Policy-based Governance at DuPage UU: What it Is (and Isn't)

Progress! As we move toward a more efficient and accountable governance structure, you were asked to help us get there with a trial-year vote at the June 6 Annual Meeting. It passed and now will be followed by many conversations during the new church year.

Please review the draft Bylaws and Policy as well as the Organization Chart for our revised operational structure. Our existing, documented Procedures (some currently defined as Policy) will be reviewed and updated this year and in coming years.

Questions? See the Q&A or send new questions to governance@dupageuuchurch.org.

If you were unable to join one of the forums for more information or missed the Annual Meeting governance summary, you can view the June 2 Governance forum on YouTube.


Why the governance evolution?

As a vibrant, program-rich congregation of our size, it can get complicated when volunteers have oversight for most programs ... not because they aren't passionate, dedicated and skilled, but because volunteers have lives beyond the 9-to-5 daily attention the organizing and implementing of those programs requires on a continuing basis. 

While our volunteers have shown for years, and particularly in the past three years, that they are often willing to go far above and beyond for this beloved community, that expectation is not sustainable for a healthy future. We want our volunteers to be able and willing to continue doing the work they love, better, and with the support that we can define through a policy-based governance structure of responsibility and accountability that will bring clarity to our activity and accomplishments.

What Policy-based Governance (PBG) is:

  • PBG is a recognized and widely used guideline for mid-size to large-size church governance and ministry. DuPage UU Church has been in the process of moving to PBG for more than 10 years, with a number of diversions.
  • The goal of well-managed governance is to provide an efficient, accountable process behind the ultimate purpose of providing a happy, secure inspirational and spiritual home for members of this beloved community.
  • Through clearly defined and documented policy, structure and roles - outlined broadly in the Constitution approved by the congregation - our Minister, Staff, Board, Lay leaders and Congregation members carry out the work of the church - and will better understand and enjoy the process! Less burn-out; less confusion, greater satisfaction as we live our Mission and Vision. Whew!
  • Assurance that we are on track, through policies that set expectations and accountability for annual planning and discussion, periodic monitoring and evaluation, and transparency in communicating outcomes. A Governance committee will help the Board keep its focus and oversee leadership development and training for elected and volunteer roles.
  • An opportunity for clarity and transparency in budgeting. The annual budget will be based on a vision of programming and priorities for the year, helping the stewardship team and congregation set expectations for a successful promise campaign.
  • It's a process (see "more than 10 years" above)! The style of PBG that we have been and will be using is flexible and fluid, customizable to our congregation's established culture and future needs. While we expect to make great strides this fiscal year, we will take the time necessary to be sure Staff, Lay leadership, Volunteers and the Congregation understand and are comfortable with the changes before asking for Congregational approval of the revised Bylaws in June 2022.


What PBG isn't:

PBG is not a power grab or an effort to micro-manage by the Minister, Staff, or elected leaders.

Policies will be written to as statements defining expectations of what can - but also, importantly - what can't be done by the Staff, Leaders, or Volunteers carrying out the purpose of the tasks at hand. The elements of permissions and limitations helps everyone better understand their role and their charge in efficiently performing the work that makes this community hum. 

What PBG will look like at DuPage UU:

  • In PBG, a settled Minister may have the title of Head of Staff, but the Minister works for the congregation through established channels of reporting and accountability.
  • The elected Board of Trustees will set strategy and provide direction for the Minister and Staff to carry out annual goals, but not without input from the congregation and collaborative discussion with the Minister and Staff to ensure mutual understanding.
  • Our vibrant programming and need for dedicated volunteers will continue:
    • While bringing valued expertise of his/her own, our settled Minister absolutely will need the assistance, experience, insight and skills of our own elected leaders and volunteers to successfully implement programming that the congregation, staff and lay leadership desire, discuss and approve.
    • Staff will "oversee" areas of programming by way of support and as a point of contact for questions and discussion as they collaborate with volunteer leaders in their committee and team roles.  
  • The Congregation has access to the governance structure of reporting, responsibility and accountability, providing clarity and transparency for all.

Doing the work we love, better!


Nothing will be so difficult to discuss or revise that we won't address and change it to meet our evolving needs. The heart of our governance will remain our Bylaws (Constitution), approved by the congregation. The details will be covered in policy documents, more easily updated by the Board if and when necessary, after consultation with the appropriate lay leaders and staff. The Bylaws and Policy Manual will be easily accessible on the church website.