Sample U.S. Church Bylaws
When starting a new church or ministry, one of the first things you need to set in place is your organization’s bylaws. These are the guidelines your ministry or church is governed by. The following example is based upon requirements in the United States, but can be modified to work for other countries as well. Feel free to amend this template for your specific ministry, church or geographic area. Here’s a generic sample to help you get started.
(Insert name of church or ministry here)
Whereas we, being an incorporate body of people of like precious faith, believing in the Lord Jesus Christ individually for eternal life through His vicarious death and the power of His resurrection; believing the Bible to be God’s Word and the revelation of His will to man and accepting it as our all-sufficient rule for faith and conduct; and believing that Christian fellowship, mutual edification and evangelical effort, in and through, the form and body of local churches is God’s ordained order for His people and that those of each local church are enjoined to assemble themselves together for worship, fellowship, counsel, and instruction in the Word of God, and the work of the ministry; and for the exercising of those mutual gifts and offices provided for in the New Testament’ and that the local church is charged by the Word of God to walk in the light of that Word by the Spirit in all godly fear and love; and believing that these things are essential to obtaining the Christian goal, “Be ye therefore perfect even as your Father in heaven is perfect”; and further, believing that God has called us, anointing us to emphasize the fullness of the Gospel in and through the Baptism with the Holy Ghost (which is our distinctive testimony) according to the Scriptures. (Acts 1:4, 5: 2:4, 39; 10:44-47; 19:2, 6)
Therefore we have accepted the following Statement of Fundamental Truths and have adopted the Constitution, which do herein appear. We shall seek, by the grace of God, to be governed by the Constitution as are herein set forth and will also seek to teach and propagate the doctrines as are contained in the Statement of Fundamental Truths.
Statement of Fundamental Truths
1. The Scriptures Inspired. The Bible is the inspired Word of God, a revelation from God to man, the infallible rule of faith and conduct, and is superior to conscience and reason, but not contrary to reason. (II Timothy 3:15, 16; I Peter 2:2)
2. The One True God. The one true God has revealed himself as the eternally self-existent, self-revealed “I AM” and has further revealed Himself as embodying the principles of relationship and association, i.e., Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Deuteronomy 6:4; Mark 12:29; Isaiah 43:10, 11; Matthew 28:19)
3. Man, His Fall and Redemption. Man was created good and upright for God said, “Let Us make man in our image, after our likeness.” But man, by voluntary transgression, fell and his only hope of redemption is in Jesus Christ the Son of God. (Genesis 1:26-31; 3:1-7; Romans 5:12-21)
4. The Salvation of Man. (A) Conditions of Salvation. The grace of God, which brings salvation, hath appeared to all men, through the preaching of repentance toward God and faith toward the Lord Jesus Christ; the washing of regeneration and the renewing of the Holy Ghost, and being justified by hope of eternal life. (Titus 2:11; Romans 10:13-15; Luke 24:47; Titus 3:5-7) (B) The Evidence of Salvation. The “inward evidence” to the believer of His salvation is the direct witness of the Spirit. (Romans 8:16) The “outward” evidence to all men is a life of righteousness and true holiness.
5. Baptism in Water. The ordinance of Baptism by a burial with Christ should be observed as commanded in the Scriptures, by all who have really repented and in their hearts have truly believed in Christ as Savior and Lord. In so doing, they have the body washed in pure water as an outward symbol of cleansing, while their heart has already been sprinkled with the Blood of Christ as in inner cleansing. Thus they declare to the world that have died with Jesus and that they have also been raised with Him to walk in newness of life. (Matthew 28:19; Acts 10:47, 48; Romans 6:4; Acts 20:21; Hebrews 10:22)
6. The Lord’s Supper. The Lord’s Supper, consisting of the elements, bread and the fruit of the vine, is the symbol expressing our sharing the divine nature of our Lord Jesus Christ (II Peter 1:4); a memorial of His suffering and death (I Corinthians 11:26); a prophecy of His second coming (I Corinthians 11:26); and is enjoined on all believers “until He comes.”
7. Regeneration. All persons who turn from their sins and put their faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ receive a new berth by which their life is regenerated by the power of God’s Holy Spirit. (John. 3:3-6; Tit. 3:5). At that time forth the regenerated person has God’s Holy Spirit dwelling within them enabling them to live a holy life. (I Corinthians 3:16; II Pet.1: 3-4) Also giving them power to be witnesses for Jesus Christ. (Acts 1:8)
8. The promise of the Father. All believers are entitled to, and should ardently expect, and earnestly seek, the promise of the Father, the baptism in the Holy Ghost and fire, according to the command of our Lord Jesus Christ. This was the normal experience of all in the early Christian Church. With it comes a deeper spiritual life and service, the bestowment of the gifts and their uses in the work of the ministry. (Luke 24:49; Acts 1:4,8 I Corinthians 12:1-31) This wonderful experience is distinct from and subsequent to the experience of the new birth. (Acts 10:44-46; 11:14-16; 15:7-9)
9. The evidence of the baptism of the Holy Ghost. The Baptism of believers in the Holy Ghost is witnessed by the initial sign of speaking with other tongues as the spirit of God gives them utterance (Acts 2:4). The speaking in tongues in this instance is the same in essence as the gift of tongues (1 Corinthians 12:4-10, 28), but different in purpose and use.
10. Sanctification. The Scriptures teach a life of holiness without which no man shall see the Lord. By the power of the Holy Spirit we are able to obey the command, “Be ye holy, for I am holy.” Sanctification is the will of God for all believers, and should be pursued by walking in obedience to God’s Holy Spirit. Sanctification is experienced in basically three ways:
A. Instant or Positional Sanctification. This is what happens to each and every person the minute they put their trust in the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ. When we are saved through faith in Jesus, we are sanctified in the eyes of God through the Blood of the cross. As God the Father looks at us, He sees the holiness of Jesus, which is imputed to us, and does not see our sin. (Heb. 10:10 & 14)
B. Progressive or Practical Sanctification. This is that process by which we strive to live on a day to day basis by considering ourselves dead to sin and alive to God in holy living through the power of God’s divine nature within our lives. (Rom. 6; Philippians 2:12,13; 2 Peter 1:3,4)
C. Final Sanctification. This is when we are totally set free from the presence of sin within our life after seeing Jesus our Lord and being made like Him because of seeing Him as He really is in all His glory. (I John. 3:2)
11. The Church. The Church is the body of Christ, the habitation of God through the Spirit with divine appointments for the fulfillment of her great commission. Each believer, born of the Spirit, is an integral part of the Church of the First-born, which is written in heaven. (Ephesians 1:22, 23; 2:22;Hebrews 12:23)
12. The Ministry and Evangelism. A divinely called and Scripturally ordained ministry has been provided by our Lord for a two-fold purpose: (A) The evangelization of the world, and (B) The edifying of the Body of Christ. (Mark 16:15-20; Ephesians 4:11-13)
13. Divine Healing. Deliverance from sickness is provided for in the atonement, and is the privilege of all believers. (Isaiah 53:4, 5; Matthew 8:16, 17)
14. The Blessed Hope. The resurrection of those who have fallen asleep in Christ and their translation, together with those who are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord, is the imminent and blessed hope of the Church. (I Thessalonians 4:16, 17; Titus 2:12; 1 Corinthians 15:51; Romans 8:23)
15. The Millennial Reign of Jesus. The revelation of the Lord Jesus Christ from heaven, the salvation of national Israel, and the millennial reign of Christ on earth are the Scriptural promise and the world’s hope. (II Thessalonians 1:17; Revelation 19:11-14; Romans 11:26, 27; Revelation 20:1-7)
16. The Lake of Fire. The devil and his angels, the beast and the false prophet, and whosoever is not found written in the Book of Life, shall be consigned to everlasting punishment in the lake, which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death. (Revelation 19:20; Revelation 20:10-15)
17. The New Heavens and the New Earth. We, “according to His promise, look for new heavens, and a new earth wherein dwells righteousness.” (II Peter 3:13; Revelation 21 and 22)
(Insert name of church or ministry here)
For the purpose of establishing and maintaining a place for the worship of the one true God; to provide for Christian fellowship for those of like precious faith, irrespective of social position or worldly possessions; for the propagation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ both in home and foreign lands, this church shall be governed by the following Constitution:
KNOW ALL MEN BY THESE PRESENT:
That, we, the undersigned have this day voluntarily associated ourselves together for the purpose of forming a corporation under the Laws of the State of Your State, and we hereby certify:
(Insert name of church or ministry here)
As stated in the Articles of Incorporation, the name of the corporate church shall be (Insert name of church or ministry here).
PURPOSES AND POWERS
THE PURPOSES FOR WHICH THIS CORPORATION IS FORMED ARE:
(1) To establish a Biblical Christian Church with a School of the Bible department and with missionary, literature, educational and all other departments it may deem useful to propagate and practice the full Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ and for its service to the community.
(2) It is one purpose of this local church corporation to earnestly seek and promote the unity of God’s people in the Scriptural manner of Godly love, respect and faithful voluntary cooperation with liberty. To that end it shall associate and cooperate freely with other churches and with church organizations.
(3) To act as Trustee under any trust incidental to the principal objects of the corporation and to receive, hold, administer and expend funds and property subject to such trust.
(4) To enter into, make, perform and carry out contracts of every kind for any lawful purpose without limit as to amount and with any person, firm, association or corporation; to draw, make, accept, endorse, discount, issue and execute promissory notes, warrants and other negotiable or transferable interests.
(5) To take, purchase or otherwise acquire; to own, hold, occupy, use and enjoy, manage, improve, develop and work; to grant, sell, exchange, let, demise and otherwise dispose of real estate, buildings; and improvements and every night, interest and estate therein without limit as to the amount thereof and wheresoever the same may be situated; to erect, construct, alter and repair buildings; to assume any and every kind of contract, agreement and obligation by or with any person, firm, corporation or association, or any Federal, State or other Government for the erection, construction, alteration, repair, renewal, equipment, improvement, development, use, enjoyment, leasing, management or control of any buildings, improvements or structures of any kind wherever the same may be situated.
(6) To purchase or otherwise acquire, to own, hold, use and enjoy, to sell, assign and transfer, exchange or otherwise dispose of, deal in or deal with personal property of every kind and description without limit as to the amount thereof and wheresoever the same may be situated.
(7) To borrow and to loan money and to give and to receive evidence of indebtedness and security thereof; to draw, make accept, endorse, execute, and issue promissory notes, warrants, and other debentures of the corporation, or otherwise to make guarantees of every kind and secure any or all obligations of the corporation by mortgage, trust deed or otherwise.
(8) To do all other acts necessary or expedient for the administration of the affairs and attainment of the purposes of the corporation and to have and exercise all the powers now or hereafter conferred by the Laws of the State of Your State, upon non-profit corporations.
A NON-PROFIT CORPORATION
This corporation is organized pursuant to the General Non-Profit Corporation Law of the State of (insert your state here); the property of this corporation is irrevocably dedicated to religious and charitable purposes, and upon liquidation, dissolution, or abandonment, shall not inure to the benefit of any private person except a fund, foundation, or corporation organized and operated for religious or charitable purposes and as designated in Article X of this Constitution.
(A) The ordinance of Baptism by immersion in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost as commanded in the Scriptures, shall be administered to all those who have believed on the Lord Jesus Christ to the saving of their souls and who give clear evidence of their fruit. (Matthew 28:19; Colossians 2:12)
(B) The ordinance of the Lord’s Supper shall be observed regularly as a part of public worship, as commanded by the Lord. (Luke 22:19, 20; I Corinthians 11:23-26)
(C) Infants and small children may be dedicated to the Lord in the church upon the request of the parents or guardians. (Mark 10:13-16; Luke 18:15, 16)
(D) The ministration of laying on of hands accompanied with the anointing with oil, for the healing of the sick, shall be granted as a request is made and the need may require. (Mark 16:18; James 5:14)
Membership in (insert name of church or ministry here) shall be eligible to all who give evidence to their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and who voluntarily hold to the fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith. When a person chooses to to be a part of (insert name of church or ministry here) and involve themselves they are automatically considered a member (Ephesians 4:16). A member is one who attends regularly, serves at and contributes financially to (insert name of church or ministry here).
The officers of (insert name of church or ministry here) shall consist of a President, a Vice-President, and Secretary-Treasurer. The pastor shall be considered the President of the Corporation. There shall not be less than three (3) and no more than nine (9) officers (directors) at any time. The board of directors shall handle the business of the church and therefore should be business minded. They should see into the spiritual side of all business as well. These should lay hold of the vision given them and see it is implemented.
PASTOR AND PRESIDENT
Section 1. Term of Office – The Pastor is the President of the Corporation. He is also an Elder holding the office of pastor. He shall hold this office until his death or until he resigns.
