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Policy Governance

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 Unitarian Church of Baton Rouge Philosopy of Governance

The Congregation elects a Board to function as our governing body, and calls a senior minister, who serves as our spiritual, programmatic adn administrative leader.  Our intended style of leadership shall be consultative, collegial, and inclusive.  We expect all leaders to practice open decision making, healthy conflict management and mutual support in their respective roles.  The focus of the board shall be on the long-term mission and wellbeing of the congregation.  As much as possible, the Board shall delegate management decision making and devote its own attention to:

Discerning and articulating our Congregation's mission and vision of ministry;

  • Creating a plan with clear goals that fulfill the mission;
  • Evaluating progress toward the achievement of those goals;
  • Creating and monitoring adherence to written policies to guide our Congregation's ministry;
  • Delegating authority to leaders in proportion to their responsibilities and providing support to those leaders;
  • Monitoring and evaluating its own work.

Report from the Governance Task Force

 Capi Landreneau, Nancy Gilbert, Kelli Gilbert, and Diana Dorroh

 The Governance Task Force continues to review sample policies, ask the Board questions, draft policies to present to the Board for affirmation, and communicate with leaders and congregation members about our goals and process.   We are currently working on Delegation policies, specific directions to the Chief of Staff from the Board, and limits to the delegated authority.    We are working with the idea of our Senior Minister being Chief of Staff.  One of our recent questions was:  What do we need to make this work?   The answer seems to be an administrative officer to handle finance, buildings and grounds and personnel administration, as the functions are transferred from the Board to the Staff.  Fortunately, this need was anticipated in our Strategic Plan and is one of the items in the Great Expectations Capital Growth Campaign 2012. 

Below we share a few paragraphs from the governance polices from First Unitarian Society, Madison, WI:

      Ministry is the practical work of the Church, and consists of continually choosing means and methods, allocating resources, hiring staff, recruiting volunteers, and giving them leadership and support that will enable them to serve the mission of the Church effectively. Ministry is best accomplished through empowered ministry teams of people who share a sense of calling to particular forms of service. The Minister, as the called spiritual leader and designated Ministry Team Leader, is responsible for directing the Church's ministry in accordance with Board policies. 

      The Senior Minister shall lead the spiritual, programmatic and administrative work of the church and has the authority and responsibility to make all operational decisions, adopt administrative policies, and allocate congregational resources, except as specifically limited by these policies.  

      Governance includes discerning and articulating the mission and vision of ministry; creating a plan with clear goals that fulfill the mission; creating written policies to guide the work of staff, leaders and members who carry out that vision; evaluating progress toward the achievement of these goals; and the Board’s monitoring of its own work.  Most simply put, “discernment” is the practice of asking the questions: “What should we do, and why?”  It is an intentional process of seeking the deeper meaning that guides our decisions: Given what we believe about our place in the world, how should we use our resources and what should we be doing? 

      The President shall lead the governance of the church and has the authority and responsibility to make all decisions relative to the effective functioning of the board and its committees, except as specifically limited by these policies. 

                                                         Report from the Governance Task Force

                                                Diana Dorroh, Kelli Gilbert, Nancy Gilbert, and Capi Landreneau

This month, we want to share the timeline affirmed by the Board of Trustees at its February meeting and an article by Dan Hotchkiss on the principles of good governance.  We hope to work with the Board of Trustees to apply these principles as we design a new governance model. 

  The Board has affirmed the following timeline:

(1) June 1, 2013 - draft policies affirmed by the Board

(2) September 1, 2013 - Trial Run Begins

(3) May of 2014 - If the Board finds the Trial Run Successful, the Congregation will vote on bylaw changes to implement the changes

(4) May of 2015 - The new governance system will be fully implemented


                                               Six Core Principles of Good Governance by Dan Hotchkiss, author of

                                               Governance and Ministry: Rethinking Board Leadership (Alban 2009)

In any polity, some core principles of governance apply.

1. The congregation has one decision-making structure for governance and one for ministry, with a clear definition of which bucks stop where. Governance bucks stop with the board, and Ministry bucks stop with the head of staff. All differences are reconciled directly rather than through third parties. Governance means “owning the place in behalf of the mission,” and ministry is the practical work of the church.

2. Boards speak as a body, not as individuals. Individual board members have no special authority outside board meetings. Board members often play program leadership roles as well, but need to always remember which hat they are wearing.

3. Boards speak through written policies. Like any human gathering, a board meeting is a cauldron of informal, nonverbal, and emotional communication. People come away from meetings with a “sense of the board” on any number of topics. Good boards make it clear that staff and others will not be expected to read the board’s mind, but must treat  actions in the minutes as the final word.

4. When delegating, leaders balance authority, guidance, and accountability. Too often, congregations plug people into generic positions or point them in vague directions, then expect them to come back repeatedly to rehash each decision and appropriate each dollar. It is not fair to hold someone accountable for results when the results have not been specified, or to blame someone for violating an unstated rule. This principle applies when the board delegates to the staff, or when staff delegate to other staff or volunteers.

5. Volunteers have the option to join a work crew without the risk of being trapped into a deliberative body, and vice versa. Policy bodies should include a diversity of members; task groups should include only those who are in favor of the task. Once the direction has been set through proper process, someone should be charged with getting the job done.

6. Staff and volunteers receive clear direction, clear limits, and maximum flexibility in choosing how to do their jobs. Everyone deserves to grow into his or her maximum effectiveness, and effective workers do best when they and their work groups have the freedom to exercise independence, creativity, and choice.