11 Aug 2020

Think Before You Copy and Paste

Founder Raul Rivera

Pastor Miguel could still picture it now: the moment when he received confirmation that the next steps would be to start his own church. He asked to meet with his pastor, who was more than thrilled for him, moments that he knew would change the course of his life. 

Six months later, on a Sunday morning, his pastor laid hands on him in the presence of the entire congregation and officially sent him out to begin a new work in Seattle. Pastor Miguel couldn't have imagined that in just a few months, his small group of six had turned into more than 40 people regularly attending. His small team started looking at options for expansion locations. Things were certainly moving forward, more quickly than he could've ever anticipated.  

It seemed like the more work he did, the more work there was to be done. His "to-do" list only kept getting longer and longer. And at the very bottom of that list, he wrote his last item to tackle: bylaws. I mean, how hard could that be, right?

Finding the Right Set of Church Bylaws

Pastor Miguel always felt that one of the things he was exceeded at was being able to research matters and find answers. The key, he found, was in asking the right people the right questions. Thinking about how to best create bylaws for his church, Pastor Miguel immediately called his former pastor for help. 

To Pastor Miguel's surprise, his former pastor danced around the subject. Finally, he concluded that his pastor did not want to share any information concerning bylaws with him. 

He wondered, "Why the big secret?"

However, being the go-getter that he was, Miguel did not let that deter him. He continued his search by calling friends who were pastors of other churches. Each one of them was willing to help, but also mentioned that they didn't exactly know how to create bylaws. Most of them confessed they had not read their own bylaws in years, and many admitted that they had simply copied them from a well-known ministry. Pastor Miguel was shocked to learn that some of his fellow pastors didn't even have bylaws.

In his search for the perfect set of bylaws, Pastor Miguel continued making calls until he had several copies of different bylaws to consider.

He studied those bylaws well, and from them, he went to work using the wonderful copy and paste function on his computer. 

After two days, Pastor Miguel had created what he considered to be the perfect set of bylaws for his church. 

A Common Occurrence Among Church Planters

Church planters have it in their hearts to start their churches off on the right track.

While they need to make sure their churches are in legal compliance, their church budgets often dictate that they seek guidance from their former pastors and peers rather than the expertise of qualified professionals. 

This case is especially true since new church plants lack the funds needed to hire an attorney* (a charge ranging anywhere between $150.00 to $250.00 per hour).

As a result, many church planters "rehash" recycled bylaws that they find on the internet.

Most pastors and ministry leaders do not realize that these recycled bylaws are likely out-of-date and lack the necessary language to withstand today's legal challenges.

That's why we at StartCHURCH are here to help. If you are in the process of planting your church, let's make sure you start off on the right legal foundation! Give us a call at 877-494-4655 to get your bylaws in order today.

Strengthen Your Legal Foundation Today!

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Is it All About Being In the Know? 

Pastor Miguel's efforts, though noble, led him to believe that he had created an excellent set of bylaws that would serve the vision God had placed in his heart and protect his church and assets.

However, careful inspection revealed that his church's bylaws were grossly insufficient. Moreover, the bylaws contained several inconsistencies that could have potentially caused him immense grief.

When it comes to preparing bylaws for your church, there are three questions you should ask yourself. 

1. What do I know? 

There are some things that you already know about planting your church. 

  • You know what God spoke to your heart concerning your church and ministry. 
  • You know that God is faithful to lead you through the journey of ministry. 
  • You know that God called you to the ministry in this period of human history and that working on the legal side of ministry is a valid part of your call.

2. What do I think I know? 

Our answers to this question can give us a sense of false security because we think that if our bylaws cover the topics we have been told to include, everything must be fine. 

We might also mistakenly believe that if we model our bylaws after a prominent ministry, they must be compliant. Therefore there is no further cause for us to worry. Yet, that is rarely the case.

3. What do I not know? 

I consider this question to be the most important! It is the one that keeps me working late into many evenings researching the changes that affect the world of ministry. 

Here is where relying on the right people matters most. When it comes to ministry bylaws, most pastors would agree that it is always worth the time and investment to seek the expertise of people who know what you do not know.

Don't let the legal process overwhelm you. You can be secure in God's call while navigating the learning curve of becoming legally compliant. Call us today at 877-494-4655  to speak to one of our incredible specialists. We're here to help you any way we can!

Strengthen Your Bylaws Today!

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What Pastor Miguel's Bylaws Had Wrong

Thankfully, Pastor Miguel discovered that his bylaws needed much help before he ever ran into any potential problems. 

Below is a short list of seven items that his bylaws either had wrong or were missing.

  1. His bylaws included the name of each of the individuals on his board of directors;
  2. His bylaws listed him by name as the president for life;
  3. The majority of his board members were of the same family;
  4. His bylaws had some typos and dangling modifiers that were unclear;
  5. His bylaws included clauses he thought would address some of the cultural challenges to biblical marriage, which in light of recent court cases, is an outdated strategy;
  6. His bylaws had some inconsistencies concerning his ability to run the day-to-day activities of the church; and
  7. His bylaws did not have a legal succession clause.

Getting it Right

Pastor Miguel's experience is not uncommon. A lot of pastors today think their church's bylaws are sufficient, but they do not realize their documents are missing pertinent information for legal compliance. 

What will happen to those churches should a dispute over the bylaws occur? 

As a result, many churches and ministries find themselves in court over issues concerning bylaws. These pastors and ministry leaders only discover later that what they thought they knew about legal compliance was inaccurate information.

While copy and paste may be a resourceful tool for some documents, it is best to ask the experts when creating bylaws for your church.

At StartCHURCH, we are dedicated to helping you protect what God has called you to lead. Give us a call today 877-494-4655 to get your bylaws in order and build your church on a strong legal foundation. You will feel confident in no time that you have taken the proper steps to fulfill your calling. 

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*StartCHURCH provides clerical assistance to help you process your own articles of incorporation and prepare your own bylaws. StartCHURCH does not provide legal advice.

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.

Blessings,
Raul Rivera


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