GenZ Ministry: When to Restart?

As churches slowly begin to reopen, the natural next thought is: When do we resume our GenZ ministries? … There is no specific guidance for church youth programs, therefore, church leaders are left to make their own decisions. We have provided a few tips as you make your plans in reopening and restarting various ministries of your church.

As churches slowly begin to reopen, the natural next thought is: When do we resume our GenZ ministries? Although we want to move forward as quickly as possible, it is best to remember the old adage, “Slow and steady wins the race.” There are some churches in “friendly states” who have begun very modified GenZ ministries. In these cases the churches have completely reorganized their schedules and facilities to accommodate an hour long Wednesday night children’s meeting (in the main auditorium) and a youth program (in a large youth room or fellowship hall). The adults not involved with the GenZ programs attend their Sunday morning groups during this time. Not every church has the facilities for this option, so proceed with caution.

Listed below are key guidance plans for reopening churches and restarting youth activities. Take time to read through each carefully. As your state issues guidance regarding education, children’s and youth activities, read them to gain an understanding of their interpretation of the CDC guidance. Your state’s guidance will be what you will want to follow.

As expected from government documents, the guidance is convoluted. There is no specific guidance for church youth programs, therefore, church leaders are left to make their own decisions. We have provided a few tips as you make your plans in reopening and restarting various ministries of your church.

Above Reproach

We are navigating through uncharted waters. What we do now will set a precedent for the future. At the same time, our actions during this time is establishing a testimony in our community for a future opportunity to reach out.

Ensure that your church is in complete compliance in every area of your Constitution and By Laws. Failure to be puts the church at grave risk in any potential litigation. (This is true for any time, not just in these times.) If your church is not in compliance with your own rules and guidelines, wait on restarting your ministries for a time. (For further guidance or any questions, please contact the Christian Law Association (CLA).)

Above and Beyond

We understand the urgency to get back to normal. Many churches are still simply trying to navigate reopening for Sunday morning in-person services. Go slow and be cautious in your decision to restart your youth programs. Know your area, the status of active cases, the community feeling on reopening, etc. Work with other churches in your community on reopening policies and guidelines.

As a testimony to your members as well as to the community, plan to go above and beyond in every area. If you are not able to minimally follow the guidelines your state suggests for reopening, you should wait to restart your GenZ ministries until you can.

Redeem the Time

Remember why you are restarting your GenZ ministry. Nearly every pastor and ministry leader we have spoken to through this crisis has had a moment (or two) of reflection on what worship and ministry truly is. Many are planning changes as things “get back to normal.”

Now is a good time to re-focus your GenZ ministry. With reduced time for weekly ministry, major on the majors in the time you do have. Scripture memory and Bible teaching should be the main part of your time back with the youth. Fun things may be included, but if the fun time is longer than the Bible teaching and scripture memory, something is out of focus.

Continue with or begin digital avenues of ministry with your youth to enhance Bible teaching, communication, and time together throughout the week. The Gen Z generation thrives on digital; find ways to incorporate it into your ministry.

Written Guidelines

Leaders need to write a detailed reopening plan for the GenZ ministry. Include policies and procedures, safety and cleaning protocols, etc. This will help communicate your plans to staff, volunteers, parents, and members. Present the plan to your local public health department; they will be able to assist in ensuring you have a safe plan. You will also have written documentation to show to any authorities who might question your actions. Remember, whatever protocols you write down, you must follow them.

Staff and Volunteers

Before you decide to restart the GenZ ministry you will need to assess whether or not you will have enough staff or volunteers. Although churches are not required to follow student/teacher ratios, we all know that there needs to be at least two per group. With the extensive cleaning and sanitation guidelines, you may need to add one or two others simply to keep up with those requirements. There are also social distancing measures to consider. If you plan to meet in smaller groups to accommodate these guidelines you may need additional help to maintain the two leader per group safety protocols.

Speak with your staff and volunteers to ensure they will be comfortable jumping back into the GenZ ministry. Some regular volunteers may be in the vulnerable category which may exempt them for an extended time from serving in this area.

