Creating Church (or Region/District) Bylaws
This tab includes:
- A list of specific considerations before writing your bylaws.
- A general template to start from.
You will find:
- Some specific examples of other Missionary Churches’ bylaws that you could use as a springboard for yours:
- Many organizations, including many attorney practices, can help you to create your bylaws for a fee. Make sure they are familiar with the specific needs of churches. Here are two Christian organizations:
Once you have considered these things and started writing your bylaws, feel free to contact the national and/or your regional office for help with specifics, if needed. There is NO FEE for our services. For the national office, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Things to consider before writing your bylaws:
- Any time you reference the Constitution of the Missionary Church, don’t use numbering to specify which article; instead, use the article title or wording similar to this: “the corresponding article(s) in the Constitution of the Missionary Church.” In this way you don’t need to change your bylaws when the MC changes theirs. This is also true for references to the Regional/District/Network bylaws if referenced.
- Be careful that you don’t write the bylaws so tight that you limit flexibility in areas where it is helpful. For example, avoid specifying the time of the business meeting or setting term limits. If you say a maximum of one term of three years, you’re stuck.
- Decide in advance what the leadership structure of your church will look like by considering the following options:
- Elders, board, or a combination?
- Pastor & staff roles in leadership (The MC Constitution has clear guidelines for the selection of a pastor.)
- Election and nomination process – who nominates, and is it an affirmation vote or a vote for one of a number?
- Will there be term limits?
- Details of the local business meeting:
- How often and how is it going to be announced
- Who can vote? (the MC Constitution requires people to be 16 years of age and members of the local church)
- What constitutes a positive vote? Specify what number of people would constitute a quorum.
- Can it be done virtually?
- What officers does your state require you to have?
- Please do not write bylaws based on previous bad experiences, but write them based on what is biblical and what has worked well in other churches. Many times policies can be effectively used to deal with specific issues.
- Bylaws can be proactive about risk. So, you will want to decide how you will provide indemnification. In other words, how is the church going to secure (protect) an individual against future loss or damages arising from events that occur while the individual serves in his/her capacity as a board member, staff (employee), officer, or volunteer? This can be done in two ways:
- If the church has sufficient resources, the bylaws might state that the church will indemnify those acting on behalf of the church. However, this is generally not a good approach as the resources needed can be large.
- State in the bylaws that the church will purchase what is commonly referred to as a D&O policy to provide indemnity for individuals while serving in their capacity for the church. Any insurance company that provides coverage for churches will have this kind of policy available.
- A general template to start from.
If you would like to become a Missionary Church this will show you how to do that.
What it means
Becoming a part of a team
The Missionary Church is more like a team than an institution — more like a family than an organization. A team works together for a common goal. The members of a team both give to and receive from the benefits of their commitment to the team. Historically, the people of the Missionary Church have been cooperative in nature demonstrating good unity in the faith.
Commitment to live by the driving motivation of a progressive mission statement
Many local churches have adopted their own mission statements to articulate their local ministry goals, but the following statement is a summary of concepts that guide the overall ministry of the U.S. church:
The Missionary Church, in obedience to Jesus Christ her Lord,
is committed to being holy people of God in the world
and to building His Church by worldwide evangelism, discipleship and
multiplication of growing churches, all to the glory of God.
Commitment to becoming a global-minded church
Actively pursuing a vision that includes spreading the gospel throughout the whole world is a distinctive of the Missionary Church. Over 100 missionaries serve in more than 20 countries and our missionaries serve in over 120 countries.
The world also includes across the street, around the state and throughout the U.S. More than 200 churches have been planted since 1990. Multiplication will increase as local churches catch the vision to become parent churches.
Your pastor and his wife are a part of a support team
A team made up of other pastors, pastors’ wives and experienced church leaders.
“As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” (Proverbs 27:17)
Accountability. The pastors of the Missionary Church are responsible to their district, region or network leadership and the president of the denomination. They are accountable for their own personal integrity and effectiveness in ministry. This authority is not “lorded over” the pastor but is provided as an aid to the enhancement of his ministry.
Team spirit and support. “No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent.” (John Donne, 16th cent. English poet and clergyman)
We work hard to cultivate a team spirit among the pastors, where competition is minimized and mutual care for one another is priority. Many of the pastors are linked together in ministry partner relationships for prayer and encouragement. We are living in an age when the art of developing healthy relationships is often rare. A cultural war of values is also taking place which militates against living a holy life. Building healthy inter-dependence is extremely important. “…in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.” (Romans 12:5).
Continuing education. Through a variety of conferences and continuing education programs, Missionary Church pastors are regularly exposed to up-to-date instruction for help in their preaching and leadership. This kind of education also includes interaction with other pastors as they encourage one another and share their praise reports of what God is doing.
Help in the pastoral search process
A pastoral change is a very strategic time in the life of a church. While the primary responsibility for the selection process lies with the local church, each church has the district, region or network leader at its side, helping it to find approved candidates, conduct interviews and eventually to make a selection.
Merging into the anchor of a rich theological heritage
For some their history is a ball and chain that stifles progress and adaptability. The Missionary Church is using its history as a launching pad for aggressive outreach. While our message from the Bible is unchangeable, our methods of communication must change to reach the culture for Christ.
The heritage of the Missionary Church is best understood if one is aware that the early leaders had a commitment to the position that the Scriptures were to be the source of doctrine and life. In addition to this commitment to be a biblical church, the theological perspective of the Missionary Church recognizes the contribution of John Wesley’s emphasis on “the warmed heart;” A. B. Simpson’s fourfold emphasis on Jesus Christ as Savior, Sanctifier, Healer and Coming King; the Anabaptist concepts of community and brotherhood; and the evangelical emphases of the lost estate of mankind and redemption through Jesus Christ.
The Missionary Church is a unique blend of the thought and life of a people who have sought to build their church according to the Scriptures with an appreciation for their historical roots.
Access to a variety of supportive services for the local church
At various levels of the Missionary Church organization, there are a number of benefits available to the whole team of churches.
- Church Planting Support | Great care is taken to provide assistance in the first 2-3 years of the new church’s life. All planters are provided an education in the church planter’s bootcamp, sponsored by the Church Multiplication Training Center. Ongoing support comes through participation in the New Church Incubator (NCI), a supportive environment for planter and wife that includes coaching and interaction with other planters.
- Youth Ministry | The youth ministry of the entire denomination and district is built around the mission of establishing in every local church a youth ministry that is winning the curious, building the convinced and equipping the committed. Through Bible quizzing, a variety of camping and youth conference events and several kinds of youth mission team experiences (domestic and foreign), the Missionary Church is aggressive at targeting its youth with strong, up-to-date programs that help build disciples for Christ.
- Financial Services | The Missionary Church Investment Foundation, Inc. (MCIF) provides opportunities for investment and financing with competitive and reasonable rates of interest.
- Christian Education | A number of different training events and services are available for lay volunteers and pastors
- Growing a Healthy Church Seminar | The GHC series of seminars (4 levels) is the standard education of ongoing training for pastors and lay leaders. This training helps church leaders to evaluate their work and leads them to make adjustments and changes in order to come closer to the ideal of a “Great Commission” church. GHC is developed and managed by Sonlife Ministries, Wheaton, IL.
- Sonlife Strategy Seminar | Sonlife seminars are the counterpart to Growing a Healthy Church for youth ministry. There are various levels of training for volunteers and full-time youth workers.
Participation in the financial ministry needs of the district/regional and national church
Each year the leadership of Regions, Districts and Networks, adopt a budget for the operation of their ministries through their own agreed upon procedures. Local churches have a voice in this process and each church is asked to give its share of that budget.
Missionary Church. Each Missionary Church is asked to give 2% of its receipts toward the ministries of the Missionary Church, called Investment in Shared Ministries (ISM). The cost of being a denomination and of coordinating, organizing and motivating the effort of local churches in national outreach is funded through this area of the Missionary Church budget. In addition to administrative concerns of the Fort Wayne, Indiana office, funds in this account impact church planting, ethnic ministries, compassion and benevolent ministries, Bethel College, insurance and many other areas. Local church support materials, Growing a Healthy Church workshops, Missionary Church Today and Priority all depend on the Investment in Shared Ministries fund. In fact, excluding world missions, this account supports every aspect of denominational ministry and administration!
The 10% Goal. Though not formally required, the Missionary Church leadership encourage each church to tithe its income, thereby setting a good example for its parishioners to follow. This may or may not include the responsibilities mentioned above. World missions giving needs to be a priority for every church. Many churches give far beyond 10% in support of a variety of missionary efforts that include Missionary and non-Missionary Church missionaries, specific church planting projects, Bethel College, etc.
The above stewardship goals provide every church the opportunity to carry out the New Testament mandates for outreach and evangelism as presented in the mission statement of the Missionary Church.
What it does NOT mean
You have to change the name of your church
While it has been the norm for churches to include the word “Missionary” in their name, many churches in recent years have chosen a variety of names in order to relate to their community or culture. In such cases we ask only that a phrase such as “a ministry of the Missionary Church” be included somewhere on the church’s letterhead and literature for the purpose of avoiding deception and insuring proper identification.
You have to change the personality of your church
The leadership of the Missionary Church has clearly demonstrated flexibility and encouragement for churches to be unique in order to reach their community for Christ. While basic doctrinal uniformity is highly valued, throughout the Missionary Church there is much variety when it comes to the socio-economic make-up of congregations, style of worship, style of music, building architecture, etc.
You have an intruding bureaucracy looking over your shoulder
There is a mutual accountability within the family of the Missionary Church, but there is also a trust relationship that is carefully respected. The local church under the pastor’s leadership has a report responsibility to the Region, district or Network and an annual report to the denominational office. The local church, however, is ultimately responsible to God for its integrity, honesty and faithfulness to biblical truth.
You are an independent church
The Scripture teaches inter-dependence, not independence (1 Corinthians 12:12-26). Mutual accountability is not only needed among individual believers, but also among churches. The Missionary Church is organized so that each church governs its own local ministry, while at the same time having a voluntary submission to the counsel, guidance and authority given to the leadership that is in place to serve them. These leaders are chosen by the pastors and representatives of the local churches.
A bundle of new restrictions
On the contrary, you will be given a strong commission to be free, creative and aggressive for dynamic, outreaching ministry. Instead of being restricted or controlled, local Missionary Churches are to be unleashed with permission to adapt their methods according to the need which culturally relevant ministry demands.
Someone else will choose your future pastors
The primary responsibility to contact pastoral candidates and, eventually, to select a pastor, is in the hands of the local church. The leadership at various levels of the Missionary Church works closely with the leaders of the local church, giving them counsel in the selection process and they are responsible to provide and approve pastoral candidates. The pastoral screening process includes a ministry background check and doctrinal examination, which further assists the local church in locating a suitable pastoral candidate.
Procedure for Chartering a Missionary Church in the United States. (Those interested in partnership from other countries should contact Tami Swymeler.)
Ministers are men and women called of God to serve the church in an official leadership capacity who normally have special education for such a ministry, whose leadership roles are certified through licensure or ordination, and who receive financial remuneration for their services. This includes ministers such as pastors, evangelists, Christian education or youth ministers, chaplains, or persons directly involved in the theological training of people for ministry.
Ministers shall meet the following biblical qualifications:
1. Spiritual maturity and Christian character as evidenced by the fruit of the Spirit as given in Galatians 5:22-23 and by the qualities required for Christian leaders in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9
2. Gifts of leadership confirmed by the church of which they are members (Ephesians 4:11-14)
Ministers shall meet the following educational qualifications:
1. A high school diploma or its equivalent
2. Additional education as set forth in the description of licensed and ordained ministers on page 74 of the MC Constitution. (Note: Special consideration may be given after consultation with the candidate, the regional, district or network leadership, and the president or his representative.)
Ministers shall meet the following denominational qualifications:
1. Participation in and completion of a Pastoral Orientation of the Missionary Church
2. A commitment to hold and to teach the denominational “Articles of Faith and Practice” (page 4 of the MC Constitution)
3. A commitment to support the programs of the Missionary Church
4. A commitment to communicate by word and example a Christian worldview and lifestyle as reflected in the Missionary Church Constitution and Manual
5. Membership in a local Missionary Church unless otherwise approved by the regional, district or network leadership due to extenuating circumstances.
6. All credentialed ministers are required to attend their regional, district or network conference when they meet unless there are extenuating circumstances which are reported to and approved by the leadership of that entity prior to conference.
It is the policy of the Missionary Church not to license or ordain a person who has been divorced, divorced and remarried, or married to a person who has been divorced. In cases where there are extenuating circumstances, application may be made to the regional, district or network leadership and upon a 75% vote of that body, a recommendation may be sent to the General Board which shall appoint a special commission to thoroughly investigate the case and give approval or disapproval.
Categories & Procedures for Credentials
(a) Establish membership in a local Missionary Church
(b) Counsel with their pastor and regional, district or network leadership as to the nature and condition of their call from God to the ministry
(c) Receive an official recommendation from the board of their local church
(d) Submit a completed Application for Ministerial License Part I for consideration by their regional, district or network leadership
Applicants for the ministry living in an area where there is no Missionary Church shall comply with steps (b) and (c) immediately above. If they are unsure who the Missionary Church leadership for their location is please contact the Missionary Church Headquarters (260-747-2027) and speak to a representative in Generate.
Licensed ministers are those whose ministerial calling and gifts have been formally recognized by Missionary Church leadership, through the granting of a ministerial license, authorizing them for and appointing them to actual service in the ministry, subject to supervision and evaluation, as a step toward ordination.
(a) Applicants must have completed a minimum course of study consisting of at least one course in each of the following: Old Testament, New Testament, biblical or systematic theology, practical ministry theology, biblical interpretation, homiletics or communication, leadership and Pastoral Orientation of the Missionary Church; and
(b) The applicant shall be reviewed and recommended by the regional, district or network leadership.
Ordained ministers are ministers whose calling, gifts, and usefulness have been demonstrated and enhanced by proper training and experience, and who have been separated to the service of Christ by the regional, district or network leadership and by the solemn act of ordination and thus have been fully invested with all the functions of the Christian ministry.
For use in the United States only. Those from other countries should contact Tami Swymeler.
Please use highlighted forms if possible.
Solicitud para Licencia Ministerial – WORD
Para el Cónyuge del/la Solicitante de Credenciales – RTF
Solicitud para Licencia Ministerial – PDF
Para el Cónyuge del/la Solicitante de Credenciales – PDF
Application Des diplômes française – WORD
* Please complete application and return as an attachment to the Missionary Church regional, district or network leadership.
Online Payment for Background/Credit Check
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Pastoral Orientation Course
The Pastor Orientation Course gives a broad introduction to key information about the vision, ministry, history, resources and responsibilities of every leader and church in the Missionary Church.
You may pay for your Missionary Church Pastoral Orientation Course with your PayPal account or with a credit or debit card. Clicking the Pay Now button below will transfer you to the PayPal website.
There are many reasons why churches and other ministries should consider incorporation. After much research and consideration some come to the conclusion that they should not, for various reasons, pursue that route.
The Missionary Church encourages its churches to incorporate.
The most important reason to incorporate is to protect individual members from personal liability associated with the negligent actions of fellow members. Other benefits of incorporation include:
- Clarification of the ministry’s purpose, procedures, and vision.
- Eligibility to apply for and receive grants through federal or faith-based organizations and foundations.
- Eligibility to receive special mailing rates and other discounts from vendors.
Incorporating a church is done on a state level, usually with the Secretary of State, and there are differences in the requirements for each state.
Churches should contact their regional/district office and leaders for specifics on incorporating in their particular state. Contact Generate at MCUSA Headquarters via email for more details. Other resources are here at the Brotherhood Mutual Website and for a membership fee the ChurchLaw&Tax website provides good information.
Numerous ministries will do this work for you for a fee and will come up in a Google search, among them is one we are familiar with: Luke 9:23 Ministries.
Each state, and sometimes county, has different requirements for being able to officiate at weddings and sign a legal marriage certificate. Make sure you are eligible to sign a certificate especially if you are visiting another state. Here are two links that clarify some of these differences:
If you are still in doubt contact your local Missionary Church leadership.
Churches organized as a 501(c)3, or under a denominational 501(c)3, are usually tax exempt and do not need to pay taxes. See this IRS site for details.
However, though taxes do not usually need to be paid certain filing requirements are required as this link explains.
The IRS makes this illuminating booklet available to help churches and other religious organizations ensure their compliance with the current federal tax code. The table of contents includes the following topics: tax-exempt status and how congregations may unintentionally jeopardize it, reimbursement of business expenses, record keeping and the length of time that records must be kept, paying employee taxes, tax audits in relationship to religious organizations, and housing allowances and other regulations relevant for clergy compensation.
A number of great sources are available to the church to help with the financial and legal side of starting a church. The Generate team at Missionary Church Headquarters can help in some cases, but here are some organizations that can provide comprehensive training, support or services for a fee.
Most churches are blessed with significant facilities with which to serve the Lord in ministry to their own people and the community around them. Using them to the fullest extent possible to extend hospitality to members and guests is clearly a stewardship issue.
When making the facility available to individuals in the church and services outside the church it is important to have a very clear understanding of the responsibilities of each party. This resource from Church Law & Tax clarifies and leads you to some best practices in this area.
A church is not exempt from copyright laws for its printing, PowerPoint presentations, music, videos and any other form of copying information written or produced by others. CCLI is an organization that specifically keeps track of music and video copyright details used in worship whereas Church Law & Tax can help with general copyright issues.
Here is Richard Hammar, J.D.’s list of the top 10 most important documents you need.
Articles of Incorporation
Your church needs a safe and fireproof place to keep all important documents of this nature. While a fireproof safe on-site is good for monies and documents that need to be accessed on a regular basis, I think a bank safe deposit box is a better location for documents like the Articles of Incorporation. Make a copy for access on-site if you wish, but keep the original record off site.
Corporate Annual Reports.
Failure to file this state report can jeopardize your church’s corporate non-profit status. States differ as to their regulations. If you are unaware of your state’s requirements, contact the Secretary of State’s office and make sure everything is in order. Find out who in the church normally handles this crucial annual filing and set up a system of checks and double checks. Documents of this nature are now often filed exclusively by email. Whose email is on file with the Secretary of State?
Constitution or Bylaws
Put a copy in the Elders’ Handbook and make sure all financial officers have copies. Many church and committee decisions are guided by this document and are invalidated by failure to conform to its dictates. However, in my experience many churches get fixated on the Constitution and By-Laws and overlook the other vital documents on this list.
These records include the monthly Income & Expense reports and Balance Sheet. Too many church staff and elected officers don’t really understand these reports. Ask questions if you need to. The only dumb question is the one not asked. Those who have fiduciary responsibility for the church cannot plead ignorance if something goes wrong.
List of Members
What do your By-Laws say about official membership? Just because “we’ve always done it this way,” is not good enough. Church leaders must assure that church membership rolls are maintained according to what the legal documents say. Have you checked the wording lately?
Minutes of Meetings
Minutes of membership meetings and board and committee meetings. Who keeps the minutes? And equally as important, who keeps the permanent records after the volunteer secretary no longer holds that position? Where are these records now?
This means not only your multi-peril insurance policy for the buildings, vehicles, and activities of the church, but also any additional policies of whatever type. These extra policies may be with a different insurer and are easily separated from the multi-peril policy you may be most familiar with.
“But churches don’t pay taxes,” you say? Oh yes, they do. How about payroll taxes? And be sure to include other documentation your ministry staff and employees provide regarding housing allowance and other benefits that help them to avoid tax.
These records are important and they are confidential. They must be treated as such. While Hammar includes these documents as among the “top ten for church treasurers,” some think they really must be managed by someone other than the treasurer.
This is one of those documents that must not disappear, and therefore, I think it is one that is best kept off-site in a bank safe deposit box with a photocopy in the church safe. Along with the deed ought to be the mortgage papers. Some churches have special provisions in the mortgage paperwork that the original signers knew about but the newcomers on the Board and staff may not have ever heard about. Please review your mortgage documents now and avoid unpleasant surprises like balloon payments and refinancing dates.
Need help navigating the various financial matters of your congregation? Whether you’re interested in competitive pastor salaries, staff compensation, tax matters or budgeting, you can find the information you need at the Congregational Resource Guide (CRG).
Church Law and Tax is part of Christianity Today and has numerous resources available in the legal and financial areas of ministry.
Legal and financial help is available at a fee from Luke 9:23 Ministries