Moderator’s Message

During April and May, the Board undertook a review of the Church’s operation and administration. A review every three years using the perspective of outside experts or consultants is called for by the Board’s Governing Policies.

This year, in collaboration with the Executive Team, the Board hired Rev. David Keyes to address organizational development with a focus on staffing analysis, since over the next five years, most of the senior staff will be retiring. Rev. Keyes has served more large UU churches than any other minister, and he has previously done staffing analyses and staffing adjustments at many other large UU churches. Rev. Keyes provided a thorough report to the Board, in print and in person at the Board meeting on May 5 This short summary is intended to provide a quick overview of some of its contents.

As part of his process, Rev. Keyes interviewed key staff members, union representatives, board members, lay persons. He had input from the recent congregational survey and Cafe Conversations, as well as personnel manual and job descriptions.

Rev. Keyes prefaced his report by noting that “the report envisions First Unitarian as a transparent, focused, high-impact spiritual center for the city of Portland, staffed for sustainability, for the building of trust, and for maximum involvement of congregants in its ministry,” and that sustaining the church and the satisfaction of congregants will require major adaptations. The following is a summary of some of the points that he discussed.
The Board generated the following questions to guide Rev. Keyes:

• What Best Practices, or at least “Better Practices,” for a congregation of our size should help shape personnel decisions over the next 5 years?
• What models are emerging for the Executive Function? What roles for the Sr. Minister, Associate/Executive Minister and Administrator in performing the Executive Function are proving helpful?
• We’ve had an Associate Minister in an Executive Minister/COO role (with varying responsibilities working with two Sr. Ministers). What about that role moving forward?
• More generally, what Associate and/or Assistant Minister roles would serve us best? We currently have two called Associates, but the trend in most churches is toward hired Assistant ministers that may (or more frequently may not) lead down the road to called positions.
• What functions are we supporting more than we need?
• What functions are we supporting less than we need?
• Where can we look to efficiencies now possible thanks to technology? Are there roles that can be combined?
• What will operating with a Union require in terms of additional management resources?
In response to these questions, Rev. Keyes noted some specific challenges faced by the church, including overstaffing in some programs, staffing patterns that have been designed to fit the need of the last two senior ministers, programs that exist in “silos” rather than having ministries unified church-wide, and the lack of a clearly understood system of governance.

Rev. Keyes has provided specific recommendations on our church’s staffing and organization of its programming. It is important to note that these recommendations are just that, recommendations. No decisions about staffing have been made at this time. Some of his recommendations include:

• Phasing out the Executive Team to create more direct reporting to the Senior Minister, to help provide greater clarity within our governance model. This would replace our current system of a three person executive team which includes the Senior Minister, Associate Minister, and Church Administrator Having a single person in this role could create greater clarity about who is performing which duties in our system of governance.
• Shifting the role of the Associate Minister away from administrative work to focus more on ministry to the congregation, including small group ministry
• For future associate or assistant ministers, hire rather than call
• In the future, shifting to a Lifespan Education program instead of splitting up Families Ministries and Adult Education
• Streamlining the Social Justice program to become more effective in addressing a few signature initiatives
• Creating a role for a membership coordinator or a director of congregational life
• Increased role for a communications coordinator to increase the use of technology to reach congregants
• Continued study of policy governance at the church with an emphasis on the Board’s role in providing “linkage” between the congregation and the development of Board policies that guide senior minister and staff.
• Updated job descriptions
• Phasing out ministerial relations committees
At this point, as previously mentioned, all of these are only recommendations. The goal of working with an outside consultant is to get information about our system from someone who is not a part of it. Conversations are ongoing at the Board level and the staff level, and as they progress, we will keep you informed. If you have questions, you can contact the Board of Trustees at


Ameena Amdahl-Mason, moderator, on behalf of the Board of Trustees