the democratic church

At the heart of our congregation is our membership. Members ratify the annual budget, change the bylaws, and elect our leaders, including our ministers. The rights and power of our members are real and make a difference.

The organizational structure and philosophy of First Unitarian Society of Madison reflect the American Revolutionary roots of our church. Historically, Unitarian and Universalist churches have been at the forefront of many of the human rights struggles of modern American history. Members were active in the writing of the Constitution, the underground railroad, the opposition of slavery, prohibition, women’s suffrage, civil rights, gay and lesbian rights, immigrant rights, and many more issues. We are passionate about democracy, and that is how our church is organized: from the ground up rather than from the top down.

Want more information? Read our policy manual to learn more about our institutional structure and our bylaws to learn more about our governance.

Parish meetings are an important part of the Society’s governance. View our most recent meetings below or catch up with all of them on our YouTube channel.

The Board of Trustees

The Board of Trustees as elected by the membership acts as the agents of the congregation. The task of the Board of Trustees is threefold:

  • Listen to and learn from the congregation
  • Set the short- and long-term mission of the church, and
  • Create policies to guide the staff and membership in carrying out that mission.

The Trustees delegate the carrying out of their policies to the Parish Minister, who acts as the head of staff. The Parish Minister in turn hires staff, paid and unpaid, to do the daily work and reports directly to the Board of Trustees.

Read more about the board here.

Read our Board of Trustees job description.


The board has four standing committees, each with a unique portfolio of responsibilities. Click on each title to see more about the current work of each of these groups.

Personnel Committee

A standing Personnel Committee assists the Board in its oversight of the congregation’s personnel matters. This includes ensuring that the FUS Personnel Manual is adequate and that all FUS staff are operating consistently with all Board policies related to personnel matters. Membership of this committee shall be 4 – 7 people with at least one Board member and the Executive Director and Senior Minister serving as members.

Review the most current version of our human resources manual.

Governance Committee

A standing Governance Committee helps the Board focus on functioning successfully within our governance model. Its duties include maintaining accurate job descriptions for the Board, leading an annual training session for new Trustees, organizing the Board’s annual evaluation of itself, and other appropriate process monitoring and improvement. Membership of this committee shall be 3-7 people, with a current Board member and the Senior Minister serving as members.

Finance Committee

A standing Finance Committee assists the Board in its oversight of the congregation’s finances. Its purpose is to ensure that routine financial reports are clear and helpful, and to coordinate a periodic audit. The Finance Committee should hold an educational session at least bi-annually to insure that Board members have an adequate understanding of the congregation’s financial status and goals. Membership of this committee shall be 3-7 people, with at least one Board member and the Executive Director serving as members.

Review our current financial information here.

Watch a video of our most recent budget meeting here.

Trustee Nominations Committee

Our bylaws create a standing 6-person Trustee Nominations Committee, consisting of five annually elected members of the Parish and the person that was most recently (but is no longer) President of the Society. The committee shall request suggestions from the congregation and, for the FUS Board of Trustees, the Trustees for the Friends of the Meeting House, and the Trustees for the FUS Foundation Board.

ad hoc task forces

As the Board of Trustees deems necessary or desirable, they establish advisory, liaison, or ad hoc task forces. Click on each title to see more about the current work of each of these groups.

Safe Congregation Advisory Team

The Safe Congregation Team is not a committee of the Board of Trustees as the ones above are, but is available to anyone in our faith community who has concerns about incidents that cause them to feel unsafe while on the grounds of First Unitarian Society, or while participating in activities sponsored by First Unitarian Society.

View our Safe Congregation Policy.

Growth Task Force

FUS Growth Task Force was formed in 2016 after a recommendation of our Board of Trustees. Its mission is to identify strategies to increase the growth of the congregation at First Unitarian Society of Madison. This task group studied and identified areas of growth.

View our 2016 Growth Task Force Initiatives here.

Triennial Review of Ministry Team

The Triennial Review of Ministry Team is responsible for assessing the efficacy of our ministerial staff and our congregation’s larger ministry. Read their 2016 review of ministry report.

Parish Meetings for the 2019 - 2020 Program Year

18-19 Parish Meetings

June 2 Parish Meeting

May 19 Financial Forum

February 3 Parish Meeting

October 14 Parish Meeting

17-18 Parish Meetings

Sept 17 Parish Meeting

Feb 11 Parish Meeting

May 20 Parish Meeting