Constitution and By-Laws

Governing Documents for Churches

1. This process defines the structure of a church and creates personal liability protection.
2. The Constitution of a church answers the question, “Who are we?” The By-Laws express how the church will do business.
3. Policies & Procedures provide guidelines for how ministries operate.

3 Steps to Constitution and By-Laws

Three main areas are necessary for a church when determining the documents by which they will be governed.  These provide the resources needed to comply with applicable laws by the state and government and also Biblical mandates.

These three consist of the Articles of Incorporation necessary for the state.  The Constitution and By-Laws (can be one and the same) include what is necessary “by law” and identify those areas regarding church structure.  Policies and Procedures include those items needed for day to day church administration.  These items when done well provide a structure, good organization and legal protection for the church.

Included in this packet you will find an explanation of each area.  Following this, are examples from churches can use as a reference piece when producing their own documents.

  1. Articles of Incorporation
  • These are filed by a church with the Secretary of State.  This is a legal document that is recognized by the State of Georgia.  The online forms are provided HERE.  You will find the forms there to incorporate as a not for profit.  The cost is around $140.
  • These forms identify the name of the church, address, names, and contact information for the lead pastor and leadership.  It also identifies denominational affiliation of the church and to whom the church and its assets would go should it dissolve.

2. By-Laws

  • This document describes the foundation of who, what and how the church does business.  It addresses what the church needs to have “by law.”  There are eight main areas the by-laws should address. These are:
    • Structure
      • What is the framework of the structure of our church?
      • How are we led?  Deacons?  Elders?  Teams? Committees?
      • Statement of Faith
        • What do we believe?
      • Membership
        • How do we receive members and dissolve membership?
        • What is the process for membership?
      • Leadership
        • General Church Staff
        • Church Officers basic information
        • How is the pastor called to the church?
        • What reasons can a pastor be dismissed by the church?  What governmental body of the church can do this and what is the process for doing so?
      • Personal Liability for Organizational Activities
      • Meetings
        • When do we have meetings?
        • How are members notified?
        • What constitutes a vote?  What is a quorum?
      • Disputes
        • How are members disciplined?
        • How do we rescind membership?
      • Procedures
        • How do we handle amendments?
        • What is the procedure for dissolution?

    3. Policies and Procedures

    • Policies and procedures are more fluid and can be changed, modified and adapted through smaller sub-committees and/or teams.  They can be adjusted to fit the current church situation and as the need arises.
    • Some of the policies a church needs to have in place pertaining to these areas:
      • Financial Policies
        • This area deals with budgeting, signing of checks, procedures regarding the handling of money, reimbursements, etc.
      • Human Resources
        • Hiring, firing, accountability, evaluation, vacation, Paid Time Off, personnel policies, sick days, etc. need to be considered in this area.
      • Child Protection Policies
        • The church needs to decide what their policies are concerning the protection of children and minors.  These need to be written, communicated and adopted by the church.  Age of the volunteer, training, accountability, reporting management of the system all need to be considered in this area.
      • Building and Use of Facility
        • Building usage by groups inside and outside of the church should be included in this area of policies.  Accompanying fees, policies for building usage, weddings, funerals, childcare, etc. need to be included.
      • Benevolence
        • Policies outlining how funds are disbursed and to whom, frequency of gifts and for what should be decided in this area.

Articles of Incorporation

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Steps to Take to Incorporate a Church

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Filing Procedures

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By-Laws Sample

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Constitution Sample

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Elder-Led Church Constitution & By-Laws Sample

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