Church Policies, Procedures and Administration Frequently Asked Questions
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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) represents a broad array of concerns of the membership of the Convention. Where the Convention has established formal policy or position on the subject, that response is provided. However, there are many questions posed by the membership for which the Convention has no formal policy or position, and in those cases informal guidance is provided. Informal guidance is not to be interpreted as formal Convention policy or position, but is offered in the form of general guidance or resources to enable the local congregation to develop their own policies and procedures.
Church Finances: What is the proper procedure in the selling of a church? Who can make a decision to sell the church? How are the proceeds divided?
The first question is one of ownership. "Who owns the Church outright?" This answer is indeed determined by the articles of incorporation. Most Baptist churches are "Membership" corporations. As such, the corporation (membership) holds ownership to all Church property and assets. Disposition of any such property may be made by the majority vote of the membership. Trustee in such a Church, hold the property on behalf of the Church. They are not authorized to act independently of the Church, but only as directed by the body. To remain a recognized organization within any state in the union (able to buy or sell property) a Church must file an annual not-for-profit statement. This filing requires at least three (3) names acknowledging who is authorized to act on behalf of the Church. Whatever name appears on that filing as "Registered Agent", that person has the authority to act on behalf of the Church. If this document is not filed annually, or the people are no longer alive, the Church is in danger of dissolution. Proceeds from the sale of the building can only be divided between the members upon the dissolution of the corporation. If the Church is not dissolved, the proceeds will most likely go into the corporate account, where the recognized signers will have access.
Three questions need to be asked:
1. "Does the corporation still exist? If not, they cannot buy or sell property unless it is individually owned. In which case, the individual will reap all benefits from sale.
2. "Who is the registered agent?" This person may act on behalf of the Church. The remaining members must insure that this person does only what is directed by the body.
3. "Who are the authorized signers on the Church bank account?" These persons are able to negotiate any assets owned by the Church. Again, the remaining members must insure that they do only what has been voted by the body.
Church Finances: Should the Deacon Board maintain control of the finances of the church, when a Trustee Board is created?
The answer to this question depends upon the corporate structure of the Church. Most Baptist Churches are "Membership Corporations". This means that the membership determines who handles the corporate responsibilities of the Church. If, through their By-Laws the membership places that responsibility in the hands of the Deacons, the Trustees have no oversight in that area. Most Trustee Boards, in such cases, are really "property committees." If, on the other hand, the Church is a "Trustee Corporation", then the Trustee Board determines who has ultimate responsibility for the business of the Church. Most Baptist Churches are membership Corporations, but some are Trustee Corporations. A good place to find out what type of corporation the Church is (outside of up to date by-laws) will be the Annual Not-for Profit papers filed with the Secretary of State each year. If the Pastor, Church selected Church members or the Deacons are listed on this document, the Church is probably a Membership Corporation. If this document is comprised solely of members of the Trustee Board, the Church may be a Trustee Corporation.
Church Finances: Should the pastor sign checks?
That is a matter is both personal will and available personnel. Is the church so small that there is not a large enough pool of competent people to fill the position? If so, then the Pastor must do what is necessary to run the business decently and in order.
However, the best protocol is for the Pastor to administer the finance department and not be part of it. He should be above it. Consequently, he need not be a signer, however, he should know every check that is cut.
Church Finances: Should the financial giving of church members be made known to the entire church? Is this invasion of privacy?
Sometimes in an effort to provide financial transparency a church may make public the giving of individuals. There is nothing legally improper with this practice. It may not, however, be appropriate for some. Any member who wishes not to have financial information made public should simply make that known to the Pastor and/or the Finance Department. Such a request should be immediately honored.
Church Finances: Does the Convention have guidelines for Benevolence Funds?
The Convention doesn’t have a policy on Benevolence Guidelines. However, there are some fairly comprehensive resources available on the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability website, at: http://www.ecfa.org/Content/Benevolence-Funds concerning Benevolence Guidelines and Policies. These documents can be downloaded in an editable format for your convenience, by visiting:
Church Finances: What are the Federal Reporting requirements for Churches, Pastors and Church Staff?
The Ministers Missionary Benefits Board (www.MMBB.org ) which administers the NBC, USA, Inc.’s pastor and church benefits program has information on its website annually concerning Federal reporting requirements for income. To view the current Guide for Church-Related Employers, visit: https://www.mmbb.org/docs/Employer_Guide_2014.pdf (please note this resource is updated annually) Related resources can be found at: https://www.mmbb.org/church-finances-administration/
Church Policies & Procedures: How should voting be carried out in the church?
