Back by popular demand! Church General Counsel will host a 1-hour church security webinar on April 12, 2018 at 3pm central. Topics include:
Church General Counsel will host a webinar on April 26, 2018 at 3:00pm CST to discuss cases in which churches have been in court. Managing Attorney Josh Bryant will select a number of cases to discuss in the following format:
Church General Counsel has announced its April webinar topics:
Church General Counsel will host a webinar on March 29, 2018 at 3:00pm to discuss cases in which churches have been in court. Managing Attorney Josh Bryant will select a number of cases to discuss in the following format:
Church General Counsel will host the following webinars for pastors, church leaders, and any others interested in these topics during the month of March:
Each webinar will be at 3:00pm Central Time and have time for questions, answers, and comments from attendees. Click on the links above to learn more and sign up.
Church General Counsel will host a 1-hour church security webinar on March 1, 2018 at 3pm central. Topics include:
Articles of Incorporation (we’ll call them AOIs from here on out) are found in a written document filed usually with the Secretary of State in the state in which a church exists that form that church as a legal entity in the eyes of the world. Banks will usually require a copy of the AOIs before letting your church open a bank account so that they can verify that this organization is real. There are several components that should be in your AOIs. Because they are so basic, they do not usually change. This is unlike your bylaws, which are more detailed and therefore more open to change. Here are just a few of the things that need to be in most AOIs.
Name of the Church
The AOIs will first state the name of your church. The articles will tell the world – the government, banks, vendors, members, and the like – the name of the organization they are interacting with. If you’re launching a new church, then obviously you’ll need to have the name of your church firmed up before filing the AOIs. If your church changes its name, the official means of doing so is through amending the AOIs.
Period of Existence
Your AOIs will tell the world how long the church will exist. Very rarely would any organization want to put an expiration date on their endeavor, and certainly not the church. While eternity is not in the government’s vocabulary in terms of AOIs, most organizations indicate in this section that the organization will exist into perpetuity.
There are two primary components of the character of a non-profit organization that should be in your church’s AOIs. The first is a prohibition against "private inurement." This is tax prohibition based on the notion that if the government is not going to tax the organization, the organization’s receipts over budgeted expenditures cannot flow to a private person. The second component deals with what happens to the assets of a non-profit organization if that organization closes its doors. While we don’t want churches closing their doors, statistics show this is becoming a much more common occurrence. Tax law prohibits the assets of a non-profit from going to a for profit endeavor or a private party, so specific language is necessary to ensure that non-profit assets go to a similar non-profit endeavor on dissolution.
Your church’s AOIs should tell the world not only who they are interacting with, but where they can interact with your church. Your AOIs should clearly state the address of the church’s primary location. This can be difficult for church plants. I know of some church planters in very difficult locales within the United States that have to move frequently. The principal address should be updated with each move. House churches may not meet in the same house every week. In that case, one location should be designated the principal address.
Your church’s AOIs should also tell the world who has the authority to accept service of process in the event they need to sue your church. The registered agent is the person or entity that can accept the complaint filed against your church and the summons directing it to file an answer or be subject to a default judgment. Some churches designate a trustee as their registered agent. A volunteer should never be the registered agent. Too much is at stake. Many churches designate a pastor as the registered agent, but the church must remember to amend their AOIs if the pastor resigns or retires. In the business world, most reputable companies hire a registered agent that is an independent third party or the church’s lawyer. This is probably the best practice for churches too.
The last component of your church’s AOIs is a statement of basic governance. Is your church governed by an elder board or is it more congregational? Or is there a diocese or other office that your church reports to? The world needs to know all of these things, the specifics of which will be spelled out in your bylaws. It suffices to have a simple, one sentence statement of how your church will be governed in the AOIs.
One of the first things we look for at Church General Counsel when we take on a new client is the church's articles of incorporation. We can recommend a variety of changes to the church's articles if any are needed. We can serve as your church's registered agent for no additional fee.
Three More Qualities of a Good Church Leader
Go to the nearest Christian bookstore and you’ll find title after title on good leadership in the church. The frenzy on leadership has grown so much that there are seminary degrees in biblical leadership. Churches are taking secular leadership and organizational management books and incorporating what they can into the church. There is a focus on people development, mission, vision, strategy, goals, pipelines, and execution. These are all great things. But when was the last time you read a leadership book on the unique combination of theology proper, spiritual practice, ethics, creeds, ecclesiology, constitutions, policies, committees, boards, and American law that is church governance?
In most universities, business schools teach their students business law as a requirement. This is lacking in most seminaries. While the leaders of any for-profit endeavor that makes a few hundred thousand dollars each year will understand the basics of legal compliance, human resources, risk management, and the like, few employees of a church with a similar budget have the necessary training and education to lead the church in a manner that properly complies with the law and minimizes legal risk. They just don’t teach that in seminary.
