3 Top Reasons to Not Use Generic Bylaws

Written by Laura Archambault on Sep 14, 2021 in Church Management

Read time: 4 minutes

Before StartCHURCH, if you had asked me about bylaws, I'd have said they were an outdated formality with little importance. If I had tried to start a church then, I would have hurried past this part.

It's true, crafting your church bylaws may not be the most exciting part of your journey. And it may not feel very "spiritual." 

But your bylaws are SO important. At StartCHURCH, we say this is the second-most important document in your church, after the Bible.

What are Bylaws?

Bylaws describe the vision, who's in charge, how to handle conflict, what you believe, and so much more. Bylaws are a set of rules, guidelines, and regulations designed to influence and govern the organization's daily affairs and those involved with it. 

Why are Bylaws Important?

Bylaws set the standard for how you will operate. They also protect your church. Unfortunately, there are times when a church may get sued, and your bylaws safeguard everyone involved in the church—pastors, congregants, and the organization itself. 

You may be wondering how bylaws will protect your church. We discuss that more in other blogs, but the short answer is: If you ever stand on trial, properly-written bylaws can cause the case against you to be effortlessly dismissed.

If bylaws are so important, the easy solution may be to "copy and paste" someone else's bylaws or adopt a generic set of bylaws. Generic bylaws may not be enough to protect you, but StartCHURCH will help make sure you get it right! Here are 3 reasons not to use generic bylaws (and what you should include instead!)

Three reasons to not use generic bylaws:

1. They don't fit the mission and vision of your church 

Bylaws should be unique to your organization. They are rules and guidelines tailored specifically for your church and your congregation. You want your bylaws to reflect the core beliefs and values of your church. This is your opportunity to clarify the church's purpose and mission and break down how your organization makes decisions.

Questions to consider when building your bylaws:

  • How will your church handle decision-making and conflicts? 
  • What are the scriptures that form the bedrock of your church? 

Generic bylaws will not address those things, nor do they help build toward the vision and mission of your church. So it's essential to have bylaws that are specific to your church.

2. They are not specific to your operations

Generic bylaws will not specify how you want your church to operate. You will need to add these specifications in the clauses that make up the bylaws. When these clauses are added, a church can specify:

  • Church operations
  • Doctrines 
  • Beliefs
  • Membership 
  • Ordination processes 
  • Voting power 
  • Policies

These clauses are highly customizable—allowing you to tailor your bylaws and structure for your church. 

If you're feeling overwhelmed by the idea of customizing all of these clauses, don't worry! Just call us at 877-494-4655 and let us show you how we can make it easy.

An example of a clause we see many pastors add in their bylaws is an accountability board to protect their senior pastor. 

Accountability boards are helpful for pastors by ensuring a healthy system of checks and balances within their church leadership. This type of board is separate from the board of directors and can be called upon to make unbiased decisions about the pastor if there are any questions of misconduct. This particular clause prevents the pastor from getting voted out if there is a disagreement between him/herself and their board of directors. 

3. Generic bylaws could leave you and your congregation exposed

Because the clauses in your bylaws can be specific, you can tailor some of them to not only deal with your church structure and beliefs but also to create guidelines by which your congregation can thrive. 

With proper rules for operations, you can create a safe environment that protects your congregants. For example, one clause you can add to protect your congregation's church records. 

In your bylaws, you can determine if the congregation can view church records. Church records contain membership details and information, tithing information, and other personal information about your members. 

In your bylaws, you can specify a system for requesting the records. Those requirements protect the private information of your members.

Without a detailed process in your bylaws, your members' personal information is not protected. Confidentiality and privacy should be cherished, and members want to feel that their information is safe.  

Creating bylaws that work

A few tweaks to your bylaws could strengthen and protect you and your church. Writing your own bylaws is more work than using a generic copy, but we serve an incredible God. His wisdom guides us to build things in excellence so that we can stand firm. 

"For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will fill you with joy. Wise choices will watch over you. Understanding will keep you safe." Proverbs 2:10-11

If you're ready to tackle your bylaws and you want some experienced guides to help you, our StartCHURCH specialists are ready to help. Schedule a call today or call us at 877-494-4655 to get started transforming your bylaws from an outdated, generic document to a powerful asset in guiding and protecting your ministry.


Please feel free to comment. We always appreciate good dialogue. However, we do moderate each comment to ensure that it is on topic and not derogatory to other participants. We ask that you keep your comments brief and pertinent to the topic so that others may benefit.

Raul Rivera

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