Governance

Governance

Next Board of Trustees Meeting: October 17, 7:30 p.m.

Board members are available for casual or serious conversation a half hour before most Board meetings (7:00 p.m.), and members are welcome as observers. The Board of Trustees is available by email at uuca-board@googlegroups.com.

Introduction

Every Unitarian Universalist congregation is self-governed with each establishing their own governing structure, hiring their own ministers and owning their own individual assets.  Congregations are members of the Unitarian Universalist Association, which provides member congregations with additional resources and support.   This web page provides an overview of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington’s (UUCA’s) governing documents and processes. It also gathers our governance process’s main outputs in one place for convenient access.

Authorities and Roles

UUCA’s Articles of Incorporation are the foundation of our governance. They establish UUCA as a church corporation organized under Virginia law. The Bylaws ground our governance in a basic framework of purpose, membership, annual meetings, elections, and finances. The bylaws also establish a broad outline of roles by assigning general supervision and direction of the church to the Board of Trustees (while providing for delegation to an Executive), and by carving out specific responsibilities and authorities for the President, Secretary, Treasurer and Assistant Treasurers, the ministers, and the Nominating Committee.

The next level of UUCA’s governance is the Board of Trustees’ Board Policy Manual containing all the policies the Board has established to direct and supervise the church. As in many large congregations with professional staffs, the Board recognizes there are limits to how much it can and should control directly. So it has chosen to use Policy-Based Governance as a strategy to control the most important things in the most effective way possible. A longer discussion of how the Board does the work of Policy-Based Governance and brings it to life is in the Board Governance section of this page.

The third level of UUCA’s policies and procedures are the ones established by the Senior Minister in his/her role as Executive. The Board has delegated the Means of pursuing the church’s Ends to the Executive (within the bounds of Executive Limitations). Within that framework of Ends and Executive Limitations set by the board, all the rest of the practical details and decisions of organizing and executing the church’s work are the Executive’s responsibility. To govern that work, the Executive has established the following policies and procedures.

Redbook of UUCA Procedures (Sept 2014)

Guidelines & Rules for Building Use (Sept 2014)

Personnel Policies

Board Governance

Policy-Based Governance is a framework to help the board effectively identify the interests of the church’s moral owners (the people for whose benefit the church exists), articulate those interests as policy expectations, and ensure that the church is meeting those expectations. There are three main practices to accomplish those three tasks, each with associated output that the Board owes to the Congregation. The practices are communication, policy making, and monitoring, and the next three sections of this page describe those activities and provide their outputs.

Communication

Communication between the Board and the church’s moral owners is the foundational activity that assures a properly governed system.  The process of communication provides the raw input for the Board to govern. It’s how the Board identifies what is on the hearts and minds of the moral owners. It also provides a way for the Board to communicate back to its moral owners what it has heard and done, translating this into policy that helps shape the church’s Ends. Board communication strives to capsule three qualities:  1) to uncovers the essence of our values and experiences through deep connection, 2) to be representative, meaning that the Board has a responsibility to seek out and engage with all kinds of moral owners, instead of relying only on the voices of those who have the means and desire to approach the Board, and 3) to be intentional and continuous, meaning the Board schedules, organizes, and plans for the opportunity to communicate with the moral owners on an on-going basis.

The list below provides the outcomes of UUCA’s recent communication practice (previously called linkage) over the last few years.

Policy

After the Board grounds its expectations in communications, it expresses that direction and supervision to the Senior Minister in his role as Executive with policies. Policy-Based Governance makes a distinction between Ends (desired organizational results) and Means (how we achieve the Ends). The theory is that the Ends are primarily the responsibility of the Board, and the Means are primarily the responsibility of the Executive. So the Board controls the two with different kinds of policies.

Ends policies affirmatively express what the Board expects the Executive to achieve, and UUCA currently has three Ends:

  • People feel they belong and are cared for.
  • People of all ages experience a vital faith community and have opportunities for personal and spiritual growth.
  • The Church is a force for service, social justice, and environmental justice.

Executive Limitation policies negatively express Means that would be unacceptable. An example is, “With respect to the treatment of paid and volunteer staff, the Executive shall not cause or allow conditions that are unsafe, unhealthy, unprofessional, disrespectful, or inconsiderate.” As long as the Executive stays within the bounds of the Executive Limitations, the executive is free and encouraged to be as creative as possible with the Means he uses to achieve the church’s Ends. The outcome of the Board’s policy work is its Policy Manual.

Monitoring

The third main Board practice is monitoring to assure the Executive is meeting each policy expectation. The Board’s monitoring practice assures organizational performance by identifying where we as a church are on track or need to adjust our course. There’s also an intermediate step between making a policy and monitoring it. The Executive interprets each policy for the Board, saying how he intends to demonstrate compliance with indicators and metrics. The Board accepts any reasonable interpretation, but this step is still essential to make sure the Board and Executive are on the same page. Monitoring’s outputs are a series of monitoring reports and audit reports. The links below provide the results of recent audits.

Participating in UUCA’s governance is challenging, but quality governance is essential to our health as a church, and it’s also uniquely rewarding. If this process interests you, please consider visiting one of our monthly Board meetings or contacting the Nominating Committee to discuss getting involved.