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07 Sep 2017

Why It's Important to Know What Your Bylaws Say, Part 2

Raul Rivera

Aside from the Word of God, your bylaws are arguably the most important document within your church. That is why the importance of understanding your bylaws and including strategic language in them cannot be stressed enough.

In Part 1, we looked at a court case* that involved Pastor Anderson, the senior pastor of West End Church of Christ. If you will remember, Pastor Anderson had called a board meeting to confess a sin and repent before his church.

Although most of his church members were gracious enough to forgive him, there was one problem. Pastor Anderson did not properly call the church meeting according to the church bylaws. Those in attendance, who did not agree with the outcome of the meeting, pointed out that the meeting was held without proper notice. This ultimately led to Pastor Anderson receiving a termination letter and an ensuing court battle.

While there is much at play here in this case, one thing we can presume is that if Pastor Anderson followed his church bylaws, he might not have found himself in that predicament.

So, what about you? As pastor, do you know what your bylaws say about how and when to call church and board meetings? Do you know if your bylaws even address this matter?

Below are 4 strategic items for you to consider implementing in your church bylaws and church practices that relate to Pastor Anderson’s story. 

4 strategies to implement in your church bylaws and practices

1. Proper notice of meeting

Many states require that a notice of meeting be given prior to an official board meeting. Although the minimum notice varies from state to state, the most cautious minimum duration is 10 days. 

A notice of meeting may be given orally or in writing. However, we suggest you give your notice of meeting in a way that is traceable. A notice of meeting given orally may be forgotten (or a person could deny receiving it), whereas a notice of meeting given in writing will produce a paper trail that can be used in the future if necessary.

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2. Waiver of notice

At times, certain situations arise that require a board meeting to take place very quickly. In such cases, you cannot afford to follow the notice of meeting prescribed in the bylaws. When an emergency board meeting needs to take place, what do you do?

Well, a waiver of notice allows for such meetings to take place. However, there are some requirements that must be met in order for the notice to be applicable.

  • Provide your board members with as much notice as possible. Although you may not be able to give a full notice, giving as much notice as possible can make a big difference for your board members. 
  • Establish a quorum. Any board meeting of the corporation must have a quorum in order to conduct business or to vote on any item. A quorum is the minimum number of board members that must be present in order to officially conduct business. If you are not able to meet the quorum, then you will not be able to vote or to conduct any official business.
  • Have your board members sign a waiver of notice. If you have your board members sign a waiver of notice, regardless of whether or not they attend the board meeting, then your board meeting is legitimate. Remember that the waiver of notice is only good if the entire board signs one, including those that cannot be present.

If these three items can be accomplished, you may conduct an official board meeting applying the waiver of notice.

3. Accountability board

Create an accountability board made up of trusted individuals outside of the church who can serve as counsel for the pastor and hear accusations of wrong doing against him/her. These accountability board members are usually ministers of other churches and ministries. They are not a part of the day-to-day activities of the church.

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

4. Establish a policy for hiring and firing

Consider establishing a policy for hiring and firing that gives practical definition to the strategies listed in the bylaws. 

This policy should include who will be responsible for hiring and firing decisions, and it must agree with the bylaws. It should specify the measures to take to resolve an issue with a leader, and how removal of the leader will take place if necessary. 

Your bylaws should lend order and not confusion

Your bylaws should be a document that lends order, support, and guidance in the difficult times of your church’s life and should not cause confusion. This is why we stress the importance of understanding what is in your bylaws. Also, we stress the importance of drafting your bylaws to protect your ministry, leaders, and congregation. 

If you have questions or concerns about your church bylaws, give us a call at 877-494-4655. We will be pleased to assist you!

At all of our Ultimate Church Structure Conferences, we take time to discuss various strategic components that you can implement into your bylaws. As we get ready to kickoff our fall conference schedule, I encourage you to attend a conference in a city near you.

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* Sources:

  • Anderson v. Truelove, 446 S.W.3d 87 (Tex. App. 2014)

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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About the Author

Church Planter. Speaker. Author. CEO. Raul Rivera has had ample experience in the church planting world. His current venture, StartCHURCH, has helped 1000's of churches to start right. Raul has compiled an array of manuals and software tools that help churches stay compliant with the IRS. He also hosts over 35 national conferences per year, training pastors on how to launch their churches. Raul is married to his wife Genel, and they and their five children live in Atlanta, GA.