Three Questions and Answers Follow:
Part 1. Should written, hand count or voice balloting be used? Answer: If the Pastor is the Moderator of the meeting, he can determine the manner of voting, unless Church By-laws specify how all votes are to be carried out. If there was an objection to the manner of voting selected by the Moderator, an appeal of the Chair's ruling should have been made. This would have required a vote on the validity of the Chair's choice of voting method. Following that vote, the Church would return to the previous issue and vote. If the Chair's ruling was
sustained by majority vote, then his method would be used. Had the chair lost the appeal vote, the body would have used the ballot. Notice that all this should have been done during the meeting. It cannot be undone now!
Part 2: How old do you have to be for your vote to count? Answer: The age of voting in the Church is determined by the specific Church By-laws. If no age requirement is addressed, then the same principle noted in question #1 applies.
Part 3: Should the outcome of the ballots be based on a simple majority or a two-thirds (2/3) majority rule? Answer: Again, the Church By-laws determine this. Standard Baptist procedure is majority vote. Only certain crucial votes, such as the calling or dismissal of a Pastor, usually require more than a simple majority.
Church Policies and Procedures: Can a church meeting be called without the pastor's consent?
No. A church meeting called without the Pastor's consent must be done by the Church Clerk by order of the majority vote of Deacons, having obtained a sufficient number of signatures from the membership to reach a quorum.
Church Policies and Procedures: What is the procedure for terminating the pastor?
A generally accepted procedure is that the Deacon board can call a meeting of the church to present a petition to terminate the pastor and call for a vote. If the Deacon Board won't call a meeting, the church clerk can. The clerk must circulate a petition securing approval from 2/3 of the church membership to call the meeting. Once that has been done, the clerk then sends a notice to all members informing them of the result of the petition to hold the meeting and announcing the meeting date, if applicable. The date must be a minimum of two weeks after the notice is sent.
What positions in the baptist church can the Minister appoint without input and/or a vote from the church members? Also are there biblical references?
The only biblical office is that of deacon. Every church should determine the scope of appointments vs. elections. Auxiliaries or groups whose ministry is group specific may be appointed or recommended to the church by that group (e.g., the choir president). Leaders of groups or ministries that have a broader impact upon the entire ministry of the church should be elected by the church. For example: mission ministry. All appointments and elections should be ratified by the church. That way the church maintains responsibility for ALL of its leadership
Church Policies and Procedures: What guidance can you provide on how to handle registered sex offenders in the church?
There are good resources for you to check out on the website of Church Mutual Insurance Company. There are about 5 or 6 documents concerning Sexual Abuse and Background checks on these pages of their website:
Sex Offenders: https://www.churchmutual.com/169/Child-and-Youth-Sexual-Abuse
Background Checks: https://www.churchmutual.com/167/Background-Screening
Church Governance: What guidance does the Convention give for establishing the constitution for a new Baptist church?
There is no standard copy of Constitution/bylaws available through the Convention because each Baptist Church is independent and therefore drafts such according to their own doctrine and needs. Many Baptist Constitution/Bylaws contain the following basic elements: Constitution • Preamble • Name objectives • Statement of basic beliefs • Church covenant • Polity and relationships • Amendments Bylaws • Church membership •
New member orientation • Rights of membership • Church officers and committees along with their responsibilities • Church ministries • Governing council for decision making purposes • Church ordinances: baptism and lord's supper • Special church meetings • Quorum • Parliamentary rules statement • Church operation manual outlining adopted church policies • Amendments. Check the "Downloads" page in this section of
the website for Sample Church Constitutions, Policies and Procedures and The Church Constitution Guide. These are resources that you may find helpful to use as templates to individualize for your church’s constitution. Other Church Structure, Management, Constitution and By-Laws Resources • Goodwin, Everett C. 1995. The New Hiscox Guide for
Baptist Churches. Valley Forge, PA: Judson Press • Hiscox, Edward T. 1981. The Baptist Church Directory: A Guide to the Doctrines and Discipline, Officers and Ordinances, Principles and Practices of Baptist Churches. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. Also available online at www.Walmart.comfor approximately $15.00. • Hiscox, Edward T. 1981. The Hiscox Guide for Baptist Churches. Valley Forge, PA: Judson Press • Mullins, E.Y. 1983. Baptist Beliefs. Valley Forge, PA: Judson Press • A New Baptist Church Manual. 1986. Valley Forge, PA: Judson Press • Jordan, Lewis Garnett. 1929. The Baptist Standard Church Directory and Busy Pastor's Guide: A.M. Townsend [and] E.W.D. Isaac. Nashville: Sunday School Publishing Board. Additional resources may be found at the Sunday School Publishing Board: Contact info for the SSPB: Business Hours: 8:00 a.m.- 4:30 p.m. CST (Central Standard Time) By Telephone: Tel: (615) 256-2480 Toll Free: (800) 359-9398 By Fax: Customer Care Fax: (615) 242-4929 Publishing Fax: (615) 242-6305 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org By Mail: Sunday School Publishing Board 330 Charlotte Avenue Nashville, TN 37201.
