Governance & Operations

Shared Leadership

Unitarian Universalist congregations are self-governing. UUAA belongs to a national organization, the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA), which supports but does not govern its member congregations. Our UUAA Congregation is large enough to need a formal governance structure to make it run smoothly. We call our governance structure Shared Leadership. It is built on “policy governance,” a system that creates a clear division between Governance (prioritizing the Congregation’s goals and providing oversight) and Operations (implementing the goals and reporting on progress). The Board of Trustees (Board) is responsible for Governance and the Staff (including ministers, paid staff and lay staff) is responsible for Operations.

When congregants have questions or input about how UUAA is run, it is important to note that Operations questions (building hours, communications, staffing, etc.) should be directed to staff and staff support teams. Governance questions (strategic goals, bylaws, elections, etc.) should be directed to the Board and Board support committees.

Shared Leadership Grounded in Vision

A diagram showing the overlapping responsibilities of the Congregation, Board and Staff.

The Congregation

The members of the Congregation have primary responsibility for the First Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Ann Arbor. Only the membership can hire or dismiss a Senior Minister, elect members of the Board of Trustees or amend the bylaws. The Congregation defines the vision, mission and purpose of UUAA; The vision is the foundation for everything we do together. It is the members who envision and carry out the goals of UUAA. Please consider contributing your time and talents by getting involved in whatever ways are a good fit for you.

Two Congregational Meetings are held each year, usually in January and May/June. At the May/June Annual Meeting, Trustees are elected and an annual report of the year’s activities is presented.


The Board

The congregation elects a Board of Trustees to serve as its governing body. The two main tasks of the Board are 1- prioritizing and communicating the vision for the future created by the congregation and 2- overseeing the health and financial stability of the congregation. The Board gives the Senior Minister responsibility for implementing the vision.

Every few years, the Board gathers input from the Staff and the Congregation, to create a strategic plan that establishes goals to be achieved over the next several years. The Senior Minister, delegating responsibility to staff members and lay leaders, implements these goals.

Teams that assist the Board

Leadership Development Team (LDT): The Leadership Development Team is a standing committee that helps nurture leaders in the UUAA community. They provide materials and classes on how to be an effective lay leader. They are responsible for recruiting members to run for the Board of Trustees and the Leadership Development Team. You can contact the Leadership Development Team at:

Governance Committee (Governance Advisory Team): The Governance Committee is a standing committee that advises the Board on bylaw and governing policies issues. They also assist the Board with educating the leadership, staff, and congregation about UUAA governance. The 2023-24 members of the Governance Committee are Dixie Hibner, Tom Reischl and Eric Stalhandski. You can contact them at:



The Senior Minister serves as the head of the UUAA Staff. The ministry staff, paid office staff, and lay leaders all work together to implement the vision of the Congregation, as prioritized by the Board. They provide the Board with updates and the Congregation with annual reports celebrating the progress made each year. The Staff is the Operations side of our Shared Leadership.

Lay teams that assist the Staff

Shared Ministries Team (SMT): The purpose of the lay-staffed Shared Ministries Team is to support and nurture the health of the congregation and its many thriving ministries, with a primary focus on operational policies, processes, and communication. You can contact them at:

Living Our Values Team (LOV): The purpose of the lay-staffed LOV Team is to serve as partners in building, maintaining, and repairing congregational relationships to ensure that we are living in alignment with our UUAA covenant. You can contact them at:

Music Ambassadors (MA): The purpose of the lay-staffed Music Ambassadors Team is to serve our broader UUAA community as a resource in responding to questions or feedback related to our Music Program. You can contact them at:

Leadership Advisory Team: The Leadership Advisory Team provides feedback to the Senior Minister on operational decisions that intersect in critical ways with the congregation’s values and vision. The members of the Leadership Advisory Team are: the Senior Minister; the President and the Vice President of the congregation; and the lay chair(s) of the Living Our Values Team and the Shared Ministries Team.

Stewardship & Development Team: The purpose of the Stewardship & Development Team is to support UUAA’s operations team in matters related to developing and deepening UUAA’s income streams.. You can contact them at: