Creating Church (or Region/District) Bylaws

This tab includes:

  1. A list of specific considerations before writing your bylaws.
  2. A general template to start from.

You will find:

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 [email protected].

  1. 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.
  1. A general template to start from.

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.

​T​he 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.

The Congregational Resource Guide (CRG) can help navigating the various financial matters of your congregation. It provides direction regarding competitive pastor salaries, staff compensation, tax matters or budgeting.

Church Law & Tax, a ministry of Christianity Today

Luke 9:23 Ministries 

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.

Computers help make the day-to-day operations of running a ministry easier to manage. It’s important for ministries to take special care with the information that’s housed on them- everything from financial records to personal information about employees to banking information. Be aware of how much damage could be done if the security of your ministry’s computer were compromised.
Brotherhood Mutual’s Safety Library has many free articles, checklists, sample forms, and other resources that can help your ministry make cyber safety a priority. Here are some examples of what you’ll find:

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.

Financial Records

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?

Insurance Policies

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.

Tax Records

“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.

Employment Records

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.