Continuing our journey: Policy-based governance

Your Board of Trustees has re-embarked on its quest to find efficiencies and consistency in how the important work of this church is accomplished. A Governance Task Force has resumed work that began a decade ago! The outcome of the next six months of governance-related information gathering, educational workshops and communication with the congregation will be a streamlined proposal for a governance and ministries structure that will help both us and a new settled minister carry on the good work of this church. 

Ultimately, the Board of Trustees seeks to lead the congregation in a model called “policy-based governance.” Please review this introductory definition and explanation of what it means for our church. Additional conversations will be planned soon!

What is policy-based governance?

In a policy governance model, the Board's primary responsibility is to provide leadership to the Minister, Staff, and Congregation through clearly articulated Mission and Vision statements, goals and policy documentation. The work of the congregation is carried out by Ministry Teams (Committees, in our current terminology) that are supported by the Minister and Staff, and whose activities are responsive to the Mission, Vision and goals - or outcomes - planned annually.

Why take our policy-based governance to the next level?

Our current governance can be confusing and cumbersome. We can get "lost in the weeds" at times but not have adequate details in place in other circumstances. For example, it had been unclear who to contact - Staff, the Board, a committee? - and who could approve use of the church name by members participating in a community event. A new policy has made the process clear. And while, in our governance evolution, we have become better at collaboration among committees and across pillars, a simplified organization that could, for example, align our social justice/social action will create a stronger presence for internal and external projects that reflect our own needs or service to others.

In no way does it diminish the incredible work that you, the Board or the Staff have been doing all along. Policy-based governance will help us all do what we love, better! The value of a policy-based model is that it will:

  • Provide efficiencies, simplicity and accountability for success and meaning in our governance and ministries to one another and the broader community.
  • Allow valiant volunteers to share their expertise and passions as they carry out the work of the church, while leaving time to enjoy the personal and spiritual reasons for joining DuPage UU.
  • Assign responsibility for programming, project and task support to the Minister, Staff and, in our case, some volunteer Leaders as defined in job and role descriptions. The Board of Trustees will oversee on an annual basis the Mission and Vision, involve the Congregation in planning that will help it establish goals and outcomes, and hold Staff and Teams accountable for these.
  • Allow the Board to create and publish a policy book that makes all of these roles and expectations clear and transparent to all. This living policy document is open to refinement as conditions may require; less cumbersome than our current structure that requires a congregational vote to change even simple, evolving issues. Based on the policies, a set of processes, procedures and limitations are developed to guide day to day operations.


How we will get there?


  • The core of policy governance is the Mission/Vision statements that the Board and congregation will create - updating our current statements if we agree it is necessary. Work of the church will be based on how this congregation views its purpose and commitments to one another and the larger community.


Our Constitution

  • We will simplify our Constitution to better align with policy governance. The Constitution will be a high-level governing document, with broad, fairly static guidance.
  • With the Constitution as a big-picture guide, policies outlining church operations will be written and approved by the Board and documented in a standard, consistent format.
    • Policy details will be based on the sentiments outlined in the Mission/Vision statements and descriptions of day-to-day operations.
    • The objective is for policy to be proactive rather than reactive. Foresight and annual planning will be key.
    • Policy and financial work will be implemented by the Minister, Staff and volunteer Leaders, with clear limitations and accountability spelled out.
    • It will be easier to course-correct with policy-based governance; the Board - with congregational and staff input as necessary - can amend policies as needs evolve, without requiring a congregational vote.


Operating and reporting structure

  • In restructuring to simplify and create efficiencies, Board roles, and likely number of positions, will change to accommodate its primary work of setting annual goals and outcomes.
  • With new terminology, a small number of Committees will report to the Board (such as Finance and Personnel), while Teams (formerly our "committees") and Task Forces perform ministry of the congregation and report to Staff and some volunteer Leaders.
    • Committees of the Board govern, draft policy, gather information to report back or make recommendations to the Board; Teams perform our many ministries with leadership from Staff and volunteer Leaders, achieving practical results.
  • Annual planning with input from the Congregation, Teams and Committees provides the Board with the information it needs to set its annual ministry goals and outcomes. Based on the goals/outcomes, the Board delegates authority to the Staff and volunteer Leaders to make decisions and take responsibility for programming, projects and tasks without needing to seek permission or approval at every turn. The goals provide reference and support for Staff as a well as volunteers as they carry out the important work of the church.
  • A new Governance Committee will be established to provide annual and ongoing training, education and onboarding during position transitions so that DuPage UU can maintain consistent and efficient governing for the health of the congregation and our Mission and Vision.