Protect Your Church with These 2 Clauses

Written by Founder Raul Rivera on Dec 10, 2019 in Church Management

At StartCHURCH, we strive to protect ministries by creating a rock-solid foundation that can bear the weight that often accompanies religious organizations. Part of building a strong foundation for churches and ministries is drafting bylaws. 

Bylaws define your organization and provide a clear understanding of how your church or ministry is governed. The existence of strong bylaws can often mean the difference between a secure and safeguarded organization, or one that is at risk for potential problems.

 Let's discuss two clauses that many churches and ministries leave out of their bylaws but are truly essential in keeping your organization well protected.

Two must-have clauses for bylaws

1. The accountability board clause

The accountability board is created by the pastor by nominating three to five individuals who are not members of the church and do not serve on the board of directors.

Often, the pastor will choose close friends, other pastors, or individuals who are in leadership positions in ministries outside of the pastor’s church. It is important that the selected individuals are trustworthy and have the pastor’s and the church’s best interest at heart.

The accountability board provides comfort, aid, counsel, correction, protection, and discipline. In short, it provides a spiritual covering for the pastor.

But the most valuable service they can render to the pastor and church is their availability and involvement should the pastor ever be accused of wrongdoing.

You see, under the accountability clause, neither the board nor the membership can discipline or remove the pastor. 

Should a situation occur, or if someone should call for the removal of the pastor, the board of directors hears the accusations against the pastor and then votes to decide if the case will go before the accountability board. 

If the case goes before the accountability board, then the accountability board members will go into session to weigh out all of the facts and to make an impartial judgment on the accusations. 

Then, if discipline is needed, the accountability board, not the board of directors, decides what steps need to be taken. This prevents the pastor from being unjustly removed. 

What makes the accountability board so powerful is that it strips the devil of his precise ability to divide and conquer. The accountability board has nothing to gain or lose except to know the truth. 

Read our blog, “How One Board Member Ended a Church” to learn more about the strength of having an accountability board, rather than giving the right to remove the pastor to the board of directors.

2. Request of church records clause

Every church's bylaws should contain a clause that addresses how to properly handle members’ requests to see the church’s records, especially its finances. Granting this kind of request allows a member, or possibly a random attendee, to gain access to another person’s personal giving record, or may expose sensitive information.

If you have yet to undergo accusations from someone in your congregation, you have probably not been a pastor or ministry leader for very long. 

It happens. The key is being ready. 

Having a clause that limits what a member can see or request is essential to protecting your organization and the other members who are part of it.

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Deficiencies in bylaws

There is something that ought to be of great concern to every pastor and ministry leader in America. It is the fact that many church and ministry bylaws are deficient.

What I mean by deficient is that when the bylaws are silent or provide no language on some issues, the state's incorporation laws will take precedence on how the matter will be handled. 

The laws of many states automatically grant the corporate membership the right to vote in and remove the board and its president unless otherwise stated in the ministry's incorporation document and its bylaws.

If these clauses are not written in the bylaws, then the laws of the state provide for the members to gather votes through a political process of deciding if the pastor should be removed. 

It is far better to have a tool and not need it than to need a tool and not have it. That is the definition of being prepared. 

Let's talk about how you can audit your bylaws and learn how to become even more prepared for the future.

Take the bylaws audit 

Are the provisions mentioned below clearly and precisely stated in your ministry's bylaws? 

Has anyone looked at your bylaws to see if they are IRS compliant? 

Look at your bylaws carefully and be willing to seek the truth. You never know what you might find or, in many cases, not find.

Remember, you are not in this journey alone. Our team at StartCHURCH is here to help! Call us at 877-494-4655 for a consultation with one of our church planting specialists and see what we can do for your ministry. 

Below are six points worthy of consideration.

1. Prohibited activities clause. This protects the church from legislation that attempts to force the church to engage in activities that violate its written doctrines.

2. Do your bylaws contain a preamble or statement of faith? This preamble declares your organization to be ecclesiastical (religious in nature). The statement of faith with scriptural references can be used to explain your faith-based reasoning for denying certain activities.

3. Membership clause. This clause explains that the church will have a membership program. This clause also should mention whether the corporate members of the church having voting power to make the corporate decisions for a church or not. The StartRIGHT Service recommends creating a membership program separate from bylaws. This program is easily editable, and usually provides information on the method for membership, how one becomes a member, and how one is removed.  

4. Member privacy clause. The privacy clause binds the church to keep all church member records private. It is essential for protecting your congregation's personal information. 

5. Mutual interest clause. A mutual interest clause is one that requires all congregants, board members, and pastors to uphold a standard of living that is consistent with Scripture. This makes their status at the church dependent on how they live their lives and not just how they behave in the church. 

6. Request of church records. As stated earlier, this clause should contain a provision that controls the method used by a member to review church records. This is different from the member privacy clause in that this clause allows the church the right to decide if the request is frivolous. The distinction is subtle but essential. It also requires the requester to list what he/she wishes to look at and state a reason for the request. Also, he/she will have to sign a statement that the information will be kept in the strictest confidence.

Protecting what God has called you to lead

While many other clauses should be in your bylaws, this simple audit should give you an indication as to the condition of your bylaws.

As a matter of due diligence, every church should review its bylaws annually and make sure they contain the latest provisions. 

All it takes is one provision or sentence change, and it may save your whole ministry. Choose to protect what God has called you to lead.

If you would like to learn more about how to protect your church or ministry in today's legislative culture, then I encourage you to give us a call at 877-494-4655 ask about our StartRIGHT Service. Or, click the button below to schedule a call and have a specialist call you at your convenience. 

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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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