership Development in the Large Congregation (PDF)
The quality of your congregation’s leadership can be enhanced—even fundamentally transformed, in some cases—by reimagining the role of the nominating committee and broadening its purpose to make it a leadership development committee. Here’s one model for helping your committee transition to a new paradigm.
- Harvest the Power: Developing Lay Leadership
Beyond models and organizational principles, I’m often asked if there is a good “core curriculum” for developing lay leaders, which can be easily facilitated by local leaders. Happily, there are many such programs to choose from but one of my favorites is part of the UUA’s Tapestry of Faith Program for Adults. It offers an exceptional twelve-unit educational program, along with supporting resources, and can be downloaded for free.
If you wish to explore any of these topics further, or if you didn’t find your interest represented here, your District Office can help you locate resources to meet your specific needs.
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Last updated on Monday, April 30, 2012.
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- Leadership Starts Before Board Meetings
- Dependency in Congregational Life
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