Four Keys to a Great Constitution

As I noted in a previous post, every church needs a constitution.  But what are the key elements to have in one?  Here are the two key areas to address as you draft your church’s constitution.

1. Identity

The first thing every Church Constitution needs is to identify the church.  Included in this is your church’s name, statement of faith, denominational affiliation(s), and purpose for existing.  If you are part of a larger denomination that has a statement of faith, you most likely will simply refer to that statement rather than spelling everything out again.  By doing this, you will avoid having to amend the constitution every time the denomination makes any changes to the statement.

Be sure to include here your church’s purpose for existing to satisfy the IRS 501(c)3 requirements.  You may also include your mission and vision statements and core values, but I would suggest not.  These may change over time, and it is easier to make changes to them if they are not in your constitution.

2. Structure

Second, your constitution needs to spell out the basic structure of your church.  Be sure to include who is able to vote on legal issues, how your church will be governed, and how you will handle your annual business meeting (a legal requirement).  Make sure you check your state laws and denominational requirements.  Some denominations may also require a dissolution clause that explains what happens to the church’s assets if the church dissolves.

Your constitution does not have to be a complicated document.  It only needs to address these two areas.  You can make it quite a bit more lengthy and complicated if you desire, but I recommend against it.  The simpler your constitution is, the easier it will be to use it to set direction for your church.  The simpler it is, the less often you will have to change it in the future.  And the simpler it is, the easier it will be to create.

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