Policy-Based Governance


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)


What is Policy-Based Governance?
Why do we need a new governance system?
What will Policy-Based Governance Look Like for UUCCH?
How does the Board's role change?
Who will actually run our Church under Policy-Based Governance?
Are we asking too much of the Senior Minister to function as the Chief Executive?
How will the Board retain its legal or fiduciary responsibilities under Policy-Based Governance?
Will a board using Policy-Based Governance still listen to me?
How do Members get involved in Policy-Based Governance?
Can you say more about the Minster as Chief Executive's role in Policy Governance? Does Manish support this change?
How does the Board feel about Policy Based Governance?


What is Policy-Based Governance? Policy-Based Governance is an organizational system, which guides action with broad statements of goals articulated by its leadership rather than micro-management. It is a transparent system that establishes clear lines of authority and accountability while encouraging open communication. Policy Governance entrusts people with the freedom to do their jobs creatively and effectively. This model has been successfully adopted by many UU churches around the country. By design, it empowers all areas of the church. return to the top

Why do we need a new governance system?
While our team-based organizational structure served us well for many years, our church is evolving. Policy-Based Governance will provide UUCCH with an updated method of operations. Just as your computer has an operating system, from time to time it is helpful to upgrade to gain greater efficiency. We are a dynamic, program-based church and growing rapidly in many different areas. It is important that we have a dynamic governance process to attract strong leadership and inspire openness, creativity, caring and trust. Policy-Based Governance promotes an engaged congregation, a forward-focused board, and a highly efficient staff, to lay the foundation to be a healthy and vital congregation and become a beacon of liberal religion in southern New Jersey. return to the top

What will Policy-Based Governance Look Like for UUCCH?
The congregation continues as the source of our mission, priorities, and inspiration.
The elected, representative Board of Trustees is charged with the following:

Articulate the outcomes that the church wants to achieve (Ends)
Set broad policies that limit the Chief Executive and Lay Ministry Leaders to practices that are legal, prudent, and ethical (Limitations)
Monitor adherence to those policies (Linkages)
The Board can become more focused on the future of the church, looking for creative ways to further the goals and ideals of UUCCH and the wider community.

The Senior Minister will function as Chief Executive, working with a newly-created group of Lay Ministry Leaders. The Lay Ministry Leaders will support the Chief Executive in interpreting policies, setting measurable goals, and working in a collaborative manner to put plans in motion to achieve the desired outcomes. Our committee chairs and activity leaders are granted the same trust and share collaborative responsibility with the Lay Ministry Leaders to accomplish the desired goals of the congregation.

The congregation and others take part in programs as active participants, committed members, and lay leaders. return to the top

How does the Board's role change?
The Board governs by creating, deliberating, and approving policies--not micro-managing or rubber-stamping. It develops policies or ends to define the mission of our church based on a wide variety of sources, including input from the congregation, consideration of our By-Laws, and review of best practices and continued contact with other congregations and organizations. The Board sets limitations on how the outcomes and goals may be pursued. These policies set legal and prudent boundaries, encourage communication, and establish the required monitoring to assess and update practices. The goal is to provide the right amount of structure, free up the boundless creativity of our members, while utilizing the talents of the most knowledgeable congregants to work with our talented professional staff.

The Board does not micro-manage the specifics of how the Chief Executive and Lay Ministry Leaders or committees go about achieving the desired outcomes. Rather, it receives regular updates to monitor progress and provide feedback to the Chief Executive to maintain a balanced level of oversight. Disentangling the Board from day-to-day management issues allows them freedom to do more "big picture" thinking. This enables them to act as leaders of the church as opposed to managers—a benefit not just to the Board but to the congregation as a whole.  return to the top

Who will actually run our Church under Policy-Based Governance?
The ultimate authority within the church continues to be held by the congregation, which elects the Board of Trustees. In turn, the Board has the responsibility for ensuring that the Church is fulfilling the mission and vision established by the congregation. The Board will establish broad goals, called ‘ends’ which reflect our commitment to our mission and vision. In Policy-Based Governance, the board delegates authority to a Chief Executive to accomplish these ends.

On a day-to-day basis the church will be run by the Senior Minister as Chief Executive and a council of Lay Ministry Leaders s/he selects as the most knowledgeable to fill this important role. Key aspects of church operations are monitored on a regular basis with required reporting to the Board of Trustees.  The Minister will also continue to supervise our professional staff, including the Music Director, the Church Secretary, and the proposed Assistant Minister who will be responsible for our LifeSpan Religious Education Program and supporting pastoral care needs. return to the top

Are we asking too much of the Senior Minister to function as the Chief Executive?
The decision to designate the Senior Minister to serve as Chief Executive was made with much thought and consideration, input from denominational policy governance (PG) consultants, and discussion with other congregations using Policy Governance.  Manish also consulted with several other ministers who are currently Chief Executives for their congregations. The following is the motion that created the Executive Function as a cornerstone of Policy-Based Governance:

The Board of Trustees adopts an Executive Function in which the minister is the Chief Executive. The Chief Executive will convene a council of ministry leaders to accomplish the Ends and within the Limitations identified by the Board of Trustees. - Unanimously approved, 1-29-2011.

