Types of Governance Documents

Policy #1
Approved 4/20/2012

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Six types of governance documents

EUUC is governed by the Board of Trustees and six types of governance documents: 

  • Bylaws
  • Mission
  • Vision
  • Covenant of Healthy Relations
  • policies
  • best practices

Bylaws, Mission, Vision, and Covenant

These four documents each provide a distinct and important layer of governance.  The Bylaws provide the legal basis for how we conduct the business of the church. The Mission establishes a common goal toward which all church work progresses. The Vision instructs us in how we will work toward our mission. The Covenant of Healthy Relations provides mutual promises we make regarding how we will treat one another. These four types of documents share important characteristics:

  • All members, friends, and staff must adhere to these documents.
  • These documents are reviewed and updates are recommended at the request of the Board of Trustees.
  • The Board of Trustees submits recommended changes to the congregation for approval.
  • Revisions are approved by a majority of members at a congregational meeting having a quorum.
  • These documents are designed to provide long-term governance; consequently, they are likely to remain static over many years.

Policies

Policies provide another layer of long-term governance.  Rather than being approved by the congregation, policies stem from the authority of the Board of Trustees.  Only the Board can approve a new policy, approve changes to an existing policy, or decide to delete a policy.

  • Every policy complies with the four primary governance documents: Bylaws, Mission, Vision, and Covenant of Healthy Relations.
  • The policy sponsor—a committee, staff person, or the Board—can recommend a new policy, recommend updates to an existing policy, or recommend that a policy be eliminated.
  • The process for adding, changing, or deleting policies encompasses five steps:
    • The policy sponsor submits a policy draft to the board for a preliminary approval.
    • The policy is published for congregational feedback.
    • The sponsor considers the feedback and submits a recommendation to the Board of Trustees.
    • The Board of Trustees decides whether to approve the recommendation.
    • New and revised policies are published online and in a non-locked location inside the church.
  • Policies are viable as soon as the Board of Trustees approves them, and conversely, policies are no longer in effect as soon as the Board of Trustees decides to delete them. There will be a lag between the Board’s decision and publication or removal from publication.
  • Members, friends, and staff must adhere to policies.
  • Policy content describes how we conduct the business of EUUC while working toward our mission.
  • Policy content establishes rules that are highly important for our operations—without these rules our effectiveness, efficiency, or ethics would be compromised.
  • Policies are designed to provide long-term governance; consequently, they are likely to remain static over many years.

Best Practices

Unlike all other types of governance documents, best practices are expected to change as our methods of conducting work evolve.  Another important difference is that people are not required to follow best practices.  Instead, people should follow best practices unless circumstances make another path preferable. These documents are further described below.

  • Best practices can be procedures, explanations, tips, forms, language conventions, or other information.
  • Each best practice must comply with all of the primary governance documents: Bylaws, Mission, Vision, Covenant of Healthy Relations, and policies. If a best practice is found to conflict with one of the primary governance documents, the conflicting information in the best practice is nullified. Primary governance documents trump best practices.
  • Best practices are usually developed by a committee, staff person, or the Board of Trustees.
  • Many best practices are for widespread use among the congregation.
  • Many other best practices document information used internally by a single committee or group.   
  • The purpose is usually to make practical information available.
  • To make the information available, best practices are usually published on the website which offers these benefits:
    • People can see the information at any time.
    • The information is available from work, home, or a mobile device.
    • Committees pass their internal knowledge from old to new leadership.
    • Committees share knowledge among current and potential members.
    • Committees can instruct congregants in how to do a task.
    • Unlike print media, publication is free, is sustainable, and does not allow an old version to inadvertently get mixed with a new version.