Foothills is a policy governance-based church. As a large and growing congregation, we shifted to this form of governance in 2017. Governing through thoughtfully-crafted written policies (rather than case-by-case decision-making and managing some of the current church operations) allows the Board of Trustees to spend more time and energy on visioning, long-range fiscal planning, and discerning the dreams and needs of the congregations to come, our current community partnerships and those yet to develop, and our larger collective future.
The top level of any church governance are its bylaws, a legally required document that lays out in the broadest strokes how the church is formed and governed, who the members are, who makes decisions and when, what guides our purpose as a congregation. (The Board and its governance committee are in process on a thorough rewrite of these bylaws to make them relevant to our current size and governance structure.)
The next level of governing document are the Board of Trustees’ policies. These must not contradict anything in the bylaws above them, and they contain the guidance and limitations that the board of trustees sets for itself and the Ministry (which includes our staff and teams of congregants who that do the here-and-now work of living out our our mission, vision, and values as a congregation. These are meant to have enough flexibility to allow the Ministry (our staff and our teams) to live out our mission creatively and responsively to ever-changing circumstances, and they often name the collective values that should guide our decision making.
The final level of governing documents are the Ministry’s handbooks (Operations Handbook and Employee Handbook). These offer specific and detailed policies and procedures that provide professionally appropriate guidance for managing the day to day operations of the church. These policy books must conform to the guidance and limitations set out in the board policies.