Articles of Incorporation and Bylaws. Most lead pastors have learned to abhor them for a multitude of reasons. They don’t want to care or even think about them.
However, it seems like this is the season for revising Bylaws. We have a small team at Sojourn working the past 8 months to update our founding documents, particularly in light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s (SCOTUS) ruling last June 26th on gay marriage. We bring it to our church members later this month to affirm the changes and hopefully can put them to rest.
In April, Rob Maine at Renaissance Church in Pittsburgh invited me to participate in a historic work event. Historic, because we completely revised the basic Articles of Incorporation and Bylaws for Renaissance in a single day and his Board approved them the next. That is, in my understanding, a new world record for a church! If not, it should be! As most Bylaw rewrites can take months to complete.
Both of these assignments created a need for me to receive some professional sharpening, so I connected with one of the foremost legal experts in the country, the staff attorney at the Church Law Group. He spends his days working on these founding documents for churches around the country. Great fun!
My new attorney friend shared some profound thoughts. He said “nearly 90% of all Bylaw legal issues he deals with center on the matter of who has control when things go wrong.” Or said another way, who gets named as a party in the litigation. He further stated, “most Bylaws were (are) prepared initially from an old template from another state with incomplete or archaic language or articles.” He added that @@Bylaws are one of the many areas considered far too complicated for most lead pastors or church planters to care about.@@ So the tendency is to adopt an off-the-shelf template, customize it with the right names and address, and call it good.
Sojourn Network’s deep conviction to care for member leaders and churches gave rise this past year to the establishment of Strategists. Consulting and assisting church with founding documents—Articles of Incorporation and Bylaws—is one of the many areas where I can serve you as a Sojourn Network Strategist.
But before you simply shoot me an email to “take care of this for our church”, please talk first to Rob Maine. You see, the historical event of completing a Bylaws revision in a day only happened because he first had “to care” about this topic. Rob had to complete some advance homework and address a handful of essential questions in order to land an accurate, up-to-date, and legal set of revised founding documents. Well worth the effort!