The Senior Minister will delegate authority as needed to lay ministry leaders, committees, other volunteers, and utilize outside resources as necessary and appropriate. Delegated authority rests with the assigned person or team, however it is anticipated that the methods used to make decisions will generally be collaborative. return to the top

What is an example of a program working under Policy Based Governance?
Under the new structure, Lay Ministry Leaders will support committees in pursuing ideas to support stated outcomes. For instance, our vision includes the statement: "We nurture civic, social and environmental justice." The social justice committee might propose a fund raising project to support a new volunteer outreach opportunity. Working within the limits set by the board, these projects can be initiated to bring us all new opportunities to engage within the church and the community without a lengthy delay to get on the agenda for a monthly board meeting.

Or, if an individual or group has an idea for something new, they could approach the appropriate Lay Ministry Leader who could quickly confirm that it is in line with the policies, vision and mission of the church. And if the member and/or committee can show sufficient resources and energy, a Lay Ministry Leader will work with the group to develop a strategy for next steps and include any other committees that would be affected or involved.

How will the Board maintain its legal or fiduciary responsibilities under Policy-Based Governance?
The board will be apprised regularly as to the church's financial situation as part of its monthly monitoring function. Further, although the Chief Executive will have responsibility for the nuts-and-bolts drafting of the budget, the Board will continue to review the overall budget to ensure that it is reflective of the Church's broad policies. Then, the policies that limit the activities of the Chief Executive will provide important legal safeguards. As part of these limitations, the Board will continue to be involved in large or special decisions, those that typically fall outside of the operating budget. The congregation must approve each annual budget. return to the top

Will a board using Policy-Based Governance still listen to me?
Absolutely. Policy-Based Governance not only frees the board to spend more time listening, but actually requires it! The Board is effective only as long as it represents the congregation and listens actively to its hopes, dreams, and concerns. The UUCCH Board is always seeking ideas, feedback, and priorities. It communicates with the congregation through the website, the newsletter, board meetings, congregational forums, one-on-one conversations, and other means. Because Policy-Based Governance separates the role of the Board from operating issues, the Board may act as a facilitator to connect congregants and their needs with the right staff or committee. If a policy is in question, and the issue has already been addressed with the appropriate person or committee in line with our Covenant of Right Relations, then it would be appropriate to bring this to the attention of the Board. return to the top

How do Members get involved in Policy-Based Governance?
Members of the congregation participate at every level of governance. Collectively and individually, we each let the Board, Senior Minister and Lay Ministry Leaders know what we think is most important to us. Being involved and actively sharing your time, talents and opinions is fundamental to a UU church. By sharing with one another we gain perspective to envision how the church should act in our congregational and community life.

Members elect and may serve on the Board. The Chief Executive, with support of the Lay Ministry Leaders, interprets the vision of the congregation and sets the framework for the church's work. return to the top

Can you say more about the Minster as Chief Executive's role in Policy Governance? Does Manish support this change?
In Policy Governance, the Chief Executive's role is to support and manage the work of our Lay Ministry Leaders, and through them our committees and volunteers. The Board will delegate authority and responsibility to the Chief Executive, and that authority and responsibility moves downward to those most directly doing the work. Accountability moves back up in the other direction, and the Chief Executive, will regularly report to the Board on the activities of the church with regard to defined goals and report any issues warranting Board attention.

The Board and Manish have worked very closely together in ensuring that he is both comfortable with and supportive of our transition to Policy Governance. Manish recognizes the importance of the Chief Executive role and intends to work collaboratively with the Lay Ministry Leaders in advising, guiding, supporting, and ultimately managing the work of our committees and lay leaders, much as he has already been doing. He feels that strong lay leadership is key to the success of this model, and hopes to identify several Lay Ministry Leaders who can bring experience and wisdom to these roles. Manish and the Board see great promise in this model, and its ability to empower the Board and our lay leadership. return to the top

How does the Board feel about Policy Based Governance?
We are excited! Learning about Policy-Based Governance has been an illuminating and positive process for the Board. We think this is a great direction for UUCCH. This renewed focus will allow us all to produce even more great work and strengthen our congregational focus and place in the wider community. As UU's we acknowledge that we serve as your Board, and this is your church. If there's anything we can do to further your understanding of these updates or the promises this provides for all of us, please don't hesitate to ask. return to the top