Church Governance: What should be included in the church by-laws?
The NBC, USA, Inc. does not have specific guidelines for church by-laws, however this is a good example of the items that should be included and may help as a starting point for your church:
Taken from the SCBC Website:
Church Bylaws Should Cover…
1. Qualification, selection and discipline of members.
2. Time and Place of Regular Business meetings.
3. Calling process of Special Business meetings.
4. Notification procedures for Regular and Special Business meetings.
5. Quorum or Variation of Quorum requirements.
6. Voting rights and styles of the members
7. Selection, Tenure and Removal of officers/staff and workers.
8. Filling of vacancies/ unexpired terms for officers/staff and workers.
9. Responsibilities/Job Functions of officers, workers and committees.
10. Methods for Amending Bylaws/Policies/Procedures.
11. Purchase and Conveyance Procedures of Property.
12. Adoption of a Parliamentary Procedure.
13. How to handle disputes between members/staff.
14. Specifications about handling contracts by Trustees.
15. Signature authority on checks and legal documents.
16. Bonding of officers and employees.
17. Procedures of Internal/External Audit annually.
18. Indemnification Clause.
19. Specification of the church fiscal year and calendar year.
20. Rotation of Agents/Trustees
1. Keep the Bylaws concise, simple and specific enough to convey the rule.
2. Avoid repetition of information; refer back/forward by Article and Section.
3. Avoid including detailed policies, job descriptions, specific dates, or locations.
4. Footnote each page with the date of amendment.
5. Keep the congregation informed and involved throughout the process.
6. Adopt the document by a church wide vote.
7. Publish the document and make it available to the entire church family.
Church Governance: Should same gender or same sex marriage policy be included in the church’s by-laws?
A statement defining marriage can be placed in the by-laws.
Church Governance: What is the Convention's position on church incorporation?
The Convention doesn’t have a policy on incorporating the church. However, here is a link to a good article on why churches incorporate from the Christianity Today archives: http://www.christianitytoday.com/yc/9y6/9y6010.html. An article from the Administrative Assistance website may also be helpful:
Church Administration: To whom should paid staff report in the church? I am trying to understand the scripture in the book of Acts where it says look among you and find seven men of good report whom we may appoint over this business.
The word "business" in the 6th chapter of Acts refers to the meeting of the needs of the Hellenistic Christians who were murmuring. It more universally refers to the responsibility of those selected to serve the body, freeing the Pastors to prayer and the Word.
When it comes to reporting of staff through a chain of command, it really depends upon whether they are considered to be "pastoral" staff, maintenance staff, office staff, etc. Generally, all staff report to the Pastor through the particular ministry leader except for Pastoral staff, who report directly to the Pastor. For example, the building engineer would report to the Chairman of Trustees, who may have oversight of the building. That Chairman will, of course, consult with and report to the Pastor. The Church Administrator or Minister of Music would report directly to the Pastor, because he will have direct responsibility over Worship and Church administration.
Church Planting: How do you go about starting a new church?
The New Hiscox Guide for Baptist Churches (Judson Press) outlines these steps for starting a new church:
1. Meet regularly for worship, reflection, and prayer. Test your purpose, seek counsel, and seek spiritual guidance.
2. Establish a responsible committee to develop official documents, such
as: constitutions, covenants, by-laws and other articles of procedure. This group will also take care of the articles of incorporation (if needed), tax exempt status, etc.
3. The constituting or charter members of the church should transfer their membership by letter from their previous church to the new church.
4. An official constituting meeting should be announced and publicized, and should include a full worship service preceding the business. A vote should be held to properly constitute the new church, and the documents developed should be brought forward for approval. Following this, officers of the church should be elected. If there is no pastor yet, a committee should be elected to recommend pastoral leadership. Conclude the meeting with a hymn and prayer.
5. Leadership of the church should stick to the bylaws and constitution created, communicate with the congregation about what is going on, and seek prayerful support.
6. Petition the denomination you want to affiliate with for membership.
7. Continue to diligently establish goals, programs and procedures and effective review processes.