Governance is the action or manner of conducting the actions, affairs, and policies of a state, organization, or group of people. The church is an organization and a group of people, so based just on these to premises it is clear that churches may need governance. If the question is whether a local church needs governance, the subsidiary questions are whether churches should act, whether churches have day to day affairs to conduct, and whether churches need policies. The answer to each of these three questions is a resounding yes, and therefore churches must be governed. If you are a church leader, church governance is your responsibility.
1. Good leaders move the church to act.
Churches must act. and good leaders move the church to do so. If the five-fold purpose of the church is to worship, fellowship, engage in discipleship, minister, and evangelize, then the church that does not act at all is not a church at all. Churches do things. They have worship services. They admit members. They have programs designed to educate and equip believers. They do weddings and funerals, christenings and baby dedications. They conduct baptisms and the Lord’s Supper. They serve meals and conduct free medical and dental clinics. Churches act, and every action any organization takes carries at least one legal ramification or risk. As such, churches must have a manner or a system in place by which those actions are planned, funded, authorized, and executed. Churches need good governance to make this happen.
2. Good leaders pay attention to details.
Churches have day to day affairs that must be managed, and good leaders see to these day to day details. Churches hire and fire employees in a relationship that is highly regulated to begin with, not to mention the exception to every rule that churches face. Those employees counsel believers and non-believers alike. They maintain facilities in good working order. They engage in business with vendors and contractors. They rehearse music written by other people. They answer telephone calls. They handle money and process donation receipts. They address benevolence issues as people come in needing assistance from the church. They plan and prepare for the next weekend. Most of these details are either regulated by federal and state governments, or carry their own set of legal ramifications and risks. In order for these day to day affairs to be conducted properly, churches need good governance.
3. Good leaders rest on good policy.
Churches need policies, if for no other reason than churches are unfortunately notorious for some relatively petty power struggles. Who gets to decide what color the carpet is? Who gets to decide who uses the church van on what day for what function? Who gets to decide who gets married in the church? Who gets to decide who can have their wedding anniversary party at the church? Who gets to decide what kind of music is sung in the worship service? How do we decide who to hire? Who gets to decide when to fire someone? Who gets to decide when the doors will be open? Who gets to decide who has a key to the church? What do we do when there is an accident at the church? How do we select volunteers to work with minors? Where will the money be counted and stored safely? When are bank deposits made? When are the service times? All of these things need to be answered by a policy – a document to which any member can be referred for the process of getting things done in the church so that there is a fair treatment of all members.
More importantly, policy should insist on best practices that comply with government regulations and law, as well as minimize the risk the church takes on in their activities and affairs. Complying with the plethora of regulations and laws that churches are subject to can be a full time job that if not done properly cost the church money, bad publicity, and could even shutter the church doors. Worse, if the church is found to be negligent in how it conducts itself and that negligence causes damage to another person, the church could get sued. Policy looks at the needs of the church and the requirements of the law to ensure that needs are met and the law is followed. Policy looks at the activities of the church and the due diligence necessary to minimize the risk of those activities to ensure that activities are carried out in a manner that fulfills the mission of the church and protects it from unnecessary risk. If churches need good governance, good governance is rooted in good policy.
The foundation of church governance is Scripture. The roof and walls of church governance are made up of bylaws, articles, and policies. At Church General Counsel, one of the first things we'll do is take a look at all of these documents and help pastors provide good governance. Learn more here.
Cory and Stephanie Epps have released their first Christmas EP called Love Has Come to Save. Church General Counsel managing attorney Josh Bryant was able to walk them through the process of obtaining copyrights on their work. Cory and Stephanie Epps are phenomenally talented, and they wrote one of those songs that tells the entire story of Christmas in a new and refreshing way. It starts before Christ left the bliss of heaven and goes all the way through His ultimate victory on the cross, interspersed with the praise that this loving gift deserves. Bryant has joked that the song is Dove Award worthy. After you listen, we think you'll see it isn't a joke - Cory and Stephanie Epps have written an amazing song about the Love that's come in Jesus' birth. Their arrangement of other Christmas classics don't disappoint either.
Churches do things like this all the time, and while no musician or pastor should get greedy with what they create, the pastoral process is inherently creative. Whether you are preparing a sermon, creating graphics, or writing a Dove-worthy Christmas song, you should take steps to protect the integrity of your intellectual property. Monetizing your intellectual property is not inherently greedy. It is a means by which God can provide for your family or church, perpetuate His work from a financial standpoint, and otherwise extend the reach and influence of your work. Managing Attorney Josh Bryant has experience in several aspects of intellectual property law, including copyright, trademark, and other areas that generally don't apply to churches. The intellectual property services he offers are all part of the monthly subscription service churches use to retain Josh Bryant or other attorneys through Church General Counsel. Pastors and musicians can get intellectual property and other assistance independent of their churches at www.josh-bryant.com.
Get Cory and Stephanie Epps' new album on iTunes here.
Get Love Has Come to Save on Google Play here.
Church General Counsel Managing Attorney Josh Bryant, J.D., M.Div., authors most of the posts in this section. From time to time, he will post articles from others in the field of church growth, administration, and operations.