Signage

One of the big requirements is that of signage. Reminders of social distancing, how to properly wear a face mask, and sanitation policies are strongly suggested. These links are from the CDC with all the printables you should need for information, reminders, and directions.

Social Distancing

The type of youth ministry you restart will largely depend on your facilities. In the Georgia guidance for day care and day camp the limitation is a maximum of 20 individuals per “single location” (classroom) with 6 feet social distancing as much as possible. For many churches this number of people in a single classroom will be difficult due to room square footage.

The classrooms in these photos are from a church with a small Christian school. Even in a room of this size having 20 individuals properly social distancing will prove difficult.

Note the tables in the photos. The kindergarten tables are roughly 6 feet in length. With the guidance from the CDC and the state of Georgia it would be impossible for these tables to be of much use in the classroom. Additional guidance for schools or day cares suggests students all face the same direction; therefore, children would not be able to sit across from one another. The regular school desks (background photo 1) would be a better option for a table surface for writing or coloring as they could be angled and spaced to aid in social distancing.

Sanitation/Safety

Presently, masks are recommended for everyone over the age of 2. Encourage staff and members to wear masks at all times if it is medically feasible for them to do so.

Remind those attending to monitor their temperatures. You may want to invest in touchless, infrared thermometers (especially in the youth areas) to help identify someone with a fever should they become ill while at church. No one with a temperature of 100.4 or exhibiting any symptoms of illness should attend services; family members should remain at home as well as a precaution. Set aside an area for quarantine in the facility should someone become ill while at services and are unable to leave right away.

Provide hand sanitizer throughout the premises. Keep restroom supplies well-stocked. Wipes should be available near high traffic touch points. Assign individuals to wipe down surfaces regularly. In the children’s areas ensure that shared objects are cleaned between each child’s use or set aside to be cleaned later.

Should someone attend services then later become diagnosed positive for Covid-19 have a plan in place for alerting those who attended. Be prepared to suspend in-person services for at least the 14 day quarantine period. Follow all guidelines for deep cleaning the facilities.

A big part of church fellowship is food. IF you should decide to have an activity or fellowship involving food, follow CDC and state guidelines for restaurants to ensure you are fellowshipping in a safe manner.

The testimony of your church in the community is paramount; be mindful of this in your planning. Use the time you will have together to be intentional in true ministry. Know who it is your are ministering to and determine if you are being effective; ministry that is not effective is simply busyness. As pastors and ministry leaders we are tasked with the spiritual well being, growth, and safety of the flock. In these unprecedented times we are also tasked with keeping the flock as physically safe as we can. Planning with thoughtfulness and in great detail will go far in protecting the church and your ministry now and in the future.



CARES Act Q&A

UPDATED 4/2/2020 The CARES Act provides a great deal of help for churches during the Covid-19 pandemic. We have addressed some of the questions many have regarding what is available for churches and other religious 501c3 organizations.

Working with Connexus Group and their ministry and non-profit arm, we have available a webinar available that walks you through the process of applying for the Payroll Protection as well as answer any questions you may have. Connexus Group CARES Act Webinar

The forms and more information have been released. They are available at the Treasury Department website. You may also go to the Small Business Association website. They will be able to answer any other questions you may have regarding the Payroll Protection Program or any other small business loan or disaster relief loan for which you may qualify. Remember, this is a whole new animal to be dealt with – it is going to take time for everyone to have all the guidance they need in order to provide the help.

At the same time, contact your bank to set an appointment to go in and apply for the loan. There are limited funds; the sooner you get in line, the better off you will be. The CARES Act has provided for all FDIC banks to process loans for the Payroll Protection Program. This is a major change as normally there are only a handful of banks who process SBA loans. For this reason, we strongly recommend you contact the SBA first. As always, read the fine print. If you have any questions or concerns at all go back to the SBA for guidance.

Payroll Protection Program – Financial Help for Churches

Q: Can churches apply for financial help under the CARES Act?

A: Yes. Any 501c3 non-profit (religious or secular) may file for financial help as described in the CARES Act. Starting April 3, 2020, small businesses and sole proprietorship scan apply. Starting April 10, 2020, independent contractors and self-employed individuals can apply. We encourage you to apply as quickly as you can because there is a funding cap.

Q: Are evangelists, mission boards, missionaries, Christian singing groups or other itinerant ministries eligible to apply for financial assistance under the CARES Act?

A: Yes, if they are organized as a 501c3 non-profit corporation. If you fall under this category, then you may file for financial help under the CARES Act.

Q: Does the financial aid come directly from the government to the churches?

A: No. The money is coming from lending institutions such as banks, credit unions, and lending brokers who are FDIC insured through loans under the Small Business Association’s guidelines and regulations.

Q: Is there a potential for government interference with our churches in the future if we receive financial assistance through the CARES Act?

A: No. Religious organizations do not forfeit first amendment rights of freedom of speech or freedom of religion under any circumstances. Religious organizations were added into the CARES Act when it was noted that leaving them out was a discriminatory act based on religion.

Q: What expenses does the CARES Act cover?

A: The Paycheck Protection Program provides small businesses with funds to pay up to 8 weeks of payroll costs including benefits. Funds can also be used to pay interest on mortgages, rent, and utilities.

Q: What are the qualifications to receive a CARES Act loan?

A: Small businesses with 500 or fewer employees—including nonprofits, veterans organizations, tribal concerns, self-employed individuals, sole proprietorships, and independent contractors—are eligible. Businesses with more than 500 employees are eligible in certain industries.

Q: What are the terms of the loan?

A: Funds are provided in the form of loans (grants when forgiven) that will be fully forgiven when used for payroll costs, interest on mortgages, rent, and utilities (due to likely high subscription, at least 75% of the forgiven amount must have been used for payroll). Loan payments will also be deferred for six months. No collateral or personal guarantees are required. Neither the government nor lenders will charge small businesses any fees.

For more information:  https://www.sba.gov/page/coronavirus-covid-19-small-business-guidance-loan-resources

Q: What exactly is forgiven with the loan?

A: Funds are provided in the form of loans that will be fully forgiven when used for payroll costs, interest on mortgages, rent, and utilities (due to likely high subscription, at least 75% of the forgiven amount must have been used for payroll). Loan payments will also be deferred for six months. No collateral or personal guarantees are required. Neither the government nor lenders will charge small businesses any fees. Forgiveness is based on the employer maintaining or quickly rehiring employees and maintaining salary levels. Forgiveness will be reduced if full-time headcount declines, or if salaries and wages decrease.

Q: How do I apply?

A: You can apply through any existing SBA 7(a) lender or through any federally insured depository institution, federally insured credit union, and Farm Credit System institution that is participating. Other regulated lenders will be available to make these loans once they are approved and enrolled in the program. You should consult with your local lender as to whether it is participating. All loans will have the same terms regardless of lender or borrower. A list of participating lenders as well as additional information and full terms can be found at http://www.sba.gov.

Q: What do I need for the forms?

A: The form is only 2 pages. You will be asked for your average monthly payroll. This total will be multiplied by 2.5. This will be the amount of your loan/grant. There will also be several other questions to answer, none of which require pulling together any other information.

Q: Are there other loans available to cover other expenses?

A: Yes. However, these loans are not forgivable, but they are very low interest which can be paid back over 10 years. Contact the Small Business Association (SBA) for more details.

Q: In addition to including 501c3’s, who else qualifies for assistance under the CARES Act who normally would not?

A: Small businesses with 500 or fewer employees—including nonprofits, veterans organizations, tribal concerns, self-employed individuals, sole proprietorships, and independent contractors—are eligible. Businesses with more than 500 employees are eligible in certain industries. Pastors let your congregations know that the CARES Act may benefit them as well. They will need to contact the Small Business Association in order to acquire the proper forms and help.

The Charitable Giving Incentive (part of the CARES ACT)

Q: What is the giving incentive? (The information is found in Section 2204 of the CARES Act.)

A: On next year’s tax forms there will be an above the line charitable giving deduction for contributions of up to $300 for anyone who does not itemize. This means that anyone who gives up to $300 for the year will not have to itemize in order to receive a tax deduction.

Q: Is this only for the tax year 2020?

A: No. The giving incentive included in this bill amends the Tax Code of 1986. This will be a permanent change and amendment (at least until they change it again).

Q: Are there any other charitable giving changes? (This information is found in Section 2205 of the CARES Act.)

A: Yes. The CARES Act also lifts the existing cap on annual contributions for those who itemize, raising it from 60% of the adjusted gross income to 100% of the adjusted gross income. For corporations, the law raises the annual limit from 10% to 25%. Food donations from corporations would be available to 25%, up from the current 15% cap. (We have consulted with several people regarding these new charitable giving guidelines. The prevailing though at this time is that this particular portion of the charitable giving changes will only be for the tax year 2020. Speak to your tax accountant for more information.)

*Please Note: This is not a comprehensive reflection of the entire CARES Act and there may be additional requirements or guidelines not listed above. This is not legal or tax advice and organizations are advised to review this material with internal and/or external counsel.

The Legal Documents and Requirements for Churches

There is not a week that goes by that we are not talking to someone in ministry regarding legal issues that have risen in a church. One of the first things we ask is: What does your Constitution and Bylaws state?

There is not a week that goes by that we are not talking to someone in ministry regarding issues that have risen in a church. One of the first things we ask is: What does your Constitution and Bylaws state? In the early days we were always shocked that the person did not know. We are no longer shocked. Both clergy and the people in the pew have no idea what their legal documents state. Often they are surprised to find that even their Statement of Faith is not what the church practices and believes. This ignorance is dangerous ground and the basis for many churches finding themselves in court today.

We constantly hear: What’s the big deal? Why do we have to have all of this? Most of this is redundant. It’s too complicated. Unfortunately, many of those who have stated this no longer have a church because the church no longer exists.

The “big deal” is that as an incorporated business, often as a nonprofit, there are state laws that must be followed. Leaders who declare ignorance on these matters should understand a legal truth: “I didn’t know” is not a defense in the court of law. As a leader it is your job to know. Failure to do so not only can harm the church as a whole but there are individual consequences for the leader(s) as determined by state law. Below are the legal documents required to form and maintain a church.

Each ministry needs to review their documents regularly to ensure they comply with their state’s laws and that the documents they do have are being followed. Include a review to ensure the church is protected regarding hot button Note on a calendar each year those items that must be accomplished to stay in compliance so that nothing is missed. Failure to follow state laws or your own established guidelines can place a ministry in legal jeopardy. This link will take you to a comprehensive list of all Secretary of State offices in the United States where you will be able to locate the exact requirements (including yearly requirements), forms, statutes, and contact information you may need: http://www.e-secretaryofstate.com/

Name Reservation or Search

If you are starting a new work, you will need to do a search in your state to see if the name you wish to use is already taken. The official name may be different than the one used. For example, there are many First Baptist Church’s listed. Their official name, however, may be First Baptist Church of Podunk Holler, First Baptist Church of Big City, or First Baptist Church at the Beach. Officially their names are different. In their local community they may simply be known as First Baptist. There is no perfect name to a church. Consider, however, to choose a name that reflects the vision and the community. Ensure that a name you choose does not exist within a 30 to 50-mile radius. This will help avoid confusion or misunderstanding. Your Secretary of State’s office will be able to assist in this search and name reservation if you so desire.

Articles of Incorporation

This is the first required document for a ministry by the government. Articles of Incorporation may vary from state to state so be sure to locate what is needed for your state. Most churches will need to incorporate as a non-profit corporation; each state has its own definition of what qualifies as a non-profit. The decision of whether to have members or no members varies from state to state; wording is key. Please check with an attorney to determine what is best for your state and situation. Follow your state’s sample form of Articles of Incorporation and have it reviewed by an attorney before submitting.

