Help for Elders and Board Members

It’s a great honor to be selected to serve your church as an elder or overseer. But being a board member also brings great responsibility with it.

Perhaps you’ve read Paul’s letter to Timothy in which he outlines the qualities an elder should possess. You’ve probably taken those qualities to heart and you try to live out your life so that you bring honor to the position you hold, to your church and most importantly, to God.

But are you aware of the expectations that state and federal laws also have for board members? For example Missouri’s Nonprofit Corporation Law states, all corporate powers shall be exercised by or under the authority of, and the affairs of the corporation managed under the direction of, its board.

That’s a lot of responsibility—sort of like “the buck stops here.” And if your church is located in another state, the bar is probably set just as high. Ultimately, as a board, you are responsible for everything from getting the sidewalk cleared of snow and ice in the winter, to authorizing who accompanies your church’s children on overnight trips, to making sure that your church’s bylaws conform to state and federal laws.

Speaking of a church’s bylaws, when was the last time your bylaws were reviewed? State legislatures or assemblies can and do change statutes that affect nonprofits in your state all the time. Are your bylaws up to date?

Your board probably is responsible for compensation rates for paid staff. Do you know if your staff is being paid comparable wages for a church your size and in your region of the country? Do you know how to find out? Perhaps your church’s congregation is particularly generous and your pastor is compensated accordingly. Is there such a thing as too much compensation? Unfortunately there is.

If your pastor is paid considerably more than colleagues in similar size churches in your region of the country you run the risk of your pastor and you as a board member having to pay penalties to the Internal Revenue Service. In a worst case scenario, you might even lose your church’s nonprofit status.

While overpaying staff can cause problems with the IRS, underpaying can also create problems for your church. If underpaid staff members are a part of a protected class due to age or gender the church could face legal action for discrimination. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission reports that each year more than 75,000 people in America file discrimination claims against their employers. This number includes churches and church-run schools who are seeing such lawsuits against them become commonplace. With legal fees to defend such lawsuits starting at several thousand dollars, the final cost to your church would be much less if staff members are paid appropriately to begin with. Do you know what wages are considered appropriate for each of your church's employees?

We understand that you may be feeling a bit overwhelmed after reading all that we’ve presented here. Often church board members are asked to serve, but seldom receive any training regarding the biblical and legal responsibilities that they are expected to fulfill. Among the services that we offer is a seminar designed just for church board members titled, “Introduction to Church Governance—Why Pastors (And Their Churches) Need More Than Cheerleaders.” If you would like more information about this seminar, please click HERE

Church Administrative Professionals is a company made up of experienced Church Administrators who have a heart for churches like yours. In addition to our seminar for board members we can bring our expertise and experience to your church at an affordable cost.

We are available to work as consultants on individual issues or projects, or on an ongoing basis as outside contractors, working alongside your church’s staff. This saves your church money because you won’t be paying employer taxes or benefits for us. If you would like to know more about how Church Administrative Professionals can help you and your church conduct business with excellence, please contact us.

Deborah Miller, cca

Charles Kneyse

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