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I need help discerning how to make sure meeting minutes are properly recorded and transparent for our congregation. Are they considered public records? Does this also apply to elder and deacon minutes -- are they required by church order? Are elder and deacon minutes also made public? Thanks for your insight!



Great question (and an important one, too). In my experience, most church councils, elders, and deacons err on the side of keeping too much of their deliberation, decision-making, and actions secret. Secrecy tends to breed mistrust. 

Council meetings are public meetings (and thus open to visitors) unless the council itself votes to enter executive session. Executive session should be called only sparingly: typically, when addressing certain matters of personnel, pastoral care, benevolence, and discipline.

But even in these cases, while some names and details should be excluded, any decisions made by the elders, deacons, and council should be minuted and those minutes should be publicly available for easy viewing. 

I know that many churches, recognizing that minutes aren't the most scintillating reading, publish reports to accompany the minutes. These reports can be composed in a format that's more accessible. 


While council meetings are technically open, in forty years I can’t remember a single member attending. So technical executive session is rarely or never called. That makes just publishing minutes dangerous. 

But I also favor maximum transparency. In every church I served I encouraged the publication of minimally edited minutes. Remove the boring stuff like roll call and such. Also clearly confidential matters. And publish as quickly as possible. An informed congregation is a happy congregation 

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