We at Unity Church-Unitarian of St. Paul tend to use our board retreats as a way to renew our understanding of how the church is now operating. We usually have a section describing the Shared Ministry model and do an over view of Policy Governance. We try to schedule separately and outside of retreat time a session for new board members that orients them to Policy Governance. We have also used a Policy Governance consultant to walk folks through the model. Outside expertise is always a joy if you can afford it.
PG education is the education of board, staff, and congregation in Policy Governance. We all need to understand how language, relationships, and interactions will be different. At Unity Church we have done a decent job of it with the board (annual retreat with a Policy Governance consultant to do training) but have barely touched on training with staff or membership. With Policy Governance the board delegates the "means" (operations) to the executive and does not direct staff, does not dictate the means to be used in carrying out board policy with regard to RE, worship, finance, social justice, membership, maintenance, etc.
Staff can be unsure how to react to board members' comments about their program areas and board members ( I for one) walked on eggshells with staff so I wasn't perceived as "messing with the means" (as we at Unity came to call it.) For example, if in a conversation with the RE Director, a board member says how much s/he wants RE to move in thus and so a direction it can be interpreted as a board member "messing with the means" and trying to influence staff. Since the board ALWAYS speaks with one voice and ONLY speaks through policy, this conversation must be taking place with the board member's "board hat off," as we say. I frequently said, "I'm now talking with my board hat off," as a way of clarifying roles and allowing me to enter my role as a member of the congregation. I'd like to see Policy Governance churches have a workshop day for board AND staff to give the model a test drive in a safe environment.
While we have run many, many newsletter articles about Policy Governance and have had it in place for about 7 years, I'd say that most in our congregation still think when we're talking about board policy we're talking about operations policies and all decisions at the operations (program) level are made by the board. At any rate, mutual understanding of the model would go a long way in easing into new relationships and new communication patterns.
Gretchen Dorn - Unity Church-Unitarian, St. Paul, MN - August 1999