Spread the Word

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The rich heritage of Cleveland extends to its many churches and places of worship. From weekly Sunday gatherings to community outreach, area churches and houses of worship serve the spiritual, social, and economic needs of Cleveland’s diverse population and beyond. While many hands make light work, the practical reality is churches do not run well on autopilot. The real world is complicated, people are flawed, and turmoil happens. Abiding by your church’s constitution and bylaws provides order and accountability in the conduct of church operations.

Once approved by a proper vote of the congregation, the church’s constitution becomes a legally binding document. Some key elements that may be included in the constitution and bylaws are how the church is organized, its purpose and mission, how the purpose and mission will be accomplished, name of any denominational associations, clear statement of doctrinal belief, who has what authority, individual responsibilities of all staff members, membership requirements, voting and quorum requirements, procedures and guidelines for hiring, firing, and/or removal, and requirements/procedures for making amendments.

Crucial to the implementation of these rules and procedures is your church’s governing board. Each board member has the fiduciary duties to act in good faith and exercise reasonable care and judgment in serving the interests of his/her church. Every board member, new and repeat, should read and be familiar with the church’s constitution and bylaws. It is a good idea for committee chairpersons to do the same. The presiding board member should be very clear in explaining that a working familiarity with the constitution and bylaws is expected of ALL board members.

Knowledge of and familiarity with the church constitution and bylaws keep everyone on the same page. Meetings may proceed in an orderly fashion if participants adhere to rules and guidelines contained in the constitution and bylaws. Any attempt by a board member or members to corral power or decision-making authority beyond the scope of the constitution and bylaws can be addressed only if each board member is informed of the rules. Many people who serve on church boards and committees do not understand that once they accept a position on a board or committee, they assume responsibility for which they may be held liable. The fact is that churches are sued … often by a church member or employee.

Common areas of litigation involving churches and/or board members, employees, pastor(s), or volunteers pertain to sexual abuse, counseling, employment practices, discrimination, undue influence in stewardship activities, misappropriation of funds, and negligence. The best protection for church board/committee members is to understand what responsibilities they are accepting and exercise due care and to require their church to carry adequate Directors and Officers Liability Insurance.

If you serve on a church board or committee, contact your Trusted Choice Independent Insurance Agent at Richey-Barrett Insurance with questions or concerns about liability insurance protection.

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