What are bylaws?
Bylaws are rules made by a company/organization/church or society to control the actions of its members. Also, a regulation made by a local authority; an ordinance.
Simply put, your Church Bylaws are considered a legal document that dictates how your organization must be governed. If your Church Board doesn’t follow the stipulations of what is outlined in your Church Bylaws it can have devastating consequences to your church/organization and even the board members themselves. Since bylaws are such a huge deal, it stands to reason that what they contain and how they are used should be taken very seriously.
Amendments to the bylaws are extremely important in cases such as a law changes that might affect the way your church effectively does their business. In these cases, it’s often necessary to amend your bylaws as soon as possible.
How do we amend bylaws?
Review Bylaws – Look to see what it states as the procedure. Remember just because the Robert’s Rules of Order gives a procedure that doesn’t mean that your bylaws should give the same procedure. Discuss Amendments – After discussing how the bylaws are going to be amended, write down what bylaw you want to be changed and how you want it worded. Check with several people in the organization and have them read it.
- Do the proposed changes make sense?
- Do the change affect other bylaws in the organization?
- If so, how?
- Do other changes need to be proposed if bylaw change is adopted?
- If so, word the change carefully and completely.
Tips and Warnings:
Bylaws can be a method of avoiding crisis situations and can help protect the church from liability. Make sure that they are clearly written. If you choose to incorporate as a non-profit organization, it is important to write the bylaws before incorporating with the state or federal government.
See Church Bylaws sample below guidelines.
Guidelines to Writing Church Bylaws
- Meet with the church board to decide your bylaws and determine the focus of your church.
- The secretary of the board should take minutes for the bylaw meeting.
- Write the church’s official name, bank documents, bills, bank accounts and other pertinent documentation.
- Define the church’s purpose, what you plan to address through your ministries, and your legal status. Is your church a registered tax-exempt non-profit organization or do you have another tax status? This will help you define how you will operate in terms of donations and it’s very important. Only non-profit organizations can accept tax-deductible donations.
- Discuss the denomination of your church, If your church belongs to a specific denomination, it’s important that you mention this in your bylaws. This will help guide your church’s statement of faith or what your congregation holds to be true.
- Write your church’s mission statement and outline how the leaders of your church plan to achieve its purpose and goals. Will your church focus on outreach projects or programs?
- Discuss the requirements for membership to your church, including the process of becoming a member and each congregant’s right, responsibilities, and requirements for members if any applies. Include whether congregants will have voting rights or   if the voting rights are held solely by the board.
- Define how staff members are chosen or elected and their responsibilities within the congregation. Clearly outline how the choosing or election process will work.
- Write the rules for board meetings, including who has the right to vote, how the meetings will be regulated, and how often financial updates should occur.
- Define the departments within your church, such as finance, women ministry, youth ministry, pro-life or other areas that your church will focus on.
- Discuss the church’s ability to own land and have assets and whose name they will be listed under. A church must abide by state laws. Some states require incorporation in order to own land. If incorporation is decided against by the board, then the assets of the church should be placed in one person’s name.
- Explain how your church’s bylaws can be amended and if a majority vote is required. As the church grows, revisions might need to be made to the bylaws.
- Plan in case the church might be dissolved and how church assets will be distributed if the church closes.
- Hold a vote to approve the bylaws. If a majority of the board members approve it, this will be a legally binding document to guide the church.