Church Bylaws (sometimes called Constitution and Bylaws) are incredibly important to a strong ministry foundation and, therefore, a strong ministry. Brian Schuette (managing partner at Crain|Schuette Attorneys) and Josh have worked with many churches on their organizational documents, and they have developed a list of 7 key Bylaw provisions every church should adopt. Here are the seven provisions:
#1 Statement of Faith/Spiritual Purpose of the Church
#2 Form of Church Governance
#3 Members Rights/Responsibilities
#4 Pastoral Qualifications/Selection/Responsibilities/Removal
#5 Elder/Deacon Qualifications/Selection/Responsibilities/Removal
#6 Designation of Ministerial Employees
#7 Provision on Facility Use
We provide a full explanation and a review checklist for organizational documents in our ebook, The Bold Church: Three Steps to Maximum Gospel Impact. This resource is available to download for free on the home page of our website. Click here to go to the home page.
Most church disputes that spill over into the courts involve provisions in the Bylaws.
Great quote from Brian: “Your church will learn the importance of its organizational documents either by what they did for you or what they could have done for you if you had given them the attention they deserve.”
Churches can avoid “unholy hijacks” (people voting on important matters even though they have not attended in a long time) by defining active/inactive members or limiting members to those that attend regularly.
Church leaders should use the “Pastor” section to set proper expectations for the pastoral role. Some church members think pastors must be omniscient, omnipresent and omnipotent. This isn’t possible, so the Bylaws should set out a set of reasonable expectations a Pastor can fall back on.
We discuss the ministerial exception, one of the strongest legal protections available to churches today. The Supreme Court upheld this legal doctrine in the 2012 case Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. EEOC. The four factors for determining if an employee is a “minister” are:
#1 Title of Position
#2 Significant Degree of Religious Training Prior to Ordination/Licensing
#3 How the Particular Person Holds Himself/Herself Out
#4 Number and Scope of Ministerial Duties
Bold Church Initiative offers free Bylaw reviews. If you have additional questions about Bylaw provisions, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Info about Brian: