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.



To Meet or Not to Meet? Forsaking the Assembling

Is the church a building or is it its people? Does the church have to assemble all its people at one place to be a church? Is a church a church because it assembles? Is assembly of the church the command of God? What does the Bible say about the church meeting together? The Bible does tell us and we need to search this out.

Is the church a building or is it its people? Does the church have to assemble all its people at one place to be a church? Is a church a church because it assembles? Is assembly of the church the command of God? What does the Bible say about the church meeting together? The Bible does tell us and we need to search this out.

Hebrews 10:19-25, 19 Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, 20 By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; 21 And having an high priest over the house of God; 22 Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;) 24 And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: 25 Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.

These verses are a parenthetical thought in a larger context. What we are looking at today is the thought. The church, while in the world of sin, is separate from it because of our being in Christ. The church has a great mission that is large and expansive. This passage deals with a vital part of the whole mission. The focal point tends to land on the “assembling of ourselves together”. The command seems to be that the church is not to forsake this assembling. Considering the current situation where the whole country and many parts of the world asks all to not assemble for any reason, how does this work for the church?

Covid-19 has caused changes to everyone and everything including the church. The word “change” is an ugly word in most churches. Let a pastor start making changes and he may find that he is leaving the church for “health reasons;” the church is sick of him making changes. But we are having to make changes and there is little to nothing anyone can do about it.

The part that most seem to focus on is not being able to assemble. The question is: Are we violating God’s command to us? There are several points to consider. One point is that God said in Matthew 18:20, “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” There are many people over two thousand years of church history that understood this when they could not meet in large groups. Were they not of the church? Were they violating Scripture? I do not believe so. 

The word “forsaking” does not mean to miss a church service or not attending every time the doors are open. “Forsaking” means to leave behind, to desert it all together. Some may say if someone misses a service, they are one service closer to forsaking. This may well be true but they, at that point, have not forsaken the assembly.

The focus seems to be on the assembling in these Hebrews verses, however, the context is about why you are assembling and what you are to be doing. I believe this forced pause in “normal” is allowing us to focus once again on the purpose of this passage and its true importance. 

In verse twenty-four we see why we are to assemble. We are told to “consider” one another. The word consider means to observe fully. As a church we are to observe fully all others in the church. This goes along with other biblical principles of putting others first. One of the reasons why we are to assemble is so that we can observe each other’s needs. In the past too many people come to church to have needs met but failed at meeting the needs of others.

The verse then says that when we “consider” we take what we have learned to “provoke” one another. In the English language we note this word as a negative. In the Greek language it had both a negative and a positive side. In this passage we see that there is an aspect of both. The positive side of the word means to bring incitement while the negative side of the word means to dispute.

First it tells us to provoke to love. The word love is the Greek word agape which is a godly love. On the positive side we should be inciting in people to love as God loves. On the negative side we are to dispute against anything that would cause one to not have the love of God in them. When we assemble, we should focus on where all stand in our godly love. God loves unconditionally, He loves in spite of, His love never fails. Every time we assemble, we should be fully conscious of provoking love.

Then we see we are to provoke to “good works.” These words literally mean valuable actions. On the positive side, when we assemble, we should be inciting people to do actions that are valuable or eternal. If there is no eternal value in the action, we should, on the negative side, be disputing those actions.

We know that when we assemble together, we should focus on learning the needs of others, encouraging them to love as God loves, and inciting eternal actions.   Verse twenty-five then addresses the not “forsaking,” meaning if someone has left the assembling all together, they cannot be helped neither can they help others.

Verse twenty-five does go on to tell us one more thing we are to do when we assemble. We are to exhort one another. This word is the Greek word parakeleo, the same root word used for the Holy Spirit’s role in being our comforter. The word literally means “call near.” In the world of social distancing we are not talking about standing side by side. The idea is to bring someone along with you on the journey. Now we are learning about others’ needs, encouraging them to love as God loves, inciting works that are eternal and inviting others to walk with you on this journey.

This is why the church is to assemble and what we are to do when we assemble.  The spiritual goal is NOT ATTENDANCE. You are not a spiritual giant because you attend every time the doors are open. If you are not doing the things we just saw you are failing. Attendance to a place is a means to be able to do these things. Right now, we are unable to attend. Does this mean we cease from doing these things? The answer is an emphatic NO. The number we can assemble with may be down to the “two or three gathered together in my name” but the actions should not cease.

We live in a time where God has provided technology that allows us to do something previous generations could not. I can use the phone, social media, and video meetings to “consider” another or learn what their needs are. I can send a message of encouragement to love as God loves. I can talk to another to encourage them to do good works that are eternal. What a great opportunity to have technology and for many the time to send messages of the gospel to others.  People are scared and stir-crazy; we can give eternal hope. And, as a church, we can encourage others to walk with us through this. We continue to hear a phrase
“together, alone.” We may have to keep our distance, but the church is not a building, it is its people.

Were we as a church doing these things before when we were all together?

Or were we satisfied that we obeyed the command of God because we met together?

One more thought. In verse twenty-five we learn that we are to do this more as we see the coming of the Lord is nearer. The discussion has been that we are to meet more not less. This verse has been used to criticize churches who no longer have three to four services a week. The argument given is that we should be having more services. After studying this passage with regard to the thought given and then in the larger context, I see it differently. It is not that the church should assemble more, but that the church should be provoking love and works more, should be exhorting more. Yes, we should assemble but if assembly does not bring about more of the above, what is the point?

All of this will end. There will be a day in which the church will be able to assemble all together. What will be the change? Do not go back to the way it was. Change now. Because we can. Let us do what we should have been doing as a church so that when we come together again, we just keep doing it.


As you plan to re-open and assemble together once again just how to do that may be a bit overwhelming. Where do you start? We have developed a downloadable talking point document to help you walk through aspects of your church ministry – some that are obvious and others that are not. You can find those talking points here or on our download page.

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.

Church Preparedness for Potential Pandemic

It does not matter how small or how large a church is, plans should be thoughtfully made for potential disasters. Thinking through how your church might be affected – from at risk members to outside ministries and outreaches – will help in implementing plans quickly should the need arise.

Whether a hurricane, tornado, blizzard, earthquake or pandemic, each church has a responsibility to prepare for the unexpected for its area. It does not matter how small or how large a church is, plans should be thoughtfully made for each of these and other potential situations. While we are not overly concerned with the present information regarding the virus, it would be prudent to prepare in the event that local, state or federal agencies enact social distancing or quarantine measures for a particular area. Thinking through how your church might be affected – from at risk members to outside ministries and outreaches – will help in implementing plans quickly should the need arise.

Guidance is being provided to employers on how to prepare for potential disruption during this current coronavirus (Covid-19) situation. In an effort to help churches prudently prepare should the present situation escalate into more outbreaks locally, regionally or nationally, we are including links to the most up to date and factual information we can find.

Remember, the current thinking by the coronavirus task force is that those with compromised immune systems, chronic illnesses, and the elderly are the most at risk. The present focus is to protect those populations. If you have a nursing home ministry, contact the facility and follow their guidance on ministering at the facility. Those who have hospital ministries also need to contact administrative officials to seek guidance on the protocols healthcare facilities may implement.

For your congregants, encourage families to be vigilant with hand washing protocols, provide hand sanitizer and tissues throughout the buildings, and consider changing greeting habits between church members for the duration of the potential risk. Encourage anyone who is sick to stay home, including those who may hold ministry responsibilities. Be vigilant in following cleaning protocols on property, especially in public areas, food and beverage areas, and restrooms. It may become necessary to temporarily suspend services if local authorities advise no social gatherings. Determine if there is a way your church may still be able to conduct an online service via a Facebook live video, YouTube channel or other social media mediums. Make those plans now in order to work out any technical issues and to provide the information to your members.

What You Need To Know About COVID-19 factsheet

What To Do If You Are Sick With COVID-19 factsheet

Symptoms of Covid-19

John Hopkins Coronavirus Tracking Map

How to Conduct a Risk Assessment for Exposure

Coughing and Sneezing Etiquette

Hand washing information including posters, stickers, fact sheets, and videos

Printable Posters for Staying Home When Sick and Slow the Spread of Germs Place these posters in nursery and children’s area, entryways, kitchens, and office areas.

OSHA Overview regarding COVID-19

Protecting Workers During a Pandemic FactSheet (OSHA) Although specifically for employers, much of this factsheet may be applied in a church or school setting.

Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers to Plan and Respond to Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)

CDC Travel Health Notices

We will continue to add information as it becomes available during this round of concern.

Feel free to share in the comments ways your church plans for emergency situations and continuing ministry.

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.

When Death Comes to the Church

It is never easy to watch a church fall towards death. Fear begins to grip the remnant as they wonder what will become of them, of the church’s legacy, of the community it is a part of. There are many reasons for a church dying, some are of their own doing, others are because of the damage of others. Regardless of the actual cause, it is always because of sin.

September has been a tough month. A high school friend passed away suddenly. A dear college and ministry friend died after a yearlong battle with brain cancer. Amid all of this was the 18th anniversary of 9/11. The idea of death has been a constant thought for the past few weeks. If you have never experienced the death of a loved one, then you may not understand that with the loss of that person is also other deaths. There is the death of dreams. The death of traditions. The death of hope for some when they can’t see how they could possibly go on. The end of stability and routine. Eventually these things will return, though changed, as time passes, and others come into their lives.

Death, however, does not only come to people. We have seen far too many churches die. The death of a church is rarely sudden. It is more along the lines of a cancer that eats away the life of the church. People slowly leave as they begin to see the inevitability. Often there is only a remnant of people that stay until the end.

The process of death is the same. Once a church has been diagnosed as dying there is often denial, an inability to accept reality. “We just have to have faith.” Once all the activities and “doing” and those doing all the “things” have been exhausted in order to “save the church” some of the faithful remnant begin the slow leave. The slow leave is when they stop serving like they used to. They don’t come as often. They are out of town more. Ailments flare up more often. Being at church is more painful than not being there. It is difficult to watch what you love die.  

Many times, people from the outside begin contacting the pastor with their concerns. Some will be encouragers and say to keep fighting. While this is a nice sentiment, it is tantamount to a doctor prescribing chemo or radiation for a patient on life support. An exhausted, discouraged church people cannot continue without seeing some glimmer of hope. Those who truly want to help will be completely honest with the pastor and the remnant. They may be gentle in their advice at first. However, if the advice falls on deaf ears, they may resort to being blunt. Their suggestions will then be this: merge or close. In other words, join with others in a life-giving move (a blood transfusion) or pull the plug.

We use the example of a roller coaster hill when illustrating the downward decline. Not many pastors or church members recognize the beginning of the downward fall. Once that downward turn begins there are steps to take to prevent the crash to the bottom. A complete review of how the church ministers, and more importantly the “why” everything is done, is necessary for a successful revitalization. Through the process, although brutal to complete, a plan of action can be determined to set the church on a new path of growth and life.

However, once the church is on that downward fall, it takes great effort and radical change to reverse course. Unfortunately, many churches refuse to take those necessary steps. Instead, they throw as much time and money as they have until all is spent. Or they do nothing and are satisfied to remain where and how they are if they can meet the bills. They are ineffective in any aspect. They eventually become a burden to the church community. Most sadly, once their doors do close, they are a poor testimony to the community at large. Churches do not die well. They certainly do not glorify our Lord and Savior when they do.

It is never easy to watch a church fall towards death. Fear begins to grip the remnant as they wonder what will become of them, of the church’s legacy, of the community it is a part of. There are many reasons for a church dying, some are of their own doing, others are because of the damage of others. Regardless of the actual cause, it is always because of sin. Until the sin is dealt with biblically, the church may not recover at all. God cannot bless His church when there is sin present. He didn’t bless the children of Israel whenever there was sin present in the camp. Why would we think He would bless a modern church if sin rules?

Rather than close their doors churches do have the option of merging with other believers of like faith. For many this is a scary prospect. But from death comes life. When a Christian dies we know that they have gone on to eternal life. When a seed is planted in the ground, it must die before life of a new plant can begin. Life can also come when two or more churches die to themselves and merge together.

In some cases, a struggling church merges with a stable church. This can happen in many ways. The struggling church simply joins with the stable church with the dying church’s assets sold or absorbed by the stable church. A stable church could also send their own members to the struggling church (especially if some distance away) to oversee it and grow a separate strong church in hope that one day the new church could once again become autonomous.

In other cases, several struggling churches could choose to merge together to grow a strong one. This is a bit more complicated as there is usually the issue of who is going to be the pastor. For these situations, someone (whether an evangelist or a seasoned pastor as interim) is usually needed to oversee the merger and to aid in the search for a pastor for the newly formed church.

In the case of mergers there is death also. Death of previous names. Death of some ministries. Death of traditions. Most importantly, however, there needs to be death of self of every member of each church. As this new church forms everyone must be willing to lay on the altar all those things that they want, they desire. It is only when this occurs that a church merger will become successful.

Death is never easy. But for the Christian, death is not the end. For a church, death does not have to be the end either. Death brings change but it also brings life. If your church is on the brink of death, consider what can be done to let it die and at the same time bring new life.

Photo by sergio souza on Unsplash

People or Perfection?

… perfectionism is not the same as the pursuit of excellence. In ministry, having a perfectionist mindset can be detrimental to your ability to minister with and to others.

Hi. My name is Melissa and I’m a recovering perfectionist.

I say recovering because truly it is a daily battle. Straighten that picture. Fluff that pillow. Refold the towels. Re-clean the kitchen after, ahem, others have done so. I have gotten better about NOT doing those things. The only area where I still “redo” is in loading the dishwasher, but this is a family agreement because the men of the home know I WILL make.every.dish.fit.somehow.

But I did some damage before I realized how my perfectionist ways were hurting my family.

Let me clarify that perfectionism is not the same as the pursuit of excellence. To pursue excellence, we focus on doing the best that we can within our gifts, talents, and abilities; we strive to do our best as unto the Lord. To pursue excellence does not harm or hurt another person. Perfectionism, however, becomes self-focused. It is based in pride in that we seek others to praise us for what we have done. It might also be based in fear which can cause us to feel paralyzed to the point of doing nothing. Both are compulsions that create an atmosphere of neglecting that which is good – people over perfection. Perfectionism often hurts others.

Are you a perfectionist? Does it have to be done just like you want? Do you go behind people and redo what they have done just so it “looks better” or “looks right”? Do you tend to fluff and fuss over decorating? Does it have to be done your way? Does your skin start crawling, hands start fidgeting, feet start tapping if you see something “out of place”? Are you unable to concentrate until you “fix” what is “wrong”? Do you have a comment regarding your neighbor’s (or stranger’s) Christmas decorations? (What were they thinking? They need to straighten those lights. How many blow ups do you need?)

Still not sure if you are a perfectionist or not? Ask your spouse. Ask your kids. Ask your friends. Ask your co-workers. I’m sure, if they are brave enough, they will tell you.

Did you know that the only other people who are going to notice when things aren’t “just so” are other perfectionists? Most people (and by this, I mean in the high 90% range) do not notice if something isn’t “right.” After all, exactly what is “right”? Is it your definition? If so, guess what? Everyone else has a definition as well. So there really isn’t a “right,” is there?

In ministry, having a perfectionist mindset can be detrimental to your ability to minister with and to others.

This is the tale of two pastors and their wives. Pastor #1, at one time, was bi-vocational before he became the pastor of a church where he pastored full-time. His secular vocation: professional painter. One day not long after the church had freshened the paint in the sanctuary two couples in the church came to the pastor and asked if they could paint a few walls in the education building to freshen it as well. They didn’t want any help or recognition. They simply wanted to serve the Lord, their pastor, and their church. Pastor #1 knew that they had some experience in painting, so he agreed to their offer and request. While Pastor #1 was away on vacation these dear folks came in and painted three walls of the education building as accent walls in a dark color which matched the doors and door frames. It was the style of that time and did look nice. When Pastor #1 returned he went to check on the progress of the project. It was complete. BUT.

He called my husband asking what he was going to do. When my husband arrived, he looked it over. It was a tad splotchy in places, particularly higher up (9-foot walls) where it would have been difficult to reach or see from the floor. What Pastor #1 failed to take into consideration was that the couples were all in their 70’s. Flexibility on ladders and diminishing eyesight led to a paint job that wasn’t exactly how the Pastor would have done it. Pastor #1, the professional painter, was experiencing great distress. My husband told him he had two options. 1) Leave it alone and receive it as work done “as unto the Lord” and a blessing from these dear people. 2) Redo the paint job but understand that he would more than likely hurt these dear folks’ feelings. Pastor #1 chose to leave it and learned to accept the blessing of his people “as unto the Lord.” After all, ministry is people.

Mrs. Pastor #1 also had a few perfectionist tendencies. As we worked with her, we noticed that she was usually the one to do all the decorating for certain events. She tried to play it off as she wanted to do it for the ladies but when it came down to it, she was a perfectionist. Over time it became an issue with the ladies. One day I explained to her that she was denying the ladies an opportunity of service as well as keeping them at arm’s length from her by not including them in the decorating. I suggested that if she was concerned with having things done “just so” to set up one table exactly how she wanted it to look and have the supplies available for the ladies to duplicate all the other tables. (They usually had 20 to 30 8-foot tables to decorate.) She agreed. The ladies were excited to be included and willingly set the remaining tables up exactly as the first. Camaraderie began to develop with Mrs. Pastor #1 and between the ladies. Ministry is people.

Same church several years later and there was a new pastor and pastor’s wife. We began to get to know this family and quickly realized that both had perfectionist tendencies. When we finally went back for a visit THE paint job was painted over. We remarked that we liked the new color. The conversation quickly went to how they couldn’t believe how terrible the previous paint job looked. We tried to tell them the story behind it, but it fell on deaf ears. We knew then that they might have a developing issue. As time passed, we watched as both Pastor #2 and Mrs. Pastor #2 began redoing things that their members had done. The reality of the seriousness of the situation became very apparent in preparing for a very large community outreach several years later.

We were able to assist them in the preparations for the event during the days leading to it. Pastor #2 asked a few of the teen boys to change the lettering on a roadside sign. The boys did so and left to run an errand. When they returned, they noticed that the job they had done had been changed. Not the message, but the placement of the letters. Their words: “Looks like Pastor changed what we did.” Ouch. For teen boys to notice, that is huge. Ministry is people, not perfection.

Mrs. Pastor #2 was not receiving very many positives either. They were having problems with people not volunteering to help with projects or events which resulted in Mrs. Pastor #2 “doing all the work”. She was one of the “fluff and fuss” type of perfectionists; everything had to look “just so.” She was exhausted. She also began making statements of being “done”. Yet, she still didn’t realize that it was her own doing that had caused the problem. As we helped with the preparations for the event, we noticed many of the ladies who did come to help avoided working with Mrs. Pastor #2. They passed her off to others. Comments of “what difference does it make what I do, she’s only going to change it” were overheard. As she gave instructions, eye rolls and audible sighs were observed. This was especially surprising as many of the ladies were in their 70’s and 80’s and not mere teenagers. Instead of creating an atmosphere of camaraderie she had inadvertently created one of hostility toward herself and ministering at the church in general. Ministry is people, not perfection.

Pastor #2 often commented in church how many hours Mrs. Pastor #2 put in working on projects “all by herself.” Although he believed he was praising his wife, he unwittingly was adding to the issue. He didn’t try to figure out why those who had once served willingly and readily stopped doing so. Instead, without realizing it, he was “service shaming” (a back-handed way of badgering) his people from the pulpit. The more he did it, the more resentment and an even greater unwillingness to serve grew.

There are four options when working with others in ministry and serving in practical areas.

Accept the work offered “as unto the Lord.” It is always our advice to anyone who is willing to serve in their church that whatever they do should be done as well as someone who might be paid to do the same job. This would be those big projects like painting, plumbing, or other construction related projects. It is the responsibility of the leader to ensure that the one offering is qualified to do it. For those projects where a professional is not needed it may become necessary to simply accept what was done as is and as unto the Lord even when it may not be how we would have done it. The Lord was pleased with their willingness to serve. We should be as well. This is the best option for ministry is people.

Provide an example or explicit instruction on what needs to be done if continuity or your “just so” is that important. (Remember, the “just so” isn’t always that important.) Communication is often lacking when things don’t go as you hoped they would. As we showed Mrs. Pastor #1, simply providing an example of how the table should be set was all that was needed for the ladies to happily serve without confusion and ensure that there was continuity in decorating. However, be careful in your “instructions.” Being too nit-picky in how something is done may not be the best especially when it is a job that may have multiple ways of accomplishing the same goal. Clear communication without nit-picking is a good way to have ministry focus on people. Too much nit-picking in your instruction places perfection over people.

Allow people to serve but go behind them “fixing” what they did to suit your desires. This is a dangerous option. You will be telling your people through your actions that what they did “as unto the Lord” was not good enough in your eyes. This is demeaning and dismissive. It is also very damaging to your ministry. Eventually your people will stop serving, because they know that you will go behind them and change it. Ministry is people, not perfection.

Decide to do the job yourself. If you feel the job must be done a certain way and that no one will do it the way you want, do it yourself rather than going behind “fixing” things. If you are going to serve, everything you do must be done “as unto the Lord.” Therefore, you must give up complaining that no one helps if you insist that things must be done a certain way. You have effectively telegraphed to your people that you do not want their help, at least not what they have to offer. If you cannot give up doing things yourself and complaining, you must realize that you will become exhausted. You will eventually become bitter toward others. You will one day become “done” with ministry because you feel no one is serving with you. Ministry is people. Ministry is not about perfection.

Pastor and Mrs. #1 figured it out and have gone on to serve in other churches successfully developing great lay leaders and volunteers. Pastor and Mrs. #2 still struggle today in their ministry. They have yet to identify their perfectionism. And they and their ministry are suffering because of it. Do you see yourself? Is this you now or perhaps somewhere in the past? Have you had an “aha” moment today? It is possible to overcome perfectionist tendencies, but you must be conscious of them. Once you are you will be able to choose people over perfection.