21 Jun 2012

A Board Meeting Without the Pastor Present; Costly Dilemma

Founder Raul Rivera

The mission trip to Haiti was awesome; Pastor Bautista and his wife spent 15 days ministering to the lost and encouraging the local pastors in the mountainside village outside of Port-au-Prince.  When he arrived back to the States, Pastor Bautista's cell phone began to receive a series of voicemails from Chantale, the board secretary.  Since the pastor had been out of touch for those 15 days, all Chantale could do was leave him voicemails notifying him of what two of the board members had done.  As he drove home from the airport and to his church office in Riviera Beach, FL,  Pastor Bautista discovered that two of the board members had called a meeting of the board without his authorization.  Chantale attended, but did not knowing why they had called such meeting.  One of the elders proposed that the pastor and his wife be removed from the board of directors.  Chantale immediately expressed discontent concerning their actions and said she would tell the pastor.  The two board members proceeded by presenting a 15-page document detailing the reasons why he should be removed.  When they forced a vote, Chantale voted against, but the other two voted in favor.  They claimed the board meeting was valid because a majority of the board was present and that a majority of those present voted to have Pastor Bautista and his wife removed.  The church found itself in a constitution and bylaws crisis.

It happens every week

Churches from every background and culture face this constitution and bylaws crisis, and it usually happens when the cart is placed in front of the horse.  Many pastors start their churches and then, after the fact, adopt bylaws borrowed from another church.   When you consider your call and life's work, do not take any chances.  What your bylaws contain can save or sink your church.

What he least expected

Pastor Bautista "never in a million years" considered that he might have to confront a coup d'état by two of his trusted board members.   His fate lay in what was written in the constitution and bylaws of his church.  Here is what his bylaws said.

1.  A board meeting was considered legal if a majority of the board members were present.

2.  Board meetings are called by a notification being sent to the board members at least 10 days in advance.

3.  A resolution is legally binding by a simple majority vote.

When Pastor Bautista confronted the two men, they were adamant that they had acted appropriately.  He told them that they were relieved of their duties, to which they responded by saying he was no longer the pastor or a board member.  On Sunday, Pastor Bautista showed up ready to preach and the two other men did, too!

1,000 churches per month

Last year, more than 1,000 churches per month ended up in court.  The lawsuits range from injury liability to sexual misconduct and leadership struggles. When it comes to leadership struggles, courts have the daunting task of interpreting church constitution and bylaws using neutral principals of law.  Additionally, when your constitution and bylaws are silent in certain matters, the courts will rely on state law.  This means that all of your intentions will not matter even though you may be the founder. 

Confrontation at a Sunday service

A showdown of the board was brewing with only 30 minutes before the service was to start.  As Pastor Bautista walked across the sanctuary making his way to his office, he had to put on a smile and warmly greet church members that he passed.  All the while, the pressure inside was at a tipping point (try growing a church with issues like his).  With only a few minutes before service was to start, there in his office stood (no one sitting) Pastor Bautista, his wife, Chantale the board secretary, and the two contentious board members.

A church saving miracle

The conversation in Pastor Bautista's office began with accusations and utter disagreement.  Ten minutes into discussions, it appeared that an embarrassing scene was about to be played out before the church, when one of the board members hushed everyone and expectantly repented to Pastor Bautista and asked forgiveness.  He convinced the other board member to relent from his actions.   He agreed but he also left the church.  Though the worst was averted that day, for the rest of that year Pastor Bautista feared that a lawsuit would ensue.  It never came; thank the Lord! 

It could have been avoided

This incident was completely avoidable.  The biggest problem that I see is not that pastors do not want to make their church government solid.  The biggest problem is that many pastors start, and though they know they ought to invest more time and resources into the legal side of their ministries, they feel too overwhelmed by the work of the ministry to work ON the ministry.  Let us help you.  It is our call and we are passionate about it.  Let us take a look at your bylaws and help identify deficiencies that could hurt you down the road.  Let us remove the deficiencies in your constitution and bylaws so that your church can withstand the deficiencies that exist in each one of us. 

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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