The Constitution (Statement of Faith and Bylaws)

The Constitution is the foundation by which the church will govern itself. Each state has specific requirements and topics that must be included to satisfy state law. Consult with an attorney to ensure that your documents comply. All corporations (secular and non-profit) may make their own rules and guidelines, however, they are required to follow them. In the event of legal action taken against the organization there will be a discovery process to determine if the organization has followed their own rules and guidelines. Failure to do so consistently can adversely affect the outcome for the organization. A church is unique in that not only does the Constitution lay out how it will conduct itself in organizing but also establishes through the Statement of Faith what it believes. While the Bylaws (organizational guidelines) may be changed, the Statement of Faith should not be changed except to provide additional protection or clarification of doctrine and beliefs. If a church finds the need to amend their Bylaws, they must do so without violating their Statement of Faith and must follow the procedure laid out in their Bylaws. Although the Constitution and Bylaws are not always required to be submitted to the Secretary of State’s office, we do recommend that it is submitted as an additional layer of protection of the document. Anytime the Bylaws section of the document is amended and ratified, the new document should be submitted to supersede the previous. (The Constitution and the items making up the Constitution are explained in detail in The Business of Ministry written by Daniel & Melissa Woltmann.)

Employer Identification Number (EIN)

All organizations, whether they will have employees or not, must file for an Employer Identification Number. This number identifies you to the IRS and to the state. This is NOT the same number as your tax-exempt number. Do not apply for your EIN until your organization is completely formed. Follow this link to learn more about the EIN application process: https://www.irs.gov/charities-non-profits/employer-identification-number

IRS – 501c3 Status

You will need to file for a 501c3 tax exemption if you receive donations (tithes and offerings). You must have a 501c3 status in order for your church to provide tax receipts to those who give to your church. The IRS has many helpful links to assist you in proper filing. As stated on the IRS website: “State law governs nonprofit status, which is determined by an organization’s articles of incorporation or trust documents. Federal law governs tax-exempt status. The Internal Revenue Code specifically refers to exemption from federal income tax.” Follow this link to find all the information you will need to file the appropriate forms to apply for your 501c3 status: https://www.irs.gov/charities-and-nonprofits

Bank Accounts

Banks require an organization’s Articles of Incorporation and EIN in order to open a bank account. You will need to establish a business bank account in order to do business and to receive donations primarily to ensure financial oversight. Be sure to follow your church’s guidelines on who should be check signers and hold debit and credit cards. This is an area where oversight by multiple people is a must.

Church Minutes

As your organization conducts business and grows, it is required by law that minutes of business meetings are kept. These minutes include all deacon and trustee meetings, all church business meetings, and any special meetings called to conduct the business and ministry of the church. Your Minister of Records must ensure that these documents are dutifully filed on the church property and kept in order and up to date. This serves as a protection to the leaders as well as to the members and provides a clear picture of the church’s business and ministry practices and decisions. Without them, decisions made and actions taken could be declared null and void. Failure to hold the required meetings by state law and those designated in the Bylaws of the church could result in the potential loss of the church’s 501c3 status; this is due to statutes in the US Tax Code. These minutes are considered public record. The church may limit viewing to church members (unless during litigation). The process for requesting to see these documents should be described in the Bylaws of the Constitution.

Church Membership

Church membership records are also legal documents. In some states a baptism record may be used as part of proof of identity. It is important that the church explains in detail its membership guidelines and places protections in them for the sake of the church and the individual. Often churches do not “purge the rolls” as indicated in their Bylaws. This negligence could be detrimental. Establish your guidelines for joining, maintaining membership as well as for removal of a member then follow them equally for everyone. Always keep your records current.

Financial Records

The church’s financial records are considered public records as well. The Constitution and Bylaws should outline how the church’s budget is determined. The Bylaws should also reflect who, how, and when these documents may be reviewed. Ensure that your Bylaws protect records of those giving to the church; those items may not be requested. The Bylaws should include guidelines for reporting the budget and financial reporting to the membership. This reporting may be annually, biannually, quarterly or monthly. Whatever is decided by the church and written in the Bylaws must be followed. Your state may indicate how often financial records are reported for nonprofits. Include those requirements as a minimum. Further reporting may be added. Regardless, whatever the Bylaws state for financial reporting must be followed. Failure to do so may violate state laws and possibly the IRS Tax Code.

