The church’s bylaws and other governing documents exist to provide a structured, legal process for accomplishing church business in an orderly fashion through democratic processes. Decisions made by the church must be in accordance with governing documents. However, the church must not fall into the trap of limiting necessary ministry and business because those documents will not allow it.

Governing documents need regular updating to serve the church body most effectively. While navigating uncharted cultural territory, there will likely be some situations that suggest a needed bylaw change. But in the thick of it all, the church must find ways to accomplish the work of ministry in accordance with governing documents.

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Meeting Current Needs

How will we conduct necessary church business right now in accordance with our governing documents?

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS FOR TEAM-BASED EVALUATION & PLANNING:

  • We are currently able to conduct our church’s necessary business in accordance with our governing documents:
      • [Strongly disagree] 1—2—3—4—5 [Strongly agree]
  • Church leadership and membership understand and agree on which business items are essential right now and which are not:
      • [Strongly disagree] 1—2—3—4—5 [Strongly agree]
  • Church leadership is aware of any emergency or extenuating circumstance language in our bylaws that might allow for a smaller number of church leaders to make necessary operational decisions when the church is not able to physically gather:
      • [Strongly disagree] 1—2—3—4—5 [Strongly agree]
  • We know whether our governing documents allow for vote by proxy or distance-based business meetings through a video conference platform:
      • [Strongly disagree] 1—2—3—4—5 [Strongly agree]
  • We have sought counsel from a lawyer or professional parliamentarian to interpret areas of our bylaws that may not be as clear on these issues as we would like:
      • [Strongly disagree] 1—2—3—4—5 [Strongly agree]

Review your answers to determine key areas of strength as well as those areas that need additional growth. Your responses may change week to week as you ramp up your regather phases, so it would be wise to revisit these questions often. Be sure to check out some of the resources linked below as well as on the sbtexas.com/covid19 site. In addition, email the SBTC staff who stands ready to assist any church that needs help or encouragement.

Assessing Developing Trends

Do our people feel they are being appropriately included in important church decisions right now, in accordance with our governing documents?

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS FOR TEAM-BASED EVALUATION & PLANNING:

  • How are other churches similar in size and geographic location accomplishing the business of the church right now?
  • Do we feel the frequency of our business meetings is effective or is this season revealing that the frequency may need to change?
  • What percentage of our people is active in video conference platforms for their Sunday school class or small group? Could that translate into a possibility for business meetings?
  • Are people more likely in this season to want a smaller group of trusted church leadership to take on more responsibility in the way of church operations?

Planning Future Opportunities

What needs to change in our governing documents and processes to set us up for success making necessary operational decisions in the future?

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS FOR TEAM-BASED EVALUATION & PLANNING:

  • In extenuating circumstances, could we have fewer regularly-scheduled business meetings and still effectively accomplish the business of the church?
  • What would need to change in our bylaws in order to have the option to use a video conference platform for business meetings if needed?
  • Can we use video conference platforms in the future for smaller committee meetings instead of requiring committee members to gather physically?
  • Does our church need to purchase a subscription to a video conference platform to make this possible?

Strategize the Path Forward:

  • What decisions in our church should require action by the full congregation moving forward? How frequent would the church need to meet to ensure diligence in these decisions?
  • Have the appropriate team of lay and/or staff leaders draw up suggested changes to the governing documents to allow for the necessary changes.
  • Be sure, in your suggested bylaw revisions, to make provision for emergency situations that may prevent the church from gathering in business session when an important decision must be made.
  • Prepare for and plan a date in the future to present these suggested changes to the congregation for a vote, in accordance with your church’s existing governing documents.

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