Policy Governance FAQs

Policy Governance

Policy Governance® is an organizational system for nonprofits which guides action with broad statements of intention rather than reactive micro- management. It is a transparent system that establishes clear lines of authority and encourages communication. The role of the board is to help discern and serve the values, mission, and ends the congregation hopes for — the difference our church aspires to make. The Executive Team, working with other staff and volunteers, implements the methods used to accomplish our dreams. Designed to empower all areas of the church, Policy Governance entrusts people with the freedom to do their jobs creatively and effectively. Many Unitarian Universalist churches around the country have successfully adopted this model.

First Unitarian's Governance Process

The congregation serves as the source of inspiration, mission, vision, and priorities.

The elected, representative board of trustees listens actively to the congregations hopes, dreams, and concerns via various communication strategies to continually seek ideas, feedback, and priorities. The board is charged with the following:

  • Work with the congregation to articulate the outcomes that the church wants to achieve.
  • Set broad policies that invite creativity limited only by resources, ethics, and legal practices.
  • Establish and prioritize church objectives.
  • Monitor adherence to those policies and objectives.
  • Focus on the future of the church.

The staff is entrusted to interpret church objectives and governing policies, perform their roles with professionalism, and put plans, programs, and activities in motion to achieve the desired outcomes.

Volunteers, such as church members who chair and serve on committees, are considered volunteer staff and are granted the same trust and will share the same responsibility as the staff.

The Board does not manage the specifics of how the staff or committees go about achieving the desired outcomes. Disentangling the board from day-to-day management issues allows the board freedom to do more "big picture" thinking and to act as leaders of the church as opposed to managers—a benefit not just to the board but to the staff and the congregation as a whole.

Governance in Action

One of the ends statements states that The congregants of First Unitarian Church create a supportive, caring, accepting, celebratory community where everyone feels valued. As an example of Policy Governance, our minister has oversight of the various committees such as caring and membership, and perhaps other committees, whose efforts would be directed toward achieving this outcome. The church administrator and appropriate committees have a role in ensuring that our church facilities are maintained in a manner that is welcoming to all people and that costs for facility management and improvements are considered in the church budgeting process and then efficiently managed.

The board, in its monitoring capacity, assesses if these efforts are in compliance with the policy goal. If the board found the church to be, over time, significantly out of compliance with the outcome, it would refocus the attention of the executive team on the priority of the outcome and encourage corrections.

How does the church function?

The congregation defines the desired objectives of the church through the elected board of trustees. To achieve those outcomes, day-to-day church operations are run by the executive team, which includes our Sr. minister and church administrator. They will delegate, as appropriate, to the rest of

the staff. Together, with the energy and commitment of a corps of volunteers, the strategic plan objectives are implemented under the direction and leadership of the executive team. Dedicated volunteers are the heart and soul of this church. Their efforts are key to the realization of our mission and objectives.

Financial Management

The board regularly monitors the church's financial situation. The executive team, with the help of lay leadership, has responsibility for the nuts-and- bolts construction of the budget. The board reviews the budget annually, to ensure that it is reflective of the church's broad policies and objectives. The congregation approves the budget at the annual May Congregational meeting. The policies that limit the activities of the staff will provide important legal safeguards. The board is involved in large or special decisions; those that typically fall outside of the operating budget.

How is my voice heard?

We are all at First Unitarian because we care about our church, its past, present, and its future. We practice shared ministry which means that staff and lay leaders work collaboratively to advance the congregation's goals.

If you have thoughts about something that is or isn’t happening at our church, contact either the minister or the church administrator. Your praises and concerns are valued. If you have a new idea that falls within the ministry, mission, vision, policies, and objectives of our church, the staff will do whatever it can to help you implement it.