These are the items necessary to legally begin and then maintain a church. While a church can biblically exist without these items, without them, there is no legal protection for the people of the church. Without them, members and non-members may not use donations, tithes, and offerings as deductions on their taxes. Without them, owning properties, conducting business, and organizing additional ministries may be greatly hindered.

We cannot stress the importance of the maintenance and upkeep of these documents. Seek legal counsel to safeguard that your documents follow your state laws and the US Tax Code. Review them annually. Faithfully follow the guidelines set forth in your documents to ensure the protection of the church.

Understand, we are commanded in Scripture to be subject to the laws of the land provided they do not ask us to violate Scripture. Currently, none of these legal requirements violate any biblical principles. However, failure to follow the laws of the land by a church and its members will not only violate those laws but also Scripture, thus harming the testimony (and possible continuation) of the church in its community.

For a printable version of this article click on the download provided below.

*For detailed descriptions and explanations of the items listed as well as other helpful information regarding the business side of ministry, please consider our book The Business of Ministry by Daniel & Melissa Woltmann which can be purchased on Amazon.

Constitutions & By Laws

One of the most important legal aspects of organizing a church is that of forming the Constitution and By Laws. In decades past, most churches simply had a one or two page Statement of Faith which might also include how many deacons there were going to be and for how long they would serve with a few other items such as following Robert’s Rules of Order for all business meetings. Today, those types of documents will not suffice as protection for the church corporation, its ministries, or its members.

One of the most important legal aspects of organizing a church is that of forming the Constitution and By Laws. In decades past, most churches simply had a one or two page Statement of Faith which might also include how many deacons there were going to be and for how long they would serve with a few other items such as following Robert’s Rules of Order for all business meetings. Today, those types of documents will not suffice as protection for the church corporation, its ministries, or its members.

We have already begun to see churches find themselves in legal jeopardy from not having well written and culturally up to date Constitution and By Laws. We have also seen churches lose legal cases because they were not faithfully practicing and upholding their own rules and regulations. If it is in your Constitution and By Laws then you must follow the written document. If your church culture and practices have changed or needs to change due to growth or decline, then your documents must be amended to reflect those changes.

Wise leaders will include protections regarding doctrinal beliefs and other potential subjective religious beliefs that could affect the church in coming decades. As society continues to fall away from traditional values, the church must also include in detail their beliefs on such cultural hot topics as marriage, homosexuality, transgenderism, abortion, euthanasia, etc. While this may not provide complete protection from persecution and/or legal action against the church, it may help in any potential litigation. The church’s biblical beliefs on doctrine, religious topics, and cultural issues should all be contained in the Statement of Faith section. This section should not be able to be amended except to add further clarification and protection for the church, not to diminish the beliefs found within.

We fully understand that each church may have its own way of doing things, how things are worded, and varying beliefs on doctrine, and religious and cultural issues. The documents provided are simply a sample and not a dictate for churches to follow. However, the documents may be used as your Constitution and By Laws if you wish. Feel free to contact us for any assistance you may need in making the documents your own or to answer any questions that arise.

To aid those in either evaluating their current documents or those who are planting churches, we have provided a Sample Constitution and By Laws in its entirety to give a comprehensive overview of what to include and how to organize a church Constitution and By Laws. Yes, the document provided is lengthy and includes the verses written out rather than simply providing references.

We also have provided the same Sample Constitution and By Laws in an editable format in certain places to take into consideration that different churches call positions or boards by different names as well as may desire different requirements or time frames for accomplishing certain items.

A third Sample Constitution and By Laws is provided with notes explaining sections and the reasons for including those sections and protections in the document. We have found too often that many in leadership simply follow someone else’s work without fully understanding the “why” something is included or done. We do not want anyone to leave our website without full understanding of the importance of this document.

Download the documents you would like to view from the choices below. These documents are also available on our download page.

If you would like assistance in creating or reviewing your church’s Constitution and By Laws, feel free to contact us through the form below.