Section 2. Vacancy of Pastorate – The vacancy shall be filled by the appointment of a new pastor by the departing pastor or the Board of Elders when the departing pastor is not available to do so. In some cases a Pulpit Search Committee may be selected who will search for pastoral candidates and submit them to the departing pastor and/or elders for final approval. In most cases, when able, it is best to follow the examples set forth in scripture of the person called by God (pastor or other fivefold minister) to pass the mantle on to the one God has chosen and shown him. (Joshua 1; 1 Kings 19:19-21; 2 Kings 2:1-14) Imparting the anointing and call of God to the one who has already proven themselves to be faithful. (2 Timothy 2:2; Luke 16:12)
Section 3. Duties of Pastor – The Pastor shall be considered the spiritual overseer of the church and shall direct all the church activities. He shall preside over all business meetings of the church and shall be an ex-officio member of all committees and departments.
Section 4. Support of Pastor – The Pastor shall be supported according to his needs, either by free-will offerings or by stated allowance as shall be decided upon by the Directors and/or Elders in its regular business sessions.
The Vice-President of the Corporation shall also be an Elder. He must be one who is trusted by the pastor with adequate business and leadership gifts to take charge in the Pastor/President’s absence. He shall be appointed by the Pastor and ratified by the Elders.
The Secretary-Treasurer of the Corporation shall be appointed by the Pastor and ratified by the Elders. A secretary or administrative assistant may be utilized in the day-to-day record keeping (accounts receivable and payable) as is necessary.
Directors shall be appointed by the Pastor and ratified by the Elders. The Board of Elders shall fill the office of Directors and officers of the Corporation when qualified persons are lacking to fill such positions.
BOARD OF ELDERS
The Board of Elders shall be appointed by the Pastor. There shall not be less than three (3) and no more than nine (9). They are to be called upon to fill the pulpit, to pray for the sick, visit newcomers, shut-ins, absentees, and hospital visitation. They shall also, along with the Pastor, seek God’s direction for the church, and support the pastor in the vision given him by God, in the church’s present and future ministry. Elders shall remain so until they resign or are deemed unfit.
Requirements: An Elder must be a Spirit-filled man and a member of (insert name of church or ministry here).
The Pastor and/or Board of Elders shall appoint the Board of Deacons. There shall never be less than four members on the Board of Deacons. The Board of Deacons shall act in conjunction with and to aid the Pastor in all matters of (insert name of church here). They shall act in the determination of the meeting of material needs (i.e., food, clothing, financial, etc.) of any one who might seem to be in need whether they are a part of the Church or not. They may also aid the Pastor in any of the ordinances.
Requirements: A Deacon must be a Spirit-filled man and a member of (insert name of church or ministry here).
In case of a lack of qualified persons to fill the Board of Deacons, the Elders shall act as the Deacons until the Board of Deacons is established.
BOARD OF USHERS
A Board of Ushers shall be installed in the Annual Business Meeting of (insert name of church or ministry here). The Pastor and President of Insert Name of Church shall appoint a chairman to act as the head of the Board of Ushers. The duties of the Board of Ushers shall be as follows: (A) To see that the church is always in order for services; (B) To assist the Pastor in every way possible during the process of meetings; (C) To prepare for the comfort of everyone in attendance; (D) To maintain order and discipline throughout the church. The Pastor, Board of Deacons, and the appointed chairman of the Board of Ushers shall appoint members to serve on the Board of Ushers. They shall be appointed to serve for one year. These men may succeed themselves indefinitely.
The Board of Deacons and the Board of Elders shall act as the Communion Board. One man shall be appointed to serve as Chairman of the Communion Board. It shall be his duty to make arrangements for the preparation and serving of communion when announced by the Pastor.
VACANCY OF OFFICES
The Pastor and President of the Corporation shall have the authority to declare any office vacant. Grounds for such action shall be:
(1) Failure to Cooperate with the church’s program and ministry;
(2) Unscriptural conduct;
(3) Doctrinal departure from the tenets of faith;
(4) For any good and sufficient cause. Any incumbent under charges shall have opportunity for a fair and impartial hearing before the joint meeting of the Board of Elders shall be considered final and the incumbent may have no further recourse.
Section 1. Meetings for Worship. Meetings for public worship shall be held on each Lord’s Day and during the week as may be provided for under the direction of the Pastor.
Section 2. Annual Business Meeting. There shall be an Annual Business Meeting of Insert Name of Church. This business meeting shall be held at the end of the fiscal year. This meeting shall be conducted in the auditorium of Insert Name of Church. New officers, elders, and deacons shall formerly be installed and all reports shall be read at the Annual Business Meeting.
Section 3. Special Business Meetings. Special business meetings of the legal members may be called by the Pastor or by written petition of three-fourths (3/4) of the legal membership.
