16 Jan 2020

The Most Important Meeting of the Year

Angie Joya

The beginning of each new year provides us with a natural time to reflect on the previous year. We also tend to think about what goals we want to set for ourselves, our families, and our job  in the year that lies ahead of us. We set personal goals and make plans for us to achieve them. The same can be said for ministry. 

So, how can you properly reflect back on the previous year and be sure you’re starting 2020 on the right foot? 

The answer lies in your ministry’s board meeting minutes. 

Why board meeting minutes matter

We say this often at StartCHURCH, but the fact is that nonprofit organizations will live and die by their board meeting minutes. Should your church or ministry find itself in the midst of an IRS audit, what your minutes do or do not document could sink or save your church. 

You and your board members should hold board meetings (and definitely take board meeting minutes) for the following topics:

  • Salaries and any type of compensation for pastors, staff, and board members.
  • Approval of love offerings taken up for the pastor.
  • The ordination of any and all ministers of the church.  
  • Financial reports of the income and expenses for the church. You must show that the directors have reviewed income reports. And there must be proof of their approval through a voting process as outlined in the church bylaws.
  • Approval of policies and procedures. For example, does your church have an accountable reimbursement policy that aligns with IRC section 62?

If you've never had a board meeting about these topics, or if you haven't stayed up to date on these topics, don't panic! Let’s look at a few steps you can take moving forward.

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Hold a special board meeting

If your church has neglected board meetings and taking board meeting minutes, you can hold a special board meeting to approve prior acts. Holding such a meeting will help your church or ministry remain in legal compliance. 

In an ideal world, a nonprofit would have thorough, well-organized records of all meetings and all decisions made from the very start of legal operations. But this isn't always the case for organizations.  

This special board meeting will apply the concept of the ratification of prior acts. This is when the board meets for the sole purpose of retroactively approving decisions made in the previous year.

You can't take board meeting minutes for a board meeting that happened in the past. But you can approve the decisions that were made in the past.

How to ratify prior acts in a board meeting 

1. Do your research

When holding a board meeting to approve prior acts, it is pertinent to research as much information about all previous actions as possible. The more information you can gather, like dates and names of board members who were present at the time, the better. 

Answering the following questions will help you prepare for this specific board meeting:

  • When did you meet?
  • Where did you meet?
  • Who was present?
  • What was discussed?
  • What was voted on?
  • What was decided?

In addition, you should review calendars, previous emails, and notifications to the pastor and the board. This will help you piece together acts from previous board meetings that weren't recorded in board meeting minutes. Take note that if precise dates and times are unknown, you may use a best faith estimate for such instances.

2. Review last discussions and decisions

During this board meeting, your board should discuss when past decisions were made. Do more than just research. Make sure you re-discuss the topics. The point is to give enough time for all board members present to recollect their decisions—both the way they voted and why they voted the way they did. 

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 3. Take a vote

It may seem like a given, but make sure that during this meeting, you take a vote to approve those acts retroactively. Remember, you are giving legal precedence to the decisions you made at a board meeting. There is no better way to do this than through a vote of the board of directors. Use the standard voting procedure of your church. Take note of who was present, what was voted on, and how each person voted. 

Schedule your special board meeting now

Leading a church or ministry into legal compliance is not an easy task. One of the most critical steps is holding and documenting proper board meetings. If you have lost track of or have been negligent in keeping proper documentation in the form of board meeting minutes, don’t delay! Use the concept of ratification of prior acts to help get your church or ministry back on track. 

If this information seems overwhelming, or you’re not sure how or where to begin, give us a call at 877-494-4655 and ask about our KeepRIGHT Service. We created this service to help churches and ministries manage the key aspects of keeping their organizations in compliance. With the KeepRIGHT Service, a specialist will work with you to make sure your state reports are filed on time, your board meeting minutes are accurate, and will also provide you with updated governing documents. 

Start the new year being sure that church or ministry is on the right track! Call us today at 877-494-4655 to talk with one of our specialists about what steps to take. Or, click the button below to have a specialist call you when it’s most convenient. 

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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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