7 Reasons that Proactive Churches Get Legal Advice

I recently got to know David Middlebrook of the Church Law Group. My eyes were reopened to the scope of legal implications for the church. Because I like to focus my energies on vision, I frankly don’t think very much about the legal ramifications of church leadership. What struck me however is this: Legal negligence as a church leader leaves your vision susceptible.

Here are my seven take-aways:

#1  Don’t ignore governance. Sometime a gap grows between the way you practically get things done and the ways things are legally outlined to get done. You church has a by-laws and some kind of “birth certificate” as a legal entity. When is the last time you visited these documents and aligned them to current reality or made them more functional?

#2  Guard your church’s real “vault”—your children. Almost 80% of churches that get taken to trial do so around the safety of children. Many churches to background checks on your children’s workers? That’s a good first step but there is a lot more you can do. Things like designing interview protocols and ongoing regular training to name a few. In the end, your church’s reputation, financial resources and mission are all at risk if you leave your vault unprotected.

#3  Rethink sources of liability in everyday ministry.  I was shocked when David shared stories of how churches can be liable from policies on pastoral counseling  to physical injuries on your church’s campus. Do you know where your liabilities might be in these areas?

#4  Stay on top of employment law.  Most churches not only have employees but different kinds. And these are subject to the state and federal employment lays. The key reminder is simply this: If you have a problem down the road with how you have misapplied employment law, ignorance is not a defense.

#5  Structure well to serve the community. Its not uncommon for churches to start or be connected with business or non-profit entities from bookstores to food pantries. Two weeks ago I visited a church that built a water park for the community. When missional initiatives are born or spun off from the church, make sure you have done the due diligence on creating the right strategy, legally.

#6  Be creative with integrity. Every sermon, or original music composition or  homemade  children’s curriculum is content that is technically regulated by law. Many churches have not considered the full implications or this reality. How will these content sources will be distributed, regulated or protected? What is your vision for the content you create?

#7  Keep the peace with biblical authority. Churches have opportunities to adopt faith-based conflict resolutions that can significantly prevent or deter more difficult litigation situations. Have these mediation alternatives been totally explored and integrated into your church?

How can you best address these kinds of questions? Perhaps you should invite attorney’s in your church to refresh or reevaluate on one or more of the topics listed above. Or you can have lawyers in your church vet the value of working with a church-focused group like David Middlebrook’s team.

Don’t leave your vision susceptible! 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Will Mancini

Will Mancini

Will Mancini wants you and your ministry to experience the benefits of stunning, God-given clarity. As a pastor turned vision coach, Will has worked with an unprecedented variety of churches from growing megachurches and missional communities, to mainline revitalization and church plants. He is the founder of Auxano, creator of VisionRoom.com and the author of God Dreams and Church Unique.

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COMMENTS

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Recent Comments
If someone wants entertainment they're going to the wrong place. Church is not a place for entertainment...or in my opinion a barrage of coffee and donuts. Why are churches today bringing the world INTO them? Then there's the thing with children...age appropriate??? These little guys can pick stuff up in service. Besides Jesus said Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven. Mt. 19:14.
 
— Laurie
 
I love the intentionality here as well as the challenge to look at the data. That's missing so many times. I would like to offer a contrarian's take. Church members and regular attenders have so many ways to get information: Announcements, bulletins, social channels, relationships, and email being among the options. But brand new people are likely going to check out the website and that's it. It might be wiser for churches with limited time and resources to focus their website almost exclusively to guests. This group of people isn't looking for a calendar of events but wants to know about regular programs. They probably aren't interested in watching all of the messages but instead may want to preview one of the services. For the times we need church members to go to websites (sign up for camp, join a group, etc), we're probably better off designing and promoting a specific page rather than cluttering up the homepage.
 
— Michael Lukaszewski (@mlukaszewski)
 
A great question! Unfortunately, the Church Unique Kit is no longer available in print form. We are working on revising it and updating it into an online experience, but that project is at least six months out. An alternative is to come to an upcoming certification class. There is one May 15-18 in Houston, and October 23-26 in Atlanta.
 
— VRcurator
 

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