Tuesday, February 7, 2017

What Does the Board Actually Do?

What does the UUCA Board of Trustees do?

The title of my last blog was, "The Board's 2017 Agenda: Build Trust in Leadership."

I'm dedicating this blog to describing the board's purpose, and the activities it pursues in support of that purpose. As board leaders, it is our job to explain and educate the congregation on the church's basic governance guidelines. The board's ability to articulate its purpose and activities is a vital component of building trust.

The Board's purpose is to promote the mission of the church. Our responsibility can be separated into three categories/activities: 1) Communication.  Establishing a strong communication link with congregation, not only to listen to their deepest needs, but also to educate and inform on relevant policy decision, 2) Policy. Establish the policies, based on congregational communication that support the mission of the church, and 3) Monitoring. We monitor the performance of the senior minister in his or her ability to meet the defined "ends" or goals (see below) that support the mission. It is important to note that the board does not monitor the day-to-day operational elements of the church. This is solely the responsibility of the senior minister and who s/he delegates to do so. The board is not tasked with micro-managing the senior minister, but rather to monitor the ends with measurement tools such as the congregational survey.

 Many of you know that the church's mission is to connect, grow, and serve, but fewer may recall how we arrived with these three words. The board, along with a core group of lay leaders went through an intensive dialogue with the church community (called Appreciative Inquiry) to arrive at this mission. I recall Bill Fogarty and a team of facilitators held over 20 sessions on the topic, with over 300 people participating. After that process, the board went through an arduous 2-year process of teasing out these three words-- connect, grow, and serve-- into a more coherent version of our three end statements. End statements (much like goals) are designed to articulate the mission. They are:
  1. People feel they belong and are cared for (connect)
  2. People of all ages experience a spiritually vital faith community and have 
    opportunities for personal and spiritual growth (grow)
  3. The Church is a force for service, social justice, and environmental justice. (serve)
End statements support the mission, and the quality and integrity of the ends statements depend on the board's ability to translate the hearts and minds of the congregation into the ends.

One thing to note: The board represent the interests and are accountable to the church's moral owners. The moral owners are defined as a broad group of people that include current and future member and friends of the church and their children, our ancestors and forbearers, our neighbors in the local community, and even all those who share our religious values. This is a helpful framework because it encourages the board to always be thinking beyond what current members might be interested in today, to the much broader definition of moral owners's need for tomorrow.

The board's goals and 'operating procedures' are articulated in the Board Policy Manual, which, in my opinion, is a thoughtful, thorough,  and very effective document. Like the constitution, it can be amended, but its integrity is sound. It went through a major overhaul in the last 5-years, thanks to the hard work of the previous members of the board.

Have I put you to sleep? I hope not. Reflecting on the nature of this material, I am struck by how much care and effort has gone into creating a governance structure that can stand the test of time. Board members will come and go, but the board's role is clear.

As always, your comments are welcome either written or in-person.

Gratitude.  Trust.  Commitment.  Compassion.  Diversity.