As we move into a new generation of churches, I hear more and more church planters and lay leaders questioning the idea of a church constitution. Whatever their reasonings (a constitution is old-fashioned, restrictive, or they just had a bad experience with one), they are wrong. Every church needs a constitution, and here’s why:
It Cements Your Tax Status
In order to be tax-exempt and receive tax-deductible contributions, an organization must apply for and be recognized as a 501(c)3 organization. Churches, however, are automatically considered tax exempt and are not required to apply for and obtain recognition of tax-exempt status from the IRS if they meet the 501(c)3 requirements. Among these requirements is:
- The organization must be organized and operated exclusively for religious, educational, scientific, or other charitable purposes.
Your church’s constitution is its organizing document. It shows the IRS what purposes you are organized for. The other requirements have to do with how your church acts, but for this first requirement, you need a constitution. Without a constitution, there is no proof that your church meets the requirements of a tax-exempt organization.
It Guides Future Ministry
How do you choose what direction to take the church? How do you know what opportunities to move forward on and which need to be left well enough alone? Your church’s constitution is its guiding document. Taking the time to draft a constitution makes your choices in the future easier, since you have already laid down guidelines for what things your church does and does not do.
It Settles Disputes
When (not if) disputes occur in your church, a well drafted constitution will often help solve things. It will already have spelled out how the church is run (no more arguments about who makes what decisions), what the church’s statement of faith is (no more questions about what we believe on what), what the church’s values are (no more wondering how we do things), and what the church’s mission is (no more arguments on what we should be doing). A good constitution will no get rid of all your problems, but it will put an end to many potential issues, allowing everyone to focus their arguments on other things.
I’m convinced that constitutions still have value to the church. How have you seen them have value or get in the way in your church?