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Church planters have a lot of questions to answer before starting a new church.

Who hires the staff?

Who approves the budget?

Who can fire the lead pastor?

Who votes on what?

Who elects the leaders?

All of these questions and more should be answered in the church’s constitution and bylaws. Unfortunately, too many churches wait until there is a problem to discover what’s in the constitution and bylaws. Then, the pastor goes searching for the latest copy in a desk drawer or filing cabinet. By then, it’s probably too late.

Here are some best practices for a new church’s constitution and bylaws.

  1. Set out the church’s doctrinal beliefs.

The constitution and bylaws is more than just a guidebook for business matters; instead, the constitution and bylaws is the place to set out the new church’s core doctrinal beliefs. These beliefs should be difficult to change, and should guide the church in fulfilling its purpose.

  1. Set out the church’s governance.

Every church has some form of governance—and, the place to find it is in the constitution and bylaws. Whether the church is congregationally-led, elder-led, or board-led, the constitution and bylaws serves as the playbook for how the new church operates—who elects whom; who votes on what; and how budgets and policies are developed and implemented. Without clear guidance from the constitution and bylaws, church power struggles and splits easily develop.

  1. Protect the church’s ministry.

Most church policies and procedures do not need to be placed in the constitution and bylaws, but some are so important that they need to be in there. Those include: (1) conflict of interest policies for officers, directors and employees; (2) property ownership policies; (3) statements on family and human sexuality; (4) indemnification policies; and (5) processes for removal of officers and directors.

This blog is the fourth in a series that sets out eleven (11) steps for church planters to start churches safe, legal, and with confidence. The first three steps are:

  1. Prioritize children’s safety above everything else. Click Here to read.
  2. File Articles of Incorporation with your state. Click Here to read.
  3. Draft your constitution and bylaws.

Reynolds Law Group works with churches of all sizes and denominations to facilitate governing documents that enhance and protect the church’s ministry. For more information, you can email me at glenn@reynoldslawgroup.net.