Section 4. Notice of Business Meetings. Written notice of the date and place of the Annual Business Meeting and of any special business meetings shall be sent by regular mail to all active members at least ten (10) days and not more than thirty days prior to such meeting. In addition, the Pastor shall announce such meeting at the worship services of Insert Name of Church at least ten (10) days prior to such meeting.
Section 5. Quorum. No record of any special or regular business meetings of (insert name of church or ministry here) shall be made unless one-half (1/2) or more legal members are present to constitute a quorum.
Section 6. Order of Business. The regular order of business for the Annual Business Meeting of (insert name of church or ministry here) shall be as follows:
2. Reading of the previous minutes by the Secretary
3. Report of Treasurer
4. Report of Committees
5. Unfinished Business
6. Installation of Officers
7. New Business
This order of business may be altered or suspended at any meeting by a majority vote of the members present. The usual parliamentary rules as laid down in “Robert’s Rules of Order” shall govern all debates when not in conflict with this Constitution.
(1) All funds needed for the maintenance of Insert Name of Church shall be provided by the voluntary contributions, tithes, and offerings of the members and friends of the corporation. It is expected that every member shall decide before God what he or she can and will give cheerfully to the support of the Lord’s work at home and in the foreign field. (Malachi 3:10; I Corinthians 16:1, 2; Romans 12:8)
(2) All offerings shall be counted by at least two members.
(3) Deposits must be made by (insert name of church or ministry here) promptly in a local bank.
(4) A separate account will be established for (insert name of church or ministry here).
(5) Checks will be used for payment of all invoices.
(6) Annual reports will be furnished to the officers and made available to the membership.
(7) Two signature checks are to be used
(8) The treasurer must be a board member (officer/director). However, a secretary or administrative assistant may be utilized in the day-to-day record keeping as is necessary.
(9) Financial records, without exception, are to be kept in the church office. This includes any duplicates or copies of church records being kept in a congregates home, office, or personal possession.
(10) The Pastor shall act as overseer of all financial activities.
DEPARTMENTS AND COMMITTEES
The church shall provide for the establishment of a School of the Bible Department, young people’s work, relief committees, home and foreign missionary committees, and any other departments or committees as the needs of the work may require. These committees and departments shall be subordinate to the church and shall contribute to the harmony and development of the whole. They shall be under the general supervision of the Board of Elders. The pastor shall be an ex-official member of all committees or departments and shall determine when the need for such committees and departments must be organized.
The Officers of (insert name of church or ministry here) shall have power to carry out all of the purposes and powers set forth in Article II. The President and the Secretary-Treasurer’s signature shall be sufficient certificate for negotiating any and all of the provided powers in said Articles.
This Constitution may be amended or changed by a two thirds (2/3) vote of the officers (directors) at any regular or special meeting called for that purpose, provided due notice of such proposed change shall have been made.
Said organization is organized exclusively for charitable, religious, educational purposes, including, for such purposes, the making of distributions to organizations that qualify as exempt organizations under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, or corresponding section of any future federal tax code.
CONDUCT OF ORGANIZATION
No part of the net earnings of the organization shall inert to the benefit of, or be distributable to its members, trustees, officers, or other private persons, except that the organization shall be authorized and empowered to pay reasonable compensation for services rendered and to make payments and distributions in furtherance of the purposes set forth in the purpose clause hereof. No substantial part of the activities of the organization shall be the carrying of propaganda, or otherwise attempting to influence legislation, and the organization shall not participate in, or intervene in (including the publishing or distribution of statements) any political campaign on behalf of any candidate for public office. Not with standing any other provision of this document, the organization shall not carry on any other activities not permitted to be carried on (a) by an organization exempt from federal income tax under section 501 (c) (3) of the Internal Revenue Code, corresponding section of any future federal tax code, or (b) by an organization, contributions to which are deductible under section 170 (c) (2) of the Internal Revenue Code, or corresponding section of any future federal tax code.
Upon the dissolution of the organization, assets shall be distributed for one or more exempt purposes within the meaning of section 501 (c) (3) of the Internal Revenue Code, or corresponding section of any future federal tax code, or shall be distributed to the federal government, or to a state or local government, for a public purpose. Any such assets not disposed of shall be disposed of by the Court of common pleas of the county in which the principal office of the organization is then located, exclusively for such purposes or to such organization or organizations, as said Court shall determine, which are organized and operated exclusively for such purposes.