Church meeting minutes provide the official, legal record of the actions of the board or committee. They are important internally for historical accuracy and are also used by outside parties; for example, by lending institutions to establish that the church has approved a building project before issuing a loan for it. Auditors
While specific content varies by committee, in general, the minutes for all church organizations include:
- Particulars of the meeting, such as time, date, place, who attended and who presided.
- Whether the meeting is regularly scheduled or a special meeting and, if special, who called the meeting and for what purpose -- attaching a copy of the meeting notice.
- Ordered record of what occurred at the meeting.
- Adjournment and time.
- Signature of secretary and, once the minutes are approved, the presiding officer.
One of the most challenging aspects of minute-taking is to determine how much detail to record. The Mennonite Brethren Historical Commission suggests recording the main points of the discussions leading to decisions, as well as the alternatives considered and a summary of why the committee chose one alternative over the others. The Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability suggests that the board establish a policy about details that is consistent regardless of the individual secretary. It suggests including enough detail to show that the board was prudent, but not so much that the minutes read like a novel.
Taking the Minutes
Before the meeting begins, obtain a copy of the agenda. As the meeting progresses, take detailed notes relating to meeting particulars, board reports, discussions and actions as the board proceeds through each item of the agenda. Record motions, resolutions and decisions verbatim, but summarize discussions. Be sure to include the name of each person who makes a motion or who initiates action, and any conflicts of interest stated. Once the meeting is finished, transcribe and condense your notes to include the appropriate detail and put them in the proper format, beginning with the meeting particulars, then proceeding in order of the agenda.
Preserving the Minutes
Once you've completed the draft of the minutes, circulate the document to members. The minutes you've written for this meeting will be approved, with or without corrections, at the next meeting. Once minutes are approved, prepare a final copy, then sign the document and ask the presiding officer to sign it as well. Store the minutes chronologically in a loose-leaf minute book, along with the meeting agenda. That loose-leaf book also should contain a table of contents, and copies of the church bylaws and constitution. At some point, perhaps annually, minutes may be professionally bound.
Randi Hicks Rowe is a former journalist, public relations professional and executive in a Fortune 500 company, and currently a formation minister in the Episcopal Church. She has been published in Security Management, American Indian Report and Tech Republic.She has a bachelor's in communications, a master of arts in Christian education and a master of business administration.