Policy Governance for churches comes from a model developed by John Carver. Carver is an adjunct professor of social work at the University of Georgia. His model was developed for non-profit organizations. Unitarian Universalist congregations adopted the model. It has since been adopted in other denominations. Policy Governance is not a product of the Vital Church Initiative. It is sometimes recommended to churches as an alternative to traditional models of church governance.
Religious organizations have developed systems of governance over decades or centuries. Most are grounded in scripture and tradition. Once a particular form is adopted tradition keeps it in place. The United Methodist Church is the result of the merging of two denominations in 1968. The governance structures resemble corporate flow charts of that era. Representative democracy can be seen in our system because the denomination grew along with the nation. American government and corporations influenced our church governance. Corporations adapt to changing circumstances to remain competitive. Our Federal government is less adaptable.
Churches that adopt Carver’s model order themselves after other non-profit organizations. The church board functions as a board of directors. The pastor and staff are accountable to the board. The pastor may act as the chief operating officer while the staff serve as department heads. The board is accountable to the vision, mission and values of the church. The board is also accountable to the congregation because a church won’t re-elect an ineffective board.
Board members keep the larger picture in view by prioritizing and planning according vision and mission of the church. The board acts proactively by engaging in strategic planning and goal-setting. Under the board’s direction, the pastor and staff are responsible for day to day operations. As needs arise, the board, pastor and staff recruit teams to meet needs. People in the congregation may also form teams to meet ministry needs. Ministry teams are trusted to do good within the parameters of the vision, mission and values of the church. The desired effect is streamlined decision making, shorter team ministry teams, and effective ministry.
No congregation and no system of governance is perfect. Moving to a single board for policy governance requires trust. The board, pastor, staff and congregation trust each other to use church resources for vision and mission according to stated values.
Our transition plan calls for maintaining the Staff-Parish Relations Committee, the Board of Trustees and the Finance Committee until such a time as the congregation might vote to dissolve them. The Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church allows their dissolution as long as the policy governance board maintains responsibility for property and assets (Trustees), human resources (SPRC) and finances. If you would like a copy of our proposed transition plan, contact the church office. It is also available on the church website. A town hall meeting will be held on Sunday, October 15 at 11:30. At an earlier town hall meeting the task force received feedback on our plan and is taking that under consideration. We will vote on whether or not to transition to this new form of governance on Sunday, November 19.