Useful Tools Often Neglected by Churches 2: By-laws

Another tool often neglected by churches is their by-laws (see earlier post on Communication Cards). By-laws should be a working document that reflect and guide the reality of day-to-day ministry. They shouldn't be too detailed and inflexible, but they can and should provide the boundaries and tracks that help ministry keep moving forward, rather than suffering the roadblocks created by conflict between different leadership entities.

I love our by-laws because they've served our leadership so well. We've made at least four or five revisions in my ten years here. When churches don't make frequent revisions it's usually a sign, in my mind, that their by-laws are either too broad or have been set aside rather being used regularly to train new board members and to clarify issues.

Because by-laws are a living, working document, ours needs a another revision that will help us continue to bring lives to Christ and Christ to everyday life without bottle-necking over leadership issues and decisions, while providing all the safeguards and accountability needed for leaders.

For years our guides in these matters have been Bobb Biehl and Ted Engstrom in their book The Effective Board Member: Secrets of Making a Significant Contribution to Any Organization You Serve. A lot of churches today are using John Carver's Boards that Make a Difference and adopting what is now called The Carver Model to their churches. It's great stuff, and I feel Biehl and Engstrom have provided a framework for that kind of model in their book. Unfortunately, Biehl and Engstrom's book is out of print, but they are working on a new edition.