Background at St. John:
Policy Governance® at St. John was approved at a June 2, 2002 Congregation Meeting along with a revised Constitution and By-laws. It uses a single governing board (Vestry) to monitor staff-led ministries organized to accomplish St. John’s mission and vision. The original Vestry was elected in October, 2002 and was charged with developing the Vestry Policy Manual. Initial implementation of Policy Governance® occurred in October, 2003. Policy Governance® replaced the previous Church Council-Board governance structure where ministries were organized under eleven different boards. Primary advantages of Policy Governance® include: fewer meetings/more ministry, improved accountability, efficient decision-making, and better focus on our mission and vision.
Policy Governance®, an integrated board leadership paradigm created by Dr. John Carver, is a groundbreaking model of governance designed to empower the governing board (Vestry) to fulfill their obligation of accountability for the responsibilities delegated to it by the organization (Congregation). As a generic system, it is applicable to the governing body of any enterprise, but is most used for not-for-profit organizations. The model enables the Vestry to focus on the larger issues, to delegate with clarity, to control staff's job without meddling, to rigorously evaluate the accomplishment of the organization, and to truly lead the organization.
To fulfill board leadership in this more effective way, the Vestry produces four categories of policies in Policy Governance®: (1) Desired Outcomes or policies about Ends that specify the results intended, (2) Vestry Self-Governance policies that prescribe how the Vestry itself will operate, (3) Vestry/Senior Pastor Relationship policies that delineate the manner in which governance is linked to the staff, and (4) policies that limit Senior Pastor authority about methods, practices, situations, and conduct, Moreover, they are policy categories designed for the job of governing, not for the job of managing.
In contrast to the approaches typically used by boards, Policy Governance® separates issues of organizational purpose (ENDS) from all other organizational issues (MEANS), placing primary importance on those Ends. Policy Governance boards demand accomplishment of purpose, and only limit the staff's available means to those which do not violate the board's pre-stated standards of prudence and ethics.
The Vestry's own Means are defined in accordance with defined roles and responsibilities of the board, its members, the chair and other officers, and any committees the Vestry may need to help it accomplish its job. This includes the necessity to "speak with one voice". Dissent is expressed during the discussion preceding a vote. Once taken, the Vestry's decisions may subsequently be changed, but are never to be undermined. The Vestry's expectations for itself also establish self-imposed rules regarding the delegation of authority to the staff and the method by which Vestry-stated criteria will be used for evaluation. Policy Governance boards delegate with care. There is no confusion about who is responsible to the board or for what board expectations they are responsible. At St. John, the Vestry holds the Senior Pastor position accountable for accomplishing the Ends or Desired Outcomes consistent with St. John’s Constitution/By-Laws